The publishing industry has changed profoundly and it continues to change with digital transformation, moving towards digital content, formats, tools, and media that are closer to the needs of readers. But what does it mean to be a publisher today? What are the main challenges in the world of publishing and information?
We have addressed this question several times on our blog in the last two years, also thanks to the pandemic that has greatly influenced people’s consumption and entertainment habits. In this post, we will try to take stock of the situation and understand how large and small publishers can redesign their business strategies and give life to new paths, new types of content, and new ways of making information also thanks to the use of data.
The state of the art of digital publishing in Italy
As we have already anticipated, the pandemic has had a strong impact on the publishing sector, changing the habits of readers, as well as how content is distributed and its formats. Undoubtedly, the lockdown has boosted the digital publishing industry, both in terms of ebooks and digital news.
In fact, 2021 showed growth in the use of digital news content by Italian users: currently the ratio is about 4 users out of 5. However, the average time dedicated to reading digital news has decreased from 29 minutes in 2020 to 23 minutes in 2022, also due to the pandemic trend (Source: osservatori.net digital innovation). As far as the ebook market is concerned, in 2020, Italians’ spending had grown by 35% compared to the previous year, and in 2021 it recorded a slight drop of 8%. This data shows an interest on the part of readers towards the digital market, and this has also been influenced by the limitations linked to the health emergency (Source: osservatori.net digital innovation). Therefore, the digital market is and will be the real great opportunity that publishers must be able to seize in order to face the crisis in the sector.
In the next sections, we will look at the new formats that are changing the logic around how editorial content is created, with a focus on the information and media sector. This is a sector that must face constant challenges and transformations, and where innovation must be the protagonist.
Emerging publishing formats: a focus on digital information
Users today needs to be constantly informed. Even if information content was already being conveyed through the press, radio, TV and more before digital, the arrival of the Internet and digital media has changed everything.
The need to be informed has begun to grow hand in hand with the increase in the possibilities for accessing news. The publishing industry has given rise to new formats, in addition to the analog ones, for providing information. If at their beginnings digital news followed the analog format (with texts and images), now they take on completely new and multimedia forms.
In fact, according to an analysis by osservatori.net digital innovation, video and audio are among the most relevant and appreciated formats by readers.
Video: a new format for digital information
Back in 2018, AGCOM’s Information Consumption Report identified video as one of the new formats for online news dissemination. With the increasing use of social media, the trend has certainly not stopped.
In fact, for many users, video has become the only format they use to access news. This interest has prompted publishers to create dedicated sections within their websites and to establish their presence on video platforms such as YouTube and on social media. The popularity of the video format and the impact of digital transformation on the publishing industry is also confirmed by the way people gather news about the war. Until a few years ago, such news was accessed mainly through mass media such as print and radio, and which today is also conveyed through social media.
An example of this is TikTok, today the protagonist of this change, which has become one of the main sources through which people get updates on the conflict in Ukraine (Source: Network Digital 360).
Digital information also passes through podcasts
We talked about video and podcasts in another post on our blog, where we stated that they can and should coexist within a content marketing strategy. The so-called audio revolution, which has been happening for a few years now, is also taking its place in digital publishing.
According to the Ipsos Digital Audio Survey 2021, podcasts have continued to generate a lot of interest from Italian users and they are heading towards the maturity phase. It’s an interest that affects not only entertainment podcasts, but also informational ones. In 2020, listeners of informative podcasts increased by 33% compared to the previous year (Source: Nielsen). This trend is also confirmed overseas: according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, about 23% of Americans in the 18-29 age bracket get their information through journalistic podcasts.
This new behavior has prompted publishers to review the distribution of digital information, to take advantage of the opportunities offered by podcasts. Examples of this are Ansa Voice, the podcast produced by the news agency Ansa, Start del Sole 24 Ore, Corriere Daily del Corriere della Sera, and Morning, the podcast offered to subscribers of Il Post.
Videos and podcasts are radically changing the way people get informed and come into contact with the world of information; however, the challenges a publisher faces are not limited to the choice of new formats.
What it means to be a contemporary publisher: the importance of data
Therefore, being a digital publisher means creating content from a multi-channel, multi-platform perspective and based on people’s interests and expectations. To do this, knowing how to collect and interpret the growing amount of data that digital makes available is essential. In fact, it’s interesting to analyze how readers’ interests and behaviors have changed and to understand how publishers must readjust their business strategies.
Print vs. Digital News
Data from the Reuters Institute’s annual report showed profound differences between access to news via traditional and digital media. While print news usage has not stopped its decline since 2020, digital news readership has continued to increase. This change has had a major impact not only on sales, but also on the advertising front.
In order to cope with the losses caused by declining print sales, publishers have decided to invest more in the digital sector. In fact, in 2020, online advertising increased by 7%, as did the promotion of paid and subscription services and products. However, many readers are still reluctant to take out digital subscriptions and pay for information services. In Italy, only 13% of users pay to read news online.
Content adapts to the device
Another aspect that publishers must take into account when creating new content is the type of device with which readers access the news. The use of mobile is a trend that continues to grow, both in Italy and also in the publishing industry. If it represented only 25% in 2013, today mobile is the most used device for digital information (68%), bypassing desktop (42%) and tablet (16%) (Source: Reuters Institute).
Adapting editorial content or creating ad-hoc content based on the most commonly used types of devices means being attentive to and aware of the needs of users and being able to offer them a better user experience.
Another innovation on which publishers should reflect concerns the sources of information that are most appreciated by readers. On the one hand we find the printed press which, as we have already anticipated, has suffered a sharp drop since 2013. On the other hand, we find social media that has gained space alongside TV and online information (websites) and now represents 48% of the main sources that readers take into consideration. According to a recent report by the Ital Communications-Censis Permanent Observatory, in fact, 14 million Italians use social networks as a source of information: about 31% (between the ages of 14-80) use Facebook, 12.6% YouTube, and 3% Twitter.
However, social and digital media represent a double-edged sword because they also allow the circulation of fake news.
Reliability is the fulcrum around which editorial content, both digital and analog, must revolve. According to the Reuters Institute report, the pandemic has highlighted the importance of reading reliable news and relying on authoritative sources. Reliability goes hand in hand with the quality of information. In fact, 86% of Italians believe that online news should be subjected to stricter controls to guarantee the quality of information (Source: Permanent Observatory Ital Communications-Censis).
In fact, 84% of Italians prefer to get information about a political event or news from traditional information channels (e.g. printed and online newspapers, radio and TV) because they consider them to be more reliable sources and are certain that the news is the result of the work of journalists and professionals. On the contrary, they do not place the same trust in news spread through social networks (Source: Permanent Observatory Ital Communications-Censis).
Publishers play a key role in protecting readers. Their main objective, therefore, must be to offer informative content and valid tools and to be reliable sources able to counter and disprove fake news.
In this post, we have seen how digital transformation is changing the publishing industry and the information and media sector, a sector that is seeing new formats, media, behaviors, and new needs of readers every day. The real big challenge for contemporary publishers is to be able to grasp these changes in time and redesign their business strategies through data analysis.