The Realty of Publishing in 2019 — 5 Truths for Publishers

It’s increasingly (and sometimes painfully) obvious that the only way to succeed in publishing today is to keep a firm focus on your readers. We’ve been preaching about this audience-first approach for several years now, and seeing the results when publishers commit to this.

Adopting this approach may mean some strategic adaptions to your revenue stream, as Cosmin Ene advises in Forbes.

“Editors and journalists face an enormous task in 2019: finding a way to incorporate readers into the publishing equation in order to remain profitable,” Ene writes. The CEO of LaterPay recommends five truths for publishers to accept in 2019.

1. Don’t rely solely on subscriptions

According to [a recent] Reuters report, 52% of respondents expect subscriptions to be the main revenue focus for 2019. Subscriptions, however, cannot be your sole source of revenue. While driving subscription adoption remains the ‘holy grail’ for publishers, as it creates a steady stream of revenue, there are many ways publishers can create incremental revenue.”

Consider other revenue avenues like donations, single article purchases or an ad-free experience, quickly gaining popularity among readers tired of the massive interruptions in digital reading.

2. Consider podcasts as a revenue source

The Reuters report tells us that 75% of expect audio to become more important to their business model this year.

“This is fairly evident based on the rise in the number of podcasts being produced by publications like The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times,” Ene explains. He warns though, to be wary of relying on third-party distribution platforms, like Spotify for example.

“If publishers aren’t careful, they could cede control of their audio content to a tech giant, similar to previous relationships with Facebook and Apple. And we know how that ended for publishers.”

3. Tech won’t save your bacon

Publishers are also waking up to the reality that the tech industry isn’t going to save them.

“Complaints range from a lack of revenue being generated to decreases in traffic referrals and the rise of brand-safety issues. Publishers need to understand, however, that these big platforms are not a white knight who is here to save them,” Ene writes.

It’s time to take this to heart and use tech as a tool, not a final solution.

“Rather than putting the responsibility on the platforms, publishers should instead determine for themselves what they need to be successful and then find ways to work with the opportunities that Google, Facebook and others offer them to achieve those goals,” Ene says.

4. Don’t hate on AI

While journalists collectively shudder at the idea of bots writing copy, artificial intelligence does have a real role to play in publishing.

“By no means do I expect AI to replace editors and journalists, but rather for the technology to ease the burden on them,” Ene explains. “By implementing AI to handle repetitive tasks and matter-of-fact stories, editors and journalists can focus more on creative content and developing the in-depth stories that their readers are looking for, as users should be the main focus in the year to come.”

5. It’s about the customers … not the advertisers

Finally, it all comes back to your readers.

“In the past, publishers were often more focused on pleasing advertisers — after all, that was where most of their revenue was coming from prior to the rise of the duopoly,” Ene writes. “In doing so, however, publishers have ignored the reader. Rebuilding that user trust and user-centric news model will be a challenge for publishers in 2019, but is an undertaking that should be taken seriously.”