Beyond the Page: Future of Publishing

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Why social content could be the future of the publishing industry


Like other creative industries, consumer publishing is currently experiencing a period of significant change. This is largely driven by the rapid growth of the internet and by the development of new digital platforms such as smartphones, ebook readers and iPads.

These developments are clearly creating new commercial opportunities. Yet, they have disrupted the traditional business models that rely on print advertising revenues and supply chain retail models. As a result, these new technologies have produced significant challenges for the industry as a whole.

In 2011, Nesta produced a report on the impact that digital technology is having on the publishing industry. Their survey, published by research agency BML Bowker, showed that publishers found that production and product development were actually the least difficult areas. Instead, the editorial and marketing of these new products was proving to be the most difficult areas to adjust to.

The survey proved that digital progress is moving publishers to different business models. Although, in truth, nearly half of those surveyed said that they were only changing their models a little. The main reasons given for these changes was the larger use of social networking and online marketing and a greater concentration on introducing new sales channels.

With 63% of UK publishers now using Amazon to sell digital products (56% using other internet booksellers) the future of publishing is likely to be stimulated by social content. Already, only 20% of publishers are not selling digital titles – so it appears we have already made big steps in this direction.

So, what’s next? Well, there are already a number of companies that are exploring ways to utilise digital marketing and social networking. In a follow-up report called “Future of Publishing,” they suggest a number of different models:

  • Freemium: where the user receives a basic amount of content or level of functionality for free, but has to pay for additional content and function.
  • In–app purchases: this could work in a number of ways. One suggestion is to sell content in smaller segments and have “serial fictions” with the opening chapter downloadable for free and subsequent instalments charged at set rates.
  • Subscription models: offering free one–day shipping and monthly e-book rentals. Amazon’s Prime service is currently the most prominent example of this.

The future of publishing is anything but clear. But this research definitely suggests that the future is will be away from paper.


Where do you stand on the future publishing debate, and do you think print publishing has a future? Join in the debate by tweeting me @samueljfry #beyondthepage

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