Digital Content: Where are publishers investing and what challenges will they need to overcome?

I’ve been really in to webinars lately. I think part of it is I’ve been finding a lot free webinars that discuss either various aspects of the publishing industry or entrepreneurship. (Although the webinars on metadata were not free, but I think it’s important to learn and understand as much about metadata as possible).

Anyway, today’s webinar was on an Innodata survey conducted by Digital Book World. Presented by Marc Rubner, the VP of Product Marketing at Innodata Consulting, the webinar discussed the results of an online survey of 366 media executives. 

Most of these executives were from the U.S., with 31% from adult trade books, 54% from small publishing companies (1-49 employees), 17% from medium companies (50-99 employees) and 37% from large companies (100+ employees). Additionally, 29% were a C-level executive and 47% were either Managers or Directors.

Marc said there are a few recent trends for publishing:

  • Content creators of yesterday (major news organizations) will start yielding audience reach to content aggregators (meaning they will curate)
  • Platform wars will continue to take place (tablets over ereaders)
  • By 2013, more web viewing will be done on tablets than PCs or laptops

Additionally, by 2015 there is a forecast that there will be 300 million ipads in U.S., which is basically the whole population.

There are some challenges for publishers. For example, the average consumer demands new content all the time that’s tailored to them. Small packaging is now also required (such as 99 cent songs on iTunes). And content needs to be available on all devices, though it doesn’t need to look the same on all of them. But, it’s ok for publishers to repurpose existing content in to new products. Below is a breakdown of what publishers are planning to do this year, technology-wise:

Publishers face mostly financial challenges when it comes to using new technology. Many publishers (41% of the survey) are planning on hiring only 1-2 people to drive creation of digital content, applications, and platforms.

So the problem is many publishers are not yet willing to invest in technology or in the people who can enable this technology, even though they know it is valuable. However, many publishers are closing the gap through third parties (50% said yes to outsourcing for systems/platforms/technologies and 60% said yes to outsourcing for digital content).

Some publishers are taking a wait and see approach before they invest. They want to watch the market and see what happens before trying anything. They also want to wait for standards, such as standardization of platforms, in the industry, etc. But this will hinder their progress in the future. Marc said publishers should be using digital technologies more now.

To recap, publishers are developing new products and digital first products are gaining momentum. But, there is not enough focus on technology, both in investing and incorporating new technology to support digital content. Lastly, most organizations struggle with internal digital content expertise, but many will hire at least one person to help and most will use third-parties.

So what should publishers do now?

Marc said they should focus on the quality of their content, and how their audience is consuming it. Technology will be both a hurdle and an opportunity, and it is worth investing in.

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