It's the week between Christmas and New Years and I'm reading lists of things that happened in 2015 and will happen in 2016. It's always enjoyable to be reminded of things that happened earlier in the year that we've already either forgotten or filed away into that part of our memory that can't quite remember exactly when it took place. (Like one's last dentist appointment once more than 5 weeks have passed.) What's much more fun, and risky, is to predict things that will happen in the future. It's risky, because the predictor is likely to be proved wrong. It's fun because the expectations are so low for being right!
So here are mine:
- Publishing will continue to be unpredictable. I know. It's almost cheating to say this. But there is more truth to it than immediately meets the eye. Publishing has been unpredictable for many years now. Things change midstream all the time. Publishers who think they have found the formula for success are suddenly facing difficulties. Layoffs were announced in early November at National Geographic Society, just months after the sale of the magazine and other assets to a company controlled by Rupert Murdoch. National Geographic seemed to be doing everything right. In an interview with WWD, Joe Ripp, Chairman and CEO of Time, Inc., had just this past June, when asked "who’s doing the digital transition well?" answered: "I’ve used the example in the past, but look at what National Geographic did. They started out as a sleepy old magazine company owned by a not-for-profit organization. They are now a channel. You can go on trips with them around the world. They have stores. They have games for schools. They have educational materials. They have super-served their consumers in a way that their brand allows it to be served. All magazine publishers should be thinking that way." Not necessarily, apparently?
- Some magazines and newspapers will cease publication, and new ones will launch--in both print and digital. Every time a new cessation is announced I think we tend to perform a knee-jerk analysis and come up with conclusions such as: "well, it's no wonder...that title has run its course" or "I can't believe they didn't fold that one years ago" or "they still print that?" But actually the interests of readers change over time as population ages and new "things" capture the imagination of humanoids. I have a friend who is obsessed with drones. Perhaps that's an ageless interest. There are universal interests. But there are also fads which disappear and interests which are generational and naturally disappear as the captivated audience passes on. So I don't think the natural churn of publications is necessarily something to worry about. In fact, we should expect it to increase in our rapidly-changing world.
- Subscription eCommerce will grow. More people will subscribe to more things. I experienced this when purchasing a laptop for my daughter before fall semester this past August. I was no longer offered a license to the necessary software applications, but a subscription to them in the cloud. My older son is part of a club which sends him shaving cream and razors regularly. Our new printer at home would love it if I would just subscribe to ink cartridge replacements. The possibilities are endless, and, fortunately, there are solutions from AdvantageCS to meet the demands. Sorry...I just couldn't resist a plug.
- Monetization of digital content will increase. Notice I say "content" rather than editions. I'm not saying monetization of digital editions won't grow. I'm just not making any prediction about them. The trend I've been watching is that of brand content and its many manifestations. Take a look at www.lipstick.com - Condé Nast's first digital spinoff of the Glamour brand. I think we can get into a mindset that "content" is the written word only. It isn't. It's everything you can find on a website, including articles, photos, videos, audio, the theme, the design, the UI. It all contributes to the consumer's experience and consumers attracted to it will spend time on it. They will pay money for it. They will subscribe to it.
- Mobile will continue to increase "market share" of internet activity. A brief from The Center for Media Research says that mobile is no longer seen as a mere channel, and that it will continue to grow in its position as core to the customer experience. A Forrester Predictions Brief forecasts that "4.8 billion individuals globally will use a mobile phone, and that smartphone subscribers will represent 46% of those, driven by accelerated adoption in Africa and Asia." These are astounding numbers, given what they looked like not 4 years ago. I used to find myself constantly pulling my laptop out of my backpack at home to "look things up." I do so less and less. I spend more time on my smartphone browser than I used to, and that is directly related to the decreasing number of websites which are not mobile friendly. As I have positive mobile moments I continue to use my smartphone and not use my laptop. I have found myself reading more and more on my smartphone, which surprises me. Looking around my family room during the holidays has convinced me that I am not unique.
- Publishing will not die as an industry. Publishers nervous that self-publishing will take over the world need not panic this year. Publishing brands are still important. I have observed my wife shopping for clothing and brands are a key part of the decision-making process. If she is unfamiliar with a brand, she may like the sweater or top, but she may wonder how it is going to wear over time. Will it fall apart in the laundry? Is the price worth taking that risk? If it's inexpensive, then yes. But if it's expensive, it had better be a leading brand with which she has had a good experience. Likewise, well-known publishing brands add value to the content proposition. People are willing to go to that brand as a "curator of value." There is a pile of junk on the internet, and wading through it to find the gold can be a challenge, especially when it is not an area of one's own expertise. Just look at health advice if you're not a healthcare professional.
Not revolutionary stuff, I admit. Pretty safe to say, I'll warrant. Time will tell, I'm sure.
Here's wishing you a very successful, prosperous, and joy-filled New Year!