Let me try and brighten up what has been a gloomy start to the year.
As we embark on 2021, we should reflect on how publishing has transformed itself over the last ten years and how, despite the pandemic, we are now well placed to thrive in the future.
Just think about some of the questions that used to preoccupy us:
- Does publishing have a future? For a while, we feared not, but we now know that it does. Giving everyone the means to self-publish has just accentuated the need for professionally produced, edited, curated and quality controlled content. Publishers no longer question their role in the media world.
- Is print doomed, and if so, is publishing doomed too? Many thought the answer to both those questions was ‘yes’, but we now know it’s ‘no’. Print has a distinctive and valuable place in the media mix which some, though not all, publishers choose to make use of. We’re no longer hung up on particular routes to market.
- Should we be print or digital first? A cause of considerable angst in the past, but now seen by most publishers to be a redundant question. We are now happy to let the decision about what content we produce, when and where we produce it, to be determined by audience need.
- Will people pay for content online? Long presumed to be ‘no’, but now happily known to be ‘yes’! Advances in paywall technology, improved marketing capabilities and renewed confidence in what we have to offer means that we are now comfortable asking for something in return.
- Is there proper money to be made from digital advertising? We long doubted it; it’s a numbers game, after all… We now know that our premium environment and our targeted and engaged audiences, verified by first party data, can command premium prices.
- Is social worth the effort? A common grumble with the underlying presumption that it wasn’t. We now know that it is. Not all social channels and not for all publishing brands because it’s about picking and choosing. We now understand that we need to have a presence where our prospective readers are. If they’re on certain social platforms in big enough numbers, then we need to be there too.
These were some of the big strategic questions of yesteryear, the debate over which stymied our development for a while.
These are now largely resolved and publishers are more comfortable in their own skin; we now better understand the past, present and future of publishing and our place and value in the modern media world. It’s an exciting place to be and should set us up nicely for the post-pandemic era. Can’t wait.