Nearly a year ago, we set out our predictions for the Digital Publishing industry for 2015 in an article that has consistently taken the top spot in our most popular posts.

Some were safe bets, others were a little more off-the-wall, but as the year draws to a close it is indisputable that the industry has seen dramatic changes.

So before we settle down to compile our 2016 predictions, how many of our previous ones came true?

1 – The advertising industry will finally get to grips with tablet and mobile ads

It has taken a long time, but we predict that 2015 will be the year that we start to see some traction from advertisers and their creative agencies within digital publishing. There has been an industry-wide reluctance to invest in tablet and mobile advertising, but the tide seems to be turning with some of the publishers we are speaking to. Could this be the year that there is a tablet and mobile advertising explosion? We think so!

Advertising in digital publications has been a mixed bag this year. There’s certainly not been an explosion, but with a lack of enthusiasm among the masses for digital magazines, who can blame advertisers for not really getting involved? Apple News and Facebook are getting the conversation started in a different direction, and these could offer (part of) a solution for the problems caused by ad-blocking (which, by the way, aren’t that widespread…yet!)

2 – ‘BYOD’ policies will transform digital education

‘Bring your own device’ is the latest buzzword in classrooms, but this is a trend we believe is here to stay. The ‘iPad in every classroom’ dream was doomed to failure due to the prohibitive costs for schools on a budget, but with smartphone and tablet ownership among teenagers at a whopping 85%, opening educational resources to work on any device will be the key for publishers hoping to crack the education market.

BYOD has started to gain momentum in secondary schools in particular this year, with 30% of pupils saying that their school now operates a ‘Bring Your Own Device’ policy. However, Ofsted aren’t particularly happy, and there are concerns about the way they’re being used. There are also question marks over how to prevent distractions and safeguard children as restrictions to school devices can’t be applied to personal ones. The digital products available are also incredibly disjointed, particularly in the publishing camp. One to watch in the coming years…

3 – Android’s market domination will continue

The hottest tablet trends on the Christmas markets tend towards the more affordable models such as Tesco’s Hudl2 and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S. This continues to have huge implications for the digital publishing industry, making responsive, compatible publishing solutions all the more necessary. Sceptical? Check out the facts and figures about Android’s market domination – it’s a platform that can no longer be ignored.

The Apple/Android war has grown to the extent that almost every other competitor now holds just a negligible share in the market. Android has made significant gains this year (particularly in Europe) despite the much-hyped Apple Watch – Samsung’s sleek S6 is one of the major contributing factors to this. Kanter Worldpanel have a really neat interactive infographic where you can explore the market share in different regions – click the picture below to go straight through.

4 – The ‘monthly’ model will be overturned

This mainly applies to traditional magazines who currently publish their magazines on a monthly basis. Engagement amongst users is much more effective with regular updates, so we predict that there will be a significant move away from bulk-publishing content. Forward-thinking publishers will instead turn towards continuous publishing models, which in turn will continue to evolve to the needs and changing behaviours of the reader.

Savvy publishers have definitely been experimenting with when and how they publish their digital content this year. Magazines that are sticking with the monthly digital issue are (for the most part) seeing limited success. Developments with Apple News and Facebook have forced many publishers to think about the value of the issue – individual articles are seen by some as the way forward. Apps like ‘Espresso’ (The Economist) deliver a ‘shot’ of 5 news stories each morning, or other publishers like TES are combining issue-based and continuous publishing in one app.

5 – Audio will become a serious contender

For every e- and print book and magazine advert we see, there are an equal number of adverts for audio books. People are keen to listen to material, whether that’s a podcast about molecules from their favourite magazine, or a novel narrated by a celebrity. For publishers, having audio options available will be a necessity to stay ahead in the popularity stakes. This applies to everyone, from the large publishing houses to small independent publishers and organisations with journals and magazines.

Audio is putting up a valiant fight to take over the world with major music distributors like Spotify partnering with popular podcasters, but media groups and publishers alike are still bowing down to video. It’s not a serious contender quite yet, but we still think audio is one to watch.

6 – The heat will turn up on subscription models

The viability of the subscription model will really be put to the test this year. From Readly’s ‘Spotify for magazines’ type business model to the launch of Amazon’s ‘Kindle Unlimited’, there are certainly plenty of companies to keep an eye on. The jury is still out about the longevity of the subscription model, but we think its fate will be sealed by the time the year is out, for better or for worse.

2015 was the year EVERYONE seemed to jump on subscription models, leaving consumers feeling totally overwhelmed. From Netflix to Amazon Prime and Disney, everyone wants a slice of the £9.99-a-month pie.

But what about the magazine world? Techradar have done a really helpful comparison between a number of publishing models, and concluded that the subscription model was working pretty well for Readly. The downside? The PDF replica mags look great on large tablets, but it’s a pinch-and-zoom experience for anyone on smaller devices. Readly seems to have hit the sweet spot here as PDF replicas are easy to churn out in bulk, but how will other publishers fare with the mobile problem? Perhaps 2016 will show us…

7 – Facebook will jump on the publishing bandwagon

We’ve not seen any attempts from Facebook to join the publishing fray since their ill-fated attempt at ‘Notes’; a feature that has been more or less forgotten about since the launch of the ‘Timeline’ in 2011. There are now low-level rumours that Zuckerberg has his eye on getting Facebook up to speed with other digital publishing platforms like Tumblr and Buzzfeed. Subtle jumps towards this goal can already be seen, with hashtags and ‘trending’ news already allowing users to keep up to date with what others are talking about. If Facebook can crack publishing, 2015 could be a very interesting year indeed…

Wow – it’s crazy to think that less than a year ago, the words ‘Facebook’ and ‘Publishing’ were rarely strung together in the same sentence. 2015 flung Facebook straight through the windows of the publishing houses by announcing ‘Instant Articles’, and later on, ‘Notify’. We’ve been keeping publishers up-to-date with developments through 2015 and will continue to do the same this year.

8 – Patterns of desktop/mobile usage will become more pronounced

We’re not waving goodbye to digital publishing for desktop yet, purely because so many of us like to have a sneaky read during work hours (yes…we have the statistics to show we’ve noticed that slip in concentration at 4pm!). However, there are distinctive patterns of behaviour between mobile and desktop usage that the smartest publishers are beginning to play to. Are most of your readers flicking through their phones before bedtime? Don’t be afraid to change the way you publish content to fit that! This is the beauty of analytics, and we think that readers will see much smarter content delivery in the coming year.

Mobile usage has exploded over the past year, and this has separated the internet into two camps – pages which are easily accessible and mobile-friendly, and pages which still show no signs of life a couple of minutes later. Some publishers have seen mobile browsing take up as much as 70% of their web traffic, and others have diversified into apps to take advantage of this. Social and article publishing is going to inform these analytics further over the coming year.

9 – Apple will face serious challenges to its publishing crown

2015 will be the make-or-break year for Apple’s grip on Digital Publishing. The company has faced serious criticism over the lack of development or maintenance for Newsstand, which in turn has stalled digital subscriptions for publishers. There is also an increasing trend among publishers new to digital to look for web-based solutions, rather than taking the traditional app store route. Adobe’s decision to remove access to its single edition solutions to all but premium members isn’t helping the situation. Watch this space!

Facebook’s Instant Articles is Apple’s biggest challenge to date, but they rose to it in June by announcing firstly that they would no longer support Newsstand, and secondly that ‘Apple News’ was on its way. Cue utter chaos in the publishing world as everyone grappled for answers (which Apple typically kept tightly under NDAs). Nearly 4 months after its release, the response has been underwhelming but we’re sitting tightly to see whether they start really pushing users to engage with the app this spring.

10 – The ‘phablet’ phenomenon will make HTML solutions vital

There was an unprecedented rise in the demand for mobiles with larger and larger screen sizes in 2014. Laptops, tablets and phones are all merging together, with consumers expecting flawless functionality across the board. The implications of this trend for digital publishing should not be underestimated; cross-platform HTML solutions which resize and reflow to any screen size are necessary investments for publishers seeking futureproof digital solutions.

We believe HTML solutions are more vital than ever, but publishers have come full circle with many now turning back to PDF replicas to cut costs. Keep an eye out for Digital Publishing Predictions for 2016 as we’ll delve a little deeper into the reasons for this (clue…monetisation will come up…)

Our set of Digital Publishing Predictions is coming soon…get in touch to be first to know!

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