James Varblow

Publishing Trends Leading Into 2022

Supply Chain Issues Continue

Print publishing is one of the many markets to be hit with continuing supply chain issues sparked by the global pandemic. Asia prints much of the world’s books in color, but with a soaring demand for shipping containers, it now costs as much as ten times the standard amount to ship books overseas. Additionally, shipping is taking much longer due to work shortages and a failure to set infrastructure for the rise in demand following the shutdowns of 2020.

The crippled supply chain is pushing trends that have already been in place for years as digital media continues to grow, and print-based publishing further recedes. Distribution is becoming increasingly difficult.

Big Tech Faces Lawsuits from Small Publishers

Facebook and Google are facing antitrust lawsuits from over 200 small newspapers, accusing them of monopolistic behavior around digital ad revenue. The first lawsuit was filed by HP Media in January 2021, and the movement has grown into a global trend. These publishers allege that Google and Facebook are using the power of their oligopoly to siphon digital ad revenue that should be going to small businesses.

This is the latest in a series of actions that have been taken against the GAFA oligopoly by publishers across the world. In July 2021, antitrust regulators in France levied a €500 Million fine against Google, citing failure to offer a fair deal with local publishers in exchange for hosting their content. Meanwhile, Australia’s News Media Bargaining Code requires that Google and Facebook pay Australian publishers using terms set by a third party if they can’t reach an agreement with the publishing firm.

Digital ad revenue continues to grow, with GroupM’s annual report detailing that digital advertising now makes up 64.4% of the market. Outside of China, it’s estimated that 80-90% of the digital advertising market belongs to Meta, Alphabet, and Amazon--totaling more than 50% of the entire market. Meanwhile, ad revenue has consistently been declining for newspapers and magazines for years and shows no signs of stopping.

The Growing Audio Front

Audio content has been trending upward for years, and the pandemic of 2020 has done nothing to dissuade this growth. Edison Research and Triton Digital’s survey estimated that 62% of the US adult population has listened to online audio in the last week, up from 60% in 2020 and from 22% in 2011. Weekly listeners are now averaging 16 hours and 14 minutes of listening time, up from 15 hours and 12 minutes in 2020. Weekly podcast listenership is up to 28% in 2021, more than twice what it was 5 years ago.

Narrated articles have been effective for fostering listener retention. Danish digital magazine Zetland was losing subscribers due to lack of engagement when they added an audio platform. Zetland now offers audio articles, read by a singular reader. These articles boast audience retention of 90%. Articles in this format have the advantage of accessibility, as users can engage with these articles during mundane tasks throughout the day such as the morning commute. Additionally, audio listeners engage with information as a constant stream, rather than choosing each article to listen to. 

The New York Times has been building its audio presence by acquiring audio companies and investing in podcasts. However, these podcasts are primarily distributed on apps like Spotify. They plan to take the next step in 2022, launching a new app “The New York Times Audio.” The app will be part of the Times subscription bundle. It will feature audio journalism, along with podcasts. 

Finding New Generational Links

Reaching Gen Z Remains a challenge for publishers. This generation, whose birth years range roughly from 1997 to 2012 is more immersed in social media than ever, and the current strategies aren’t effective. While audio media is more popular among the millennial generation, publishers are taking new steps to expand their influence with younger generations. 

Gen Z has grown around a bombardment of advertisement along with constant exposure to the opinions of their peers. They can be skeptical of anything viewed as inauthentic. They seek for media that is both agile and engaging.  

A study from Reuter’s Institute found that 57% of the Gen Z generation gets their news from social media first. Gen Z is used to scrolling past swaths of information daily but will engage seriously when they find an interest. Because of this, social media presence, especially in video format, is important when engaging with this generation. 

Sports Illustrated, an American publisher, is adopting a social media-centered strategy to promote Gen Z engagement. Sports Illustrated recently launched an official Snapchat page sharing video clips and analysis of the latest in sports news. Sports Illustrated’ publisher, The Arena Group, has been effectively adopting strategies to expand their footprint, acquiring sports website The Spun. The Sports Illustrated Media group has expanded their reach by 250% in the past year, with almost 53 million unique users. 

Throughout the shifting nature of the publishing industry, there are some constants that publishers can hold to. While the media format may change along with the means of reaching customers, the underlying demand remains the same. People want engaging, quality media that speaks to their interests. Publishers can distinguish themselves in the same way as ever: producing excellent content that fits their niche and speaks to their audience.

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