Even before COVID-19, the publishing industry had been in a transition. Digital technology has forever changed the publishing environment, forcing the industry to move from banner ads to reader monetization strategies to build engagement. Technology is shifting how publishing firms think of themselves; some would even argue that to be in the field you must be, first, a technology company, and second, a publishing house. 2021 saw the tendrils of artificial intelligence (AI) creeping into content creation and distribution. Then there was COVID-19, the global health hazard that had an unintended effect — it drove digital readership numbers through the roof.
These are just some of the trends that will continue to resonate in the ever-evolving landscape of print and digital publishing in 2021.
Rise of machine-generated content
The age of the machines is about to challenge our ideas about what makes good content. AI is beginning a global impact that will eventually rival the disruption caused by the Internet a decade ago. Think the machines aren’t coming for your writing staff? Springer Nature published the first machine-generated book last year. The New York Times seems a little worried, reporting that one-third of the content generated by Bloomberg News uses automation technology in the content publishing process. While some companies are already using AI-generated content for their blogs and websites, we’re likely still years from a full disruption in the publishing world.
Breaking through the trust barrier
Fake news was the real news of 2020, with a Gallup poll showing just 41% of Americans say they trust the mass media. The impact on publishing is obvious. It’s not that we hadn’t seen the level of trust gradually eroding over the past few years, but the polarizing political climate had a highly negative impact on journalism during the election season. Gallup says, “The latest data show that in the last year, trust has declined slightly among all partisan groups, but still remains sharply polarized.”
From a media perspective, we’re in a crisis of sorts that has reinforced the importance of reliable information. Without it, the American public will exist in a secondary universe driven by social media where misinformation becomes a kind of alternative reality.
To succeed in the highly competitive field of publishing, editors must work to rebuild trust by creating the highest quality and most accurate content possible that is as far removed from misinformation as possible.
Renewed focus on the reader experience
Many publishers say that growing their audience is a top priority for the New Year. The future of publishing, whether it’s digital or print, is inherently tied to stronger relationships with readers. Focusing on the value of our content and how it connects with our readership is key to improving our distribution and revenue strategies. Developing fresh engagement strategies that leverage everything from podcasts to email to print is the best way to improve trust and loyalty in our target audiences.
Contact your Sheridan representative for a consultation or visit our contact page to learn how Sheridan professionals can help you streamline your publishing processes, reduce costs, and keep up with changes in print and publishing strategies.