Digital Publishing Trends: The 2019 Edition

Digital Publishing trends in 2018 have seen users not only go back and focus on the basics such as SEO, but general news covered has shown digital media publishers going through and make subscriptions and podcasting mainstream whilst taking the next frontier in AI for improving audience engagement and insights.

This year we conducted survey outreach and received 65 respondents feedback, ranging from editors, audience development directors, startup founders, and martech professionals offering solutions to digital media publishers.

What trends have made digital publishing efforts successful?

Whilst it sounds obvious, at the end of the day our respondents attributed their success to the time, commitment and resources they put towards their planned initiative. Some respondents more critically rated themselves as they could have further succeeded in their role if other competing profiles didn’t exist.

New website and tool relaunches, increasing partnerships, networking events and combining several concepts into one campaign all contributed to the respondents’ success.

Conversely, lack of time and commitment was the primary reason for failure. Surprisingly very few respondents answered the cause being from Facebook, algorithms and declining ad revenues, which suggests that 2017 was a defining moment in publishers becoming more customer/relationship-centric and how planning has become the central focus in executing initiatives.

 

Here’s your to-do list for 2019:
  • Consider doubling down on your SEO and content strategy initiatives. Making old pieces new, reviewing your pillars and site architecture and expand on evergreen topics that can be promoted and reshared time and time again
  • Partnerships and networking events provide opportunities to particularly grow your membership and podcasting offering
  • Relaunch and refresh your website/product, considering new technologies that can scale and improve the efficiencies of your processes i.e. AI for auto-tagging or content engagement.

Why spend your time doing these activities?

According to a study by Similar Web, Facebook traffic has drastically declined, making YouTube the number 2 most visited site (and no.1 video platform) behind Google. Although this doesn’t factor it’s growing ecosystem of WhatsApp and Instagram which sees it continuing to grow overall.

Content discovery on Google platforms had exploded, particularly with the shift to a mobile-first index, where personalization and new platforms for consuming content on the mobile web are slowing changing the way the world gets its information.

Google has clearly decided to invest in content discovery, an area that every publisher should take note of, which complements the above-suggested tactics.

Coverage of key digital media publishing trends and statistics in the past year

Here’s a recap of the defining moments that made digital publishing what it is in 2018:

  • 44% (124 million) of the US population has listened to a podcast – up from 40% in 2017 (Infinite Dial 18)
  • Smart-speaker penetration approaches 50 percent (Adobe’s State of Voice report 2018)
  • WhatsApp is now used for news by around half of online users in Malaysia (54%) and Brazil (48%) and by around a third in Spain (36%) and Turkey (30%) – Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism 2018 Digital News Report
  •  Digital publishing subscriptions (44%) has become the most important revenue stream for news publishers worldwide
  • 94% of all radio listeners nationwide tune to a network affiliated station every week (Audio Today 2018)
Some key thoughts from leading professionals

So what’s going to be the single key focus in 2019? Here are some key responses below.

Veronica Magan, Director, Digital Growth and Innovation - Access Intelligence

“Streamlining current operations and growing digital revenue.”

Emily Hughes, Audience Development Consultant at Loup Digital

“In 2019 it seems that the brands who excel in cultivating community and brand loyalty will be the most successful. This means brands need to find their niche audience (instead of trying to be everything to everyone) and support them – through authentic content, top-notch customer service, and surprise-and-delight experiences.”

John Scroggins, Vice President/Editor-In-Chief - The Food Channel

“Greater integration of all digital platforms working in concert to drive content consumption. Leveraging social platforms for engagement and recognizing their strengths in driving traffic to our website.

Authentic storytelling, native to each digital platform, all working in concert is key. Also, a stronger use of predictive analytic insights to better understand the topics that resonate most with our audience. Insights-based content development.”

Melissa Chowning, Founder of  Twenty-First Digital

“2019 will be about using video. Facebook is going to continue to decline in reach so SEO will continue to be a top priority.”

Ryan Evans, CEO, and Editor in Chief -  War on the Rocks

“We are going to be taking on a new revenue activity — an institutional membership product at the enterprise level. In order do this, I need to hire technical as well as executive talent to build this and make sure the rest of the company is humming along while I focus on this new activity.”

Ari Lewine, CSO and co-founder, TripleLift

“In 2019, TripleLift will continue to build and test the ContentDial platform to reach more clients across more verticals. While we started testing ContentDial in 2018, we will continue to improve the platform’s abilities to allow ad buyers to access unique data sets that help them figure out what kind of ad-funded content would work best on their websites. We designed ContentDial to bring together automated, programmatic advertising and branded content and in 2019 we plan to continue using this technology to help our clients build better, more efficient campaigns.”

Mark Hodson, Co-founder, and editor of 101 Holidays

“Going forward, I feel that small online publishers won’t have a future if they try to be all things to all people. So we are always looking at what we do best and doubling down on that. The Pareto Principle at play, as ever. Our strength is the trust we have built with our users, the quality of our editorial, and the relationships we have with our writers and key players in the media.”

Natasha Kewalramani, Founder and Editor at WTD News

“In 2019 I want to focus on my distribution and outreach. We will consider doing that through events, college outreach, and through media partnerships and collaborations.”

Keith Sibson, SVP, Product & Marketing PostUp

“Major focus on first-party data that is valuable to advertisers. Publishers are competing for the same advertising dollars with Facebook and Google, and have literally the same product. First party data to target audience behavior and interests is the only way to be competitive for ad spend, paired with differentiated deployment mechanisms like native and email.”

Martin Jönsson, Editorial Development Director at Dagens Nyheter

“A more integrated newsroom for visual journalism, using creative formats to attract new subscribers and increase reader loyalty.”

Brian Morrissey, Editor-In-Chief at Digiday

“Building out our paid membership programs for Digiday and Glossy.”

Wyatt Kash, Senior VicePresident of Scoop News Group 

“We want to take our storytelling to the next level. There are a lot of interactive capabilities increasingly common in consumer media that we want to bring to the B2C market. That means retooling the way we think about and design the stories we want to tell. It also means upgrading the skills of our content, design and development folks. The goal, in the end, is to help our clients’ custom content make a greater impact — and in the process, make a greater impact on our clients as a B2B Content Studio.”

Jim Robinson, Founder of  Clickseed

“There are a handful of areas within SEO where I’d like to focus on 2019, but if I had to boil it down to just one, it would be to continue developing optimization strategies for Google’s content recommendation features, such as Chrome content suggestions and personalized Google News articles. Search will probably always exist in one form or another, but increasingly we’re seeing Google roll out features that are less reliant on user-initiated queries and instead attempt to anticipate user’s interests based on patterns of activity in the Chrome browser, Gmail, Android devices, etc. The implication, I think, is that we need to develop an audience-centric mindset that anticipates user interests without relying on explicit queries. That means digging into demographics, affinity categories, and behavioral data to find new ways to drive return visits. Sites that do that effectively are more likely to get exposure to Google’s content recommendation features, not to mention improve the on-site user experience.”

Jay Newton-Small, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer at MemoryWell

“In 2019, we’ll focus on scaling MemoryWell. We aim to have several big provider contracts signed and we want to be ramping up from doing hundreds of stories a month, to thousands.”

Clarinda Cerejo, Editor-in-Chief, Editage Insights 

“In 2018, Editage Insights managed to crack the code of personalized content in a big way. In 2019, we would like to take personalization a few notches higher by exploring AI for highly-targeted content recommendations and triggers based on user behavior and preferences.

Being a large, multilingual content platform with a massive global community of over 300,000 readers, we would also like to harness the full power of the community in 2019. Considering the diversity, interests, and vast expertise of the Editage Insights community, the richness of our site content can increase exponentially if we are able to effectively engage community members and involve them in the content creation process. So that’s the goal!”

Rupert Collins-White, Content Director of Burlington Media Group

“Creating platforms to collect and visualise data about our audience/community; building lean WordPress sites for brands; focusing more on segmentation.”

Jim Schachter, Vice President for News at WNYC

We will focus on conducting local journalism in ways that connect deeply with the community. We’ll address questions like: How can people who care deeply about issues contribute to our professional journalists’ understanding and coverage? How can we surface more stories from the ground up and give voice to a wider range of community concerns? How can we adjust our delivery of news and information so that more people in our audience hear and see us as the journalists who want to be their partners in building a stronger community?

Amanda Cook, Editor-in-chief of I CARE IF YOU LISTEN

“In 2019, I CARE IF YOU LISTEN will be taking a deep dive into our site analytics to learn more about our readership–who they are, where their interests lie, and what articles are resonating the most with them. Our initial findings are telling us that our readers are young and politically-engaged, and the articles that perform the best are those that directly confront social or cultural issues as they relate to the contemporary classical music scene. We are also seeing our commitment to equitable representation on the site pay off–in the past year, we have seen a 20% increase in female readers. The more diverse voices in the field we feature on the site, the more our audience in turn starts to reflect the content we are putting out. This comprehensive look at our audience will allow us to further hone our offerings as we continue to develop our platform.”

Dianna Dilworth, Editor In Chief at Marketers Quarterly

“In 2019, we will continue to focus on developing great content for our audience and look for new ways to expand our reach. As always, we’ll experiment with new technologies but will always keep the end user experience as a top priority.”

Ronan Leonard, Senior Writer, and Podcaster at Irish Tech News

“What is the one thing you will focus on in 2019?

I intend to focus more on FinTech and Blockchain based startups as Irish Tech News is becoming well known for our FinTech coverage. FinTech is not just about Crypto’s and ICO’s, it’s also about its byproducts such as blockchain and new secure ways of handling and processing financial transactions.”

Ginger Conlon, U.S. Editor at The Drum

My primary focus in 2019 will be building new and building on current relationships. The best way to learn about market trends, challenges, and opportunities are to spend time with the people dealing with them firsthand. It’s essential to gain an understanding of what’s important to the people who comprise the different areas of your industry to best serve that industry. The reality is, business isn’t “just business”; it’s personal — and, personally, I enjoy getting to know the people who make the marketing industry come alive.

Franko Ali, Creative Director at Finder

“Our teams priority for the upcoming year is a paradigm shift in how we think about integrated content and marketing in service of the Finder brand. Editorial development will be a strategic focus for the brand, but must be explicitly designed for specific audiences and platforms. Writers, editors and publishers will expand their expertise in audience development, and marketers will continue to employ new levels of emotion and storytelling.”

So, what is your digital publishing trend for 2019? Please feel free to comment below and we will gladly add you as a contributor to this piece throughout the year.

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