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There are two main factors that have an impact on digital publishing trends development: the rate of technological improvements and the time in which readers assimilate them. In both of these aspects, we can talk about high-speed today. For publishers, being up to date with current trends is an opportunity to improve strategies related to monetization, distribution and content marketing. In which direction will these tendencies go in 2020?

Digital technological innovations and changes have created favorable circumstances for online publication improvement, such as the possibility of diversifying content streams and revenue sources. They also bring publishers wider opportunities to analyze website visitors and design eye-catching publications.

Looking at all of the above, it can be said that digital publishing has a bright future ahead of it.

What will 2020 bring? Will it be the continuation of already known digital publishing trends or the arrival of surprising novelties?

One thing’s for sure – news technologies will play first fiddle again, so – stay tuned!

The end of the year is often the time full of compiling summaries of the last months, but also looking ahead and drawing up plans for the future. Who of us doesn’t know (or doesn’t make) New Year’s resolutions? “I’ll start jogging”, “I’ll stop smoking”, “I’ll be a better man”, etc. Well, keeping your resolutions is the one thing we can’t help you with – but we can definitely keep our fingers crossed for you!

There’s yet another side to the coin of making plans for the future if you’re a publisher – following trends which can help you understand readers’ needs, react to them quickly and stay ahead of the competition.

It’s time to get to know those trends.

Digital publishing trends for 2020

1. Podcasts on the rise

One of the most frequently used words in terms of trends for the coming year is a podcast – an audio show usually spread across a series of episodes, which can be downloaded from the Internet and listened to on portable players. Although this term was formed in 2004 (as a connection of “iPod” and “broadcast”), the utter podcasts craziness has only recently started for good.

Podcast mastered like the storm many different industries including publishing, and people fell in love with them. More than half (51 percent) of the U.S. population has already listened to a podcast and this tendency will continue to grow.

Well, it’s a much better idea to listen to news, comments or interviews in a podcast form than, for instance, trying to read an article while driving a car.

Leon Neyfakh, an American journalist describes podcasts as follows:

“Insofar as most podcasts are fundamentally journalistic undertakings, it’s because they provide a unique — and uniquely pliable — vessel for news coverage. It can take the form of an ensemble-led talk show, a story, a magazine, or — more simply — a conversation between two people.”

Publishers have the upper hand in creating podcasts.

Firstly, their industry experience is full of valuable subject resources to make podcast content from it. Secondly, they have existing channels for the promotion and distribution: newsletters, emails, social media – thanks to them they can change magazine readers and website visitors into listeners and… vice versa.

Where can publishers share their podcasts?

Well, there are a number of possibilities. With the boost in popularity of audio form content, we observe a huge rise in the number of platforms where they can be published. You can simply upload completed recordings into services dedicated to podcasts sharing such as:

These kinds of websites – with the Spotify at the head – create algorithms thanks to which listeners get lists of suggested, unknown content similar to what they listened to in the past. It means that your podcast can be discovered and listened to by someone interested in the subject you are dealing with. A good practice is to put recordings on a few websites – platform diversification is important because it has the potential to present your podcasts to a wider and diverse public. The information about all the places you put your podcasts should be visible also for your current followers.

2. Visual content total domination

Digital publishing offers much more joy of absorbing content than printed publications, and people expect these exciting impressions from magazines today.

Get ready to tell your stories in 2020 through visual content: videos, infographics, and presentations. It doesn’t mean resignation from written articles – all of these forms should coexist inside your publications and on your social media channels:

  • digital publishing platforms give a possibility to put inside the publication both gifs, videos, and links to other media; they also allow to integrate PDFs with YouTube, Vimeo, SoundCloud, and SlideShare,
  • social media are made for presenting visual content and stimulating people to share and forward it just via one click.

What profits will visual content usage bring?

  • readers will spend more time with your website, magazine or social media channel,
  • it’ll engage viewers in an effort to: drive emotions, interactions, and motivate them to action,
  • you’ll present yourself as a publisher who is open to digital novelties and who moves with the times.

According to Cisco studies, by the year 2022 82% of all online content will be video – the video domination is more than a prediction, it’s something that will come for sure. Live videos on social media, short movies created just from pictures or fragments of interviews are the most engaging form of content you can offer your readers (or, in this case, viewers).

At the beginning, you can start by transforming your existing articles into presentations. This is a strategy which PressPad adopted to present their blog content in a more visual and condensed form. To give you an example, their article entitled “6 Golden Rules To Design Successful Digital Magazine” became a base to prepare a presentation related to creating online publications which was published on SlideShare.

Choose these of your articles which have a potential to be transformed into a presentation – they should include many tips, describe a path to some goal, show a cause-and-effect-relationship; content easy to spread out into points, steps, slides. The first stage of your job should be content placement, the second – graphic design.

To prepare a presentation you can use free tools like Canva or Google Slides – both of them are really intuitive and easy to use even for beginners. They offer a variety of ready-made themes, hundreds of fonts, and the possibility of embedding videos or animations. You can also upload exterior stock goods to your project. There are many resource-rich websites allowing for browsing and downloading high-quality visuals without paying, ready for personal and commercial use. In search of free to use images, illustrations, icons, vector graphics or videos, go to the following graphic resources:

When your presentation will be done, you can download it in PDF and put it basically… everywhere: inside the article, on a SlideShare, on a blog or social media channels.

3. Only mobile-friendly content will be the king

Every time you prepare content, keep in mind that it will be viewed on mobile devices – it especially applies to newsletter checking, but also social media scrolling and, on an increasing scale, articles reading.

There’s also something more than people’s habits that will have a huge impact on the expansion of mobile-friendly content in 2020 and this is Google mobile-first indexing.

Google saw that over half of the pages shown in global search results are from Google indexing, and that they mainly come from mobile devices. As a consequence, they decided to use the mobile version of content for indexing and ranking the website. It means nothing less than the fact that only if your desktop pages are similar to your mobile pages both in terms of content and structured data, then Google ranking may be unimpacted. Otherwise, it can down the position of the website. Publishers who, despite Google’s announcement which have been around for a long time, have not yet prepared mobile version of their websites, are lagging behind the competition and are slowly losing their “visibility”.

This shift forces website designers to think about the mobile version first, before the desktop one. It also has an impact on content creators.

Scrolling mobile content is what we all do in public transport, in queues, while waiting for something: we feel the need to repeatedly look into our smartphones – but only for a moment – unless something catches our attention.

How to make people stop and focus on your post when they scroll tones of content on a small screen?

  • Use a short, catchy, hitting headline or/and an outstanding, clear and great-quality photo.
  • Take care of a clear and easy navigation system inside your articles (bullets, short paragraphs, nice fonts). They must be nice to read on smartphones.
PressPad’s article viewed on a smartphone.

Now imagine: you scroll your social media feed, and suddenly, you find something interesting, click on it and… wait forever for a website or photo to upload. Then, you leave it or, at best, you still wait – slightly annoyed.

Is this something you want to offer your readers, supporters and future customers?

Fast, responsive website design is obviously a must today. But we’re talking about digital publishing trends which will dominate the future and it belongs to mobile apps.

They guarantee the comfort of reading every type of content, without losing its quality on smartphones; the photos and videos are adjusted to the screen size and they just look great. Anyway, see for yourself.

4. Subscriptions, paywalls and trust

What’s the connection between these elements?

Trust is called the currency of the future. And no wonder – we are living in the age of fake news, an overload of the content we’re sinking in. How to create a strong, trustworthy brand in these circumstances?

Today, building a brand is like giving people a promise and trying to keep it. A brand’s promise is the value or experience that customers can expect every time they interact with a company. The more the brand can fulfill this promise, the stronger its value is in the eyes of customers.

I’ll give you an example. “Think different”. Do you recognize whose tagline is this?

This two-word Apple’s slogan includes its promise: they commit to create products based on seeing the world a little differently, crossing borders. What’s more, their promise is addressed also to their customers – they should start to think different: be bolder, more creative.

Let’s move on. Quite recently, the Internet exploded thanks to presenting Tesla Cybertruck. It will not be an exaggeration if I say that this car was simply laughed out by Internet users from all over the world. Mike Gastin, brand and marketing strategist, defended Tesla Cybertruck and called it a masterstroke in brand strategy. Why? Because it fulfills a brand’s promise in 100%.

What’s this promise? The answer is in this video.

If you, as a publisher, establish a thread of trust with your readers, fulfill the promises given to them, build a community organized around your content, people will want to stay with you, and, naturally, after some time, they’ll be willing to subscribe and pay you for valuable and trustworthy information.

Yes, consumers will pay for high-quality and original content they trust.

Any evidence?

“The biggest success story in digital subscriptions is The New York Times. The publisher added 223,000 subscribers in the first quarter of 2019. According to the latest figures, it has over 4.5M subscribers of which 3.5M are digital-only. Its digital revenue crossed $700M in 2018 and is expected to reach $800M in 2020. The Times is now looking at reaching 10M digital subscribers by 2025.”

Digital publishing subscriptions have become the most important source of revenue for global news publishers. Nevertheless, the interest in local information is increasing, and that gives smaller publishers a huge advantage – they have big possibilities to know the readers’ needs and then tailor their offer to those needs perfectly.

Subscriptions will be the main source of revenue for digital publishers in the future.

In 2019 Reuters Institute already announced that:

“Subscription and membership is the key priority for the news industry going forward.”

This will also be the case in 2020.

5. Self-publishing will continue to rise

Digital technologies gave self-publishers opportunities to build their businesses and careers on an unprecedented scale. This path is the best choice for aspiring authors, writers and storytellers – their options to independently create and distribute the publications are virtually limitless, no matter what they want to publish. It is possible because technology companies which build digital publishing platforms continue to improve their online newsstands features and aim to extend beyond publishing services by offering e.g. SEO audit.

Did you hear about the book bestseller entitled “50 Shades of Grey”? The author, E.L. James self-published the story first on fanfiction sites and then on her website before switching to a self-published ebook and print-on-demand physical edition. You probably know what happened next. A similar path to success was taken by “The Martian” written by Andy Weir – a computer programmer who originally self-published this novel, selling a version of the book on Kindle in 2012. “The Martian” achieved great popularity online, what led to producing a movie based on the book in 2015. It was nominated for seven Oscars, including best picture of the year.

But saying that self-publishing will be a trend is only half of the truth – along with this, the subscription model of selling books will enjoy a significant growth in 2020.

Angelica Hartgers, content creation specialist at selfpublishing.com, points out that indie authors came in the era of wide revenue possibilities:

“The industry is now entering Self-Publishing 3.0. This phase will be direct sales from author to reader by way of subscription models, crowdsourced funding, and other income streams.”

If you offer high-quality content, subscription-based consumption models will increase your reader reach and revenue.

More than reading

Times when magazines and books were created only from letters and images are gone. Today they also contain sound and movement. Thanks to digital possibilities, the content can be absorbed with many senses and can be distributed in different forms and via various channels.

The distinction between publishing and e-commerce is becoming more and more indistinguishable. This is largely caused by a change in consumer habits and increase in the popularity of buying products online via smartphones.

The change has already begun and will expand in the future.

Digital publishing trends for 2020 that we’ve collected give you an insight into how the coming months will look like in the publishing industry and what publishers should focus on.

Although more and more is being said about artificial intelligence and voice technologies’ impact on the digital publishing industry, it might be too early to put them on the list of publishing trends for next year. What do you think?

What are your predictions about the digital publishing future?