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Digital Transformation in Publishing

Digital Transformation in Publishing image
Digital Transformation in Publishing

The Aquent London Publishing team recently hosted the second in our ‘Dine & Discuss’ roundtable event series. Representatives from some of the biggest UK publishing companies came together for an evening of food and conversation, to discuss the impact that the digital transition has had on their organisations.

For many of us, the move to digital has been smooth and has happened in the background. New advanced technologies have integrated themselves into our daily lives seamlessly and have, for the most part, been widely adopted without question. But for certain industries, this transformation has meant a complete re-evaluation in terms of strategy, company ethos, hiring and training. One of the industries most obviously affected by these changes is publishing, with many organisations having to move from a solely print based model to one that not only includes but focusses heavily on digital.


When did digital happen?

It’s hard to pinpoint the moment that ‘digital’ happened. All of our roundtable guests agreed that the transition has been going on a lot longer than you’d think, but has only been fully embraced in the last five years. There was a lot of initial resistance, especially from the more traditional print based companies, and it was generally believed that digital would be a faze and would never truly take off. However, despite certain sectors still having reservations, across the majority of the publishing industry digital has now been fully adopted. There are far less fees with digital and a much bigger audience reach, so it makes for a profitable business model that would not be obtainable with print alone.


What are the biggest challenges?

As with any big change to a business, the digital transition has caused many challenges for all of our roundtable guests. With the initial move to digital, many were faced with the task of convincing their superiors that it was a solid business concept. For those in print focussed companies, it meant changing the entire corporate strategy which is not an easy sell! The move required a change in mindset. There can still be a reluctance to use certain digital assets as not everyone understands the costs and processes involved, so you must be able to re-educate your team. The constant emergence of new technology can also be daunting, there is always a new device that you have to optimise your content for. And it is important to understand which platforms work for your business. Digital is generational and you must pick the right app or device for the content you’re sharing and the audience you want to reach. For publishers, content is more than a marketing tool, it is their product. However, the current ease and accessibility of social media and blogging means that the content market is saturated, so making sure yours gets noticed is another challenge. You have to create something really special to ensure you don’t get lost in the crowd. It is important to let your content drive your digital strategy and not the other way around. Publishers are no longer just pitching against other publishers, they are now up against big brands such as Facebook, YouTube and ASOS, all of which have incredibly successful content platforms. The landscape has changed with brands such as these operating direct to consumer portals and dominating the market.


“It is important to let your content drive your digital strategy and not the other way around.”


What are the future trends for digital publishing?

The digital world is constantly changing, so predicting where we will be this time next year is almost impossible. However, our roundtable guests gave great insight on the current trends in their industry and how they see those evolving as the digital age moves forward. At the moment, video is the biggest strategy for the majority of our attendees. There is now great consumer demand for this form of content, and it has quickly moved from the commercial space into editorial. Some companies even have in-house teams that focus solely on video creation and production. The key is to create short form content. Your videos should be quick to watch, easy to digest and, most importantly, socially shareable. It is always important to ensure that the content is relevant and of a high quality. If you build a reputation for good content then people will follow you and watch everything you post.

Moving forward video is not going away, but it is evolving. Instant video platforms, such as Facebook Live, are starting to gain traction. There is a bigger demand for real-time broadcasting and raw content. Virtual Reality is also becoming more widely experimented with. It is early days for this technology, and many businesses don’t fully understand how and when it should be used. But, with VR already integrating itself into our everyday lives through 360 videos, Google Cardboard and interactive apps, immersive technology looks to be the direction the industry is heading.


“If you build a reputation for good content then people will follow you and watch everything you post.”


What does this mean for your team?

When your business is changing, it makes sense that your team structure needs to follow suit. Many publishing companies will now look outside the box when recruiting Talent, favouring candidates from a tech background over ones from the industry. It is no longer possible to rely on publishing knowledge only, digital skills are essential. The lines have been blurred when it comes to job specifications and roles have been consolidated to make way for the technology teams. Where previously development teams in publishing were the smallest section of the business, they are now rapidly expanding, so hiring all-rounders is imperative.

Let us know in the comments how digital transformation has affected your team and if you are interested in attending our next Publishing Dine & Discuss event, please contact Priya Nepoleon.


Header Image: Digital Transformation Machine by @BryanMMathers from Creative Commons

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