5 WordPress Trends Publishers Should Keep in Mind for 2020
2020 is just around the corner. After a roller-coaster year of dynamic shifts in social networks and shaky new Google SEO updates, it’s time to take a short break to focus on what the new year will bring to the publishing landscape.
While the latest moves in technology are still revolutionizing the space on a regular basis, the core trends I expect to take precedence in 2020 aren’t nearly as new. But putting emphasis on these areas may have a big impact on your revenue sheet a year from now.
1. Building a Recognizable Name
Digital publishers are doubling down on branding. Building a strong, resilient brand ties into every aspect of your business website – from refining your WordPress theme to impressing readers with speed improvements using a progressive web application.
If you run a lesser-known publishing business, expect your advertising fees to increase in cost. Social networks will consistently raise CPMs across the board. Millions of blogs will get spun up in the coming months. And while the adoption of ad blockers on mobile will not be as disrupting for the moment, ad viewability will still be a pressing factor.
Known brands won’t be spared in the conquest for recognition either. The emphasis on content quality and length requires additional time (and costs) for journalism. Brand recognition will be integral for recruiting freelance writers or in-house experts, securing native advertisement deals, and ranking higher in organic search.
Better targeting may require additional means for visitor nurturing and retargeting, and publishers will need to ensure that their technology is not an obstacle in the coming months. Revise your current branding strategy and assess your entire infrastructure – including your choice of hosting provider.
2. Additional Content Formats
Interactive content types will start to appear more often. Pioneering custom-designed, engaging landing pages like The New York Times’ masterpieces is becoming easier with visual builders, online video editing, and professional image processing for the web.
Expect carousels that look different than a standard gallery. Quizzes aren’t going anywhere; they will be getting more interactive, too.
Incorporating user experience elements such as quiz voting by left or right swipe or breaking news appearing like Instagram stories will be the new form of martech competition for publishers. The mobile-first experience dictates innovation of such components.
Simple surveys, online games, and early adoptions of VR activities are common discussion topics in the broader digital space. While certain plugins are available for WordPress publishers, don’t neglect their possible security and performance implications; ensure that your ads or subscription solutions won’t be impacted during the integration phase.
3. Flexible Gutenberg Layouts
The official, default page builder in WordPress is called Gutenberg. The first release shipped with Gutenberg is 5.0, launched in December 2018. While there was global uncertainty after the significant change, Gutenberg has been overall stable for tens of millions of websites.
Performance and usability improvements are pushed every few weeks. The content area of regular posts is now controllable (optionally, or as a default feature for new websites) by the Gutenberg block editor, which offers some standard components for starters. Smaller product shops are releasing new blocks as we speak, and this globalized effort will make interactive post types much more accessible in WordPress.
If you miss on the latest news with Gutenberg, smaller players may catch up immediately and threaten your niche market unless you stay alert and open to experimenting. New blocks were just introduced with WordPress 5.3. Grouping blocks enables you to design powerful sections within the content area without design skills. Image and column blocks turn your writers into creative artists who can produce more engaging content with no extra effort.
4. Headless WordPress and AMP
2020 will mark a notable improvement in the loading times for websites. Opportunities for blazingly fast websites will grow, thanks to the adoption of new paradigms for web development, including headless websites.
Headless CMS represents an engine where the back office is completely independent of the front-end layer. Modern publishers can still depend on the comfortable dashboard of WordPress but serve the rest of the content in a lightweight, modern layer that operates independently.
This new workflow will reduce regressions and performance bottleneck, especially in the publishing space. Headless content management systems are designed to work with mostly static content (like your news) and don’t impact dynamic user-based platform (like protected membership or training systems) as much.
Leading headless organizations like Gatsby are acing funding rounds and hiring WordPress talent to strengthen their integration with WordPress websites. Even WordPress hosting companies work on internal services and seamless integrations for the future of the web.
While this is still somewhat innovative (and far from plug-and-play), some early publishers have already migrated successfully and reduced load times by nearly 90%, in some instances.
5. Continuous Battle with Malicious Ads
With programmatic advertisement tapping into more ad networks, bypassing the filters of smaller networks will still be possible, leading to potentially malicious ads. Ad protection tools like Clean.io, Ad Lightning, and Confiant will keep innovating in detecting and suppressing cybercriminals targeting your audience.
There is a possibility of serious distributed attacks targeting mobile devices. While many ad attacks turn to desktop customers, computers come with certain firewalls and anti-virus systems and browsers are often equipped with ad blockers, too. We hope that criminals aren’t motivated enough to organize a massive attack targeting millions of devices at a time.
Traditional online firewall services like Cloudflare and Sucuri may join the security forces on this battleground. So far WordPress is well-equipped with access granted to all of the leading vendors (and partial integrations available as plugins).
There’s nothing groundbreaking coming at publishers in 2020, but it may very well be the calm before the storm. Competition, domain authority through organic ranking, advertisement policy changes, and technical innovations will be the main areas for your executive team to focus in the coming months. Magazines running on autopilot may jeopardize their competitive edge unless they pay close attention to the market on a regular basis.
On the bright side, publishing will still thrive and grow. Consuming information will still depend heavily on reputable media outlets online and a stream of content broadly available across technology. Focus on refining and improving your content strategy and keep an eye on what’s coming, and you’ll do just fine even past the great campaign series in December.
Related story: Publishing Trends to Watch in 2020
Mario Peshev is the Founder, CEO and WordPress Architect of DevriX, a technical WordPress agency serving high-traffic publications with 100M+ monthly impressions. Mario's background is in software engineering, and he's been a prominent contributor to the WordPress platform - with platform patches, as an open source advocate, event organizer, and more. Peshev has been an adviser to publishers across North America and Europe and leads the technical team at DevriX that has worked on a continuous basis as the extended department of industry-specific magazines such as SwimSwam, Diginomica, and Smart Meetings, among many others. Follow Mario on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.