The impact of online development for editorial content

Not a new argument, but certainly still a controversial one, the digital impact on editorial content is already significant. Karen Osman looks at the latest updates on print versus online publishing…

Mobile devices have been one of one the main drivers in the shift to online content consumption, not only in terms of how we receive our information but also how we read it

“Print is dead.” Quite a strong statement but not one I hadn’t heard before. As a lover of books and magazines, the thought of not being able to browse my favourite book shop in the future fills me with horror but having just downloaded the recent Good Housekeeping magazine on my iPad, I can fully understand the allure of online content. Depending on who you talk to, there are stalwarts out there who will only enjoy their editorial content in hard copy form, but are there enough of them to justify the print runs?

The Pew Research Centre’s Project for Excellence in Journalism states that news publications have been hardest hit by the digital impact, with ad pages falling by an average of 10.4 per cent in 2012 with sales of single issue copies dropping 16 per cent on average. One of the biggest challenges facing print publications is that advertising demand is moving online with print advertising revenue just 45 per cent of what it was in 2006, according to the centre. And while digital advertising is a requirement, it’s slow, growing just 3.7 per cent for newspapers in 2012, and doesn’t even begin to address revenue losses from print.

Rapid development of social media and of course, the access of mobile devices – the Arab region has a 96.7 per cent penetration rate, ahead of the world average of 86.7 per cent (source ITU News) – have no doubt been one of one the main drivers in the shift to online content consumption, not only in terms of how we receive our information but also how we read it. Cited as a reading revolution, editors now have to look to adapt their material for digital channels. Online content needs to be brief and to the point to address the skimming nature of the reader. According to a study compiled by Dr. Jakob Nielsen, 79 per cent of users scan the page instead of reading word for word, focusing on headlines, summaries and captions. He also noted, that the longer the content, the less likely it is to be read. Quite a different story, when comparing the leisurely relaxation associated with a printed magazine or book.

But is it all bad news? Perhaps for those who refuse to adapt, but for many, it’s an opportunity to be relished. Publishers will be forced to review their traditional structures to one that has a stronger relationship with the consumer. Debating at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2013, George Lossius, Publishing Technology CEO, sums it up well when he says, “Generally, publishers were a long way away from the consumer, but it is getting closer, and it will get closer and closer and closer. This is the effect of technology.”

Many predict that the future of publishing is a mix of print and online rather than just a one-way digital street. But as today’s young generation grow up on tablets and mobile phones, there’s no doubt that technology as a whole will continue to play a large part in our reading future.


Karen Osman is Managing Director of content creation company, Travel Ink. Follow her on Twitter @TravelInkME

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