Chrome will include ad blocking by default, platforms will overtake publisher’s websites for reaching audiences and print will only exist as a luxury item, were some of the predictions delivered to 70 publishers and editors by Drum MD Diane Young and Dennis CTO Paul Lomax last week.
Young started the debate, “2025 Visions for the Future of Publishing”, which included a panel of ‘Millennials’ to test ‘old publishing’ thinking, by warning publishers about the dangers of trying to maintain the status quo.
“Whatever you know you are going to have to unlearn, because the pace of change we are facing and the amount of information we are facing is almost overwhelming,” she told the audience hosted by Page Lizard in Central London. “So you have to get into the mindset that you are going to have to be absorbing information all the time, and that is quite tough to do.”
She pointed out that it took the The Drum 10 years to make its first innovation after it launched as a print magazine in 1984 and a further 20 years to earn its first revenue from the website. The last three years have seen the fastest expansion in the firm’s history into TV, internationalisation and off-platform publishing among other innovations. “The pace of change is speeding up,” she said.
The Drum has transitioned from 100% of revenues coming from print advertising to just 9%, and other publishers will have to diversify to survive. “New channels of delivery will come but the old ones will not go away entirely, so life is going to get more complex,” she predicted. Print will never go away, but it will potentially become a luxury purchase, she said.
Publishers are also going to have to change their mindset with regards to the control they are used to having over their audiences.. “At the moment the attitude is that we are the editors and the publishers and we are going to tell you how it is. But in the future customers are going to want to string together their own stories and we are going to have to let them do that while maintain our quality.”
In fact, the relationship between the publisher and audience would change radically. “We wont necessarily be publishers in future, but we will be serving the needs of communities we have built in all sorts of different ways. That’s where the 91 pc of our revenues at The Drum come from are that are not to do with advertising.”
Although journalism will remain the publishers’ key asset – content is King – the means by which it is delivered will be Queen, she said. That definitely includes the rise of platforms like Face Book – which may turn out to be wolves in sheeps’ clothing – especially if they know more about your audience than you do.
“We spend quite a lot of time trying to drive traffic to our website, but In the future it wont be where most of our content will be consumed. Its now we monetise that that we need to figure out,” she said.
Among their strengths in the publishers’ armoury she identified are its ownership of editorial, the access to multiple channels to market and the excitement around media owners which still attracts talent. There is also unprecedented opportunity to internationalise today.
But the threats are that those opportunities are not the preserve of publishers. Brands are launching their own multimedia, like Unilever’s TV channel in India, there is a growing column of middlemen who are taking a slice of publishers’ traditional revenues and everyone has access to multiple channels to market. “No one industry is immune to change that is about to dismantle everything,” she warned.
Face-to-face will be as important as it ever ‘and is getting more important than it ever was’. And in future readers will determine what they want to know – so ‘personalisation will be prince.’
Lomax began by looking back at the speed of technical change over the last ten years. “So much of what we depend on today simply didn’t exist in 2006”. On 4th February 2006 there was no iPad, no App Store, no Facebook (in the UK), no Twitter and no iPhones. “Could we have predicted 2016 would be like this?”
Citing Dennis’ app store revenue between 2011 and 2016, he cautioned that it was easy to over-estimate the effect of technology in the short run. The end of 2011 saw huge spikes in app store revenue, but over time this has plateaued and is slowly but surely declining.
He predicting that Google Chrome will include ad blocking by default because they are currently ‘paying an absolute fortune” to third party ad blocking companies. “I’ve reached the conclusion that if they can beat them they will join them and if they launch their own ad blocking they will kill off the ad blockers overnight,” he said.
He also predicted that felt Google’s AMP, launching later this month, was likely to favour ads produced on its own platform. “In the last blog post they said the ads have to be beautiful and engaging,” he remarked.
He joined Young in predicting that platforms will overtake websites for reaching audiences and that print magazines will still exist, “but I think there will be a lot less.”
“The print magazines that survive will be the ones that lend themselves to the medium rather than because that’s how they came about,” he said. He gave the example of The Week because “it is almost anti web because it reads the web and print for you and puts it in a bundle.”
Luxury magazines like Cyclist will also survive because “its like being part of a club, but with enough scale to make the economics work.” “In 10 years time it might be £15a copy, but I think people will pay it,” he said.
Finally, he emphasised the advantage magazines have in their physicality. “You can’t put an app or a website in someone hands. You can spend a lot of money trying to get someone to download an app and they deleted it; they come to your website and they leave it, but you give someone something in their hands and the physicality of that is really powerful.”
But the millennial panel introduced a reality-check on the future of print. There was a collective gasp as the millennials dropped one bomb – not a single one of their peers had ever bought a print magazine. More discussion revealed the reasons for this: millennials spent their teenage years on their phones rather than reading magazines, and those habits stick.