How Content Consumption & Creation Is Changing (and How to Keep Up)
From Gutenberg’s printing press to Google’s AMP format, the publishing world has gone from zero to one million miles per hour, with revolutionary changes to the way we produce, distribute, and consume content.
The age of the Internet re-wrote all the old rules, making it necessary for publishers to adapt quickly. Ever since then, publishers have had to get used to new trends arriving every couple of years – from e-books to social media to video to audio – and pivoting to stay afloat.
It’s increasingly challenging for today’s digital publishers to keep up with the shifting landscape, let alone stay ahead of it. Here is a breakdown of four key changes in digital content consumption and creation, plus tips for keeping up and even staying ahead.
1. <Format> Is King
Long gone are the days when print was king. That’s evident by now with hundreds of U.S. daily newspapers and magazines shutting down and shifting their focus to digital. According to a study by Zenith, time spent with print magazines decreased by 56% between 2011 and 2018, and time spent reading print newspapers dropped 45%.
Users increasingly choose to get their news from digital-only platforms and in non-traditional formats. Audio continues to grow with more than half of the U.S. population now tuning into podcasts, and Cisco predicts that online video will account for 82% of all web traffic by 2022.
Whether it’s video or audio, consumers will continue looking to new mediums for content. Regardless of format, publishers can deliver what their audience is seeking if they stay focused on creating valuable content above all else. With audience data at their fingertips, publishers can extract actionable insights into the topics and interests driving the most audience engagement and then take a data-driven approach to content creation, rather than shooting in the dark and publishing content no one reads.
2. Consumption Patterns Are Shifting
Readers have gone mobile. More than 52% of overall website traffic was generated via mobile phones in 2019, and consumption patterns are changing beyond device used.
While consumers previously accessed news through one or two sources of their choice, going digital and mobile has opened the doors for new publishing players big and small to compete for our attention. Readers no longer have to commit to one source of information, and social networks have shifted the user flow from the homepage to the post page.
In addition, studies show that our attention span has shortened dramatically from 2000 to now. This means capturing and keeping attention in an information-heavy reality has become even more challenging, which has led to the popularity of shorter format content and trends such as TL;DR and Instagram stories.
To keep up with these content consumption changes, publishers must have strong strategies in place or risk losing a significant portion of their audience. This entails considerations such as traffic source diversification, page load time, content layout, and the creation of engaging experiences, all of which impact the amount of time a consumer stays on each page per visit.
3. Paid or Unpaid Content?
Print or digital, text or audio, the volatility between the paid and the ad-based model has always existed – and it seems like it’s here to stay. While it may have seemed that the transition to digital and the increase in the ad business would be the end for the subscription model, subscriptions are now succeeding for some publishers.
Yet, instead of choosing paid vs. ad-based, the clear winners are businesses that diversify their business models. Publishers who want to create a sustainable model will no longer depend on one source of revenues, but rather on a mix of sources that include ads, subscriptions, e-commerce, licensing, and more.
4. Content Curation, Automation, and AI
In a world where content creators have more considerations than ever to take into account, from trending content formats to SEO best practices to social platform changes, technology plays a major role in managing the overload.
In order to make the editorial process more efficient, we will start to see more tools that help editors by automating parts of the creation and distribution process and incorporating AI into the day-to-day work. While some may be concerned about robots taking away people’s jobs, it would be wise for publishers to acknowledge the value in combining technology’s calculative speed with human editorial skill.
Taking Back Your Audience
The rise of social media boosted audience reach for digital publishers and helped with short-term traffic growth — but without the ability for publishers to build meaningful direct relationships with their users that result in loyalty and longevity. In response, many publishers refocused their efforts on finding alternative traffic sources, such as organic search. But Google’s algorithm changes, including the update to what qualifies as news, showed publishers that they can’t solely rely on this source either.
Now publishers have realized that they need to diversify their traffic sources and own their audience by reshaping reader habits on their owned and operated platforms.
While it’s difficult to predict what digital publishing will look like in the next five to 10 years, finding ways to create engaging content should remain top priority. How publishers create this content will dictate their survival, and having the right tools and technology will bring some stability as they navigate the shifting landscape. The volatility of the digital environment demands that publishers stay nimble and flexible, or else become obsolete.
Shani is the Director of Product at Minute Media where she oversees all product activities and partnerships. Shani has been building products for publishers for over seven years, creating tools and experiences that empower publisher growth in a constantly-evolving media landscape. Shani is passionate about building innovative products that scale, finding simple solutions for complex problems and creating effective work environments. In her spare time, Shani facilitates workshops for women in tech.