It was fun to think that the stroke of midnight ushering in 2021 would be a magical reset. Maybe mentally it was, but most of us are pragmatic enough to understand that’s not how any of this works.
So what will 2021 bring? BoSacks curated an interesting round-up of predictions for the publishing industry in his recent newsletter (which he opened with a heartfelt tribute to the journalists on the ground covering the surreal events in our nation’s Capitol yesterday … well said, my friend).
He and others in the industry believe indie authors will benefit from the growing sales of digital content that escalated in 2020, yet the power structure of publishing has shifted.
“Enormous power consolidated around a small number of major online platforms such as Facebook, Amazon, and Google,” notes Smashwords founder Mark Coker. “These dominant platforms wield their supreme power to stand between you and your audience. We’ve traded one group of authoritarian overlords for another. These platforms are the new gatekeepers for indie authors.”
Coker believes the pay-to-play model, i.e. on-platform advertising, is how the gatekeepers will grant access. He could be right; think back to Facebook and their publishing reach payola. Podcasts may be looking at the same future, according to Nieman Lab’s predictions; they think podcasts will also struggle for independence as big platforms become more powerful.
As for BoSacks, he thinks at least the first six months of the new year will look a lot like 2020 … then we’ll see a nice bounce up he calls The Roaring Twenties.
“In the last century after the last global pandemic, there was a period of economic prosperity with a distinctive cultural edge in the United States and Europe, “ he writes. “There is no reason that that exuberance won’t happen again. A rebirth if you will of entrepreneurism on a global and local level.”
He says we should expect to see “startups galore,” new titles coming into existence, and a local rebirth with local publications to support a “new retail scene.”
As with any predictions, it’s important to develop insights both in and outside of your own industry. BoSacks looks to venture capitalist Fred Wilson, who believes the end of Q2 will be a positive turning point for the pandemic in many countries, for his thoughts.
“I think the trends that were accelerated in 2020 will not reverse in 2021, although the slope of the adoption curves will likely flatten a fair bit,” Wilson notes. “We have sectors of our economy like retail, commercial real estate, carbon-based energy, and more that will never be the same.”
I believe the innovation we saw kick into fast motion this past year will be the engine driving a lot of this new growth. Our industry was able to take away some keen insights about our own work, our audiences, and our ad partners. These lessons, along with a brighter landscape more amenable to growth, could indeed make 2021 seem like a whole new year.