2018: let’s make it better than 2017

James Evelegh's comment piece from the January / February 2018 issue of InPublishing magazine.

By James Evelegh

2018: let’s make it better than 2017

How are your 2018 resolutions going? Already a distant memory? Typically, I tend to fall at the first hurdle, although as I write this, my January is still dry which I’m very proud about.

What about new year resolutions for the publishing industry as a whole? By general consensus, 2017 stank, so how do we go about making sure 2018 turns out better?

Here are my recommendations:

1. Continue exploring reader revenues: paywalls are beginning to work. The Telegraph’s Robert Bridge had a real spring in his step as he described their customer-first strategy at November’s Customer Direct conference (see my review on page 19); advertising is in decline and readers must pick up the tab. 2. Invest in content: recent strike action at Swindon suggests that, certainly in the regional press, editorial departments are being pared to the bone. Obviously, the bottom line rules and publishing businesses are not charities, but any publishing model that does not prioritise investment in content creation is not a very good one. People are not thick. They can spot rubbish content a mile off, and, unsurprisingly, won’t buy it. 3. Be more self-reliant: the social media platforms are great for spreading the word, but take care not to become too commercially dependent on them. Facebook’s recent strategy announcement, that news feeds would be given lower priority, shows the risks. What’s in Facebook’s best interests is not necessarily in ours. 4. Do stuff well! Quality and uniqueness are so important. Me-too publishing is so yesterday. Michael Wolff’s explosive book on the Trump White House is a huge bestseller, because it was well conceived and brilliantly executed. The medium (in this case, paper) was secondary. (Do read David Hepworth’s excellent article on page 32.) 5. Unlock the passion. Probably more one for specialist consumer media, but if you can find the right connection with your audience, and then own that connection, then the commercial opportunities are limitless. 6. Abide by the Editors’ Code. We all know the letter, but do we abide by the spirit? Only by doing so can we hope to put clear blue water between us and the fakers. 7. Embrace AI. Forget about robots and driverless-cars, AI has a real application here and now for publishers. The technology is affordable and available and can drive real productivity gains, better customer service and more sales. What’s not to like.

If we can deliver on the above, then I’m confident 2018 will turn out just fine…