Publishing Trends Worth A Second Look

The world of digital publishing is constantly evolving. Trends that are hot one minute seem to be passé the next, and the industry is always looking for the next shiny new development that will help grow audience, engagement and ultimately increase sales. Here are a few trends I’m currently keeping an eye on that I believe will stick around for the long term.

Programmatic selling. Stating the obvious, programmatic has now proven to be an efficient and targeted way to purchase advertising, with eMarketer forecasting that more than two-thirds of all digital display advertising will be through programmatic this year. But while programmatic is based on technology, the people behind the scenes are necessary to make programmatic provide the best return on investment. Publishers need to further invest in programmatic personnel, in both a commercial and account management capacity. 

This is not a set-it-and-forget-it business. Only those that double down now will truly realize the value of this category in future years.



Video & measurement. The growing need for premium video supply is a trend that is not going away any time soon. However, publishers continue to take shortcuts in the content creation process, the underlying technology and the user experience in order to capitalize on the dollars shifting to digital video.

The migration from digital publisher to digital broadcaster is quite significant. The industry needs to shift its focus to providing unique viewing experiences rather than pre-roll video impressions.

The app convergence. With the continual decline of home page traffic, the side-door traffic model has more than arrived. Publishers continue to find new and interesting ways to drive margin-neutral or margin-positive traffic. That being said, while in the past the biggest compliment from a user was a home page visit, changing consumption habits make the downloading and use of a digital brand’s mobile application the new corollary.

So, instead of putting money into redesigning the home page, publishers should focus on making a clean, integrated and media-rich experience within their core app. Those who bet in this direction have far more longevity — and may even, over time, replace their home page traffic attrition.

De-risking social traffic. With audience growth a key metric for publisher success, it’s important to recognize that social traffic is not the same as growing unique users. Likes don’t equal users, and grouping multiple pages under a single brand does not drive organic growth. Ten years ago a sports publisher would launch multiple endemic brands like SB Nation’s blogs, Rivals and Scout’s team pages — and even what was formerly known as Fantasy Sports Ventures — all with the goal of driving traffic or a singular brand roll-up.

Now, as brand advertisers are moving away from “network” buys to singular owned content offerings and corresponding destinations, publishers must invert their models on social. This can be done through a focus on social community development. With the right influencer marketing strategy, publishers can make that on-the-ground authentic connection in this age of social discovery.

We all know trends come and go — just look back to MySpace as the best example of this. Publishers able to incorporate trends that fit well into their core offerings will continue to last and thrive.

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