The digital publishing landscape, much like the digital world itself, is in a state of perpetual flux. As we bid adieu to 2023, it’s evident that this year was a testament to the industry’s resilience and innovation—publishers adapted to new mediums and prioritized user privacy like never before. But as the page turns to 2024, fresh challenges and opportunities await.
In this piece, we will look onward and highlight the top 10 trends expected to impact digital publishing in the months ahead.
Immersive experiences with AR/VR
The lines between the real and virtual worlds are blurring.
Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are no longer just buzzwords; they are becoming integral to the digital experience.
As these technologies become more affordable and accessible, publishers are starting to leverage them to create immersive content. Imagine reading a travel article and being able to “walk” through a virtual representation of the destination or engaging with a 3D model in an educational piece.
The possibilities are endless, and the engagement potential is enormous.
While some publishers are starting to integrate this technology, AR/VR for digital publishing hasn’t taken off like it has for other industries.
A report by the Reuters Institute’s Journalism predicts that only 5% of publishers are investing into AR/VR whereas the majority will allocate resources to digital audio like podcasts (72%), email newsletters (69%), and video (67%). This provides a unique opportunity to be a first mover in a trend whose popularity is only going to increase.
The voice search revolution
“Hey Siri, where is the best vacation destination in July on a budget?” Voice search is not just a fad—it is becoming a typical way users search for content.
With the proliferation of voice assistants like Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri, optimizing content for voice search is paramount. Users are finding more and more ways to multi-task with technology, so going hands-free with voice search is becoming commonplace.
Currently there are over 4.2 billion voice assistant devices and that number is estimated to rise to 8.4 billion by 2024. With this growing trend of voice search and digital assistants, publishers need to expand their SEO game plan to include a voice search optimization (VSO) strategy as well.
Integrating long-tail keywords and more conversational language in your content that aims to answer specific questions can also boost your page for voice searches. It’s not just about being found; it’s about being heard.
Personalization powered by AI
One size does not fit all in the digital realm.
Readers today expect content tailored to their preferences and behaviors—enter AI. AI algorithms can analyze vast amounts of user data in real-time, allowing publishers to offer hyper-personalized content experiences. From curated reading lists to personalized news feeds, AI is reshaping the reader’s journey.
Spotify released a new AI DJ that is a perfect example of how personalization can enhance UX. With a personal AI DJ curating music based on the user’s listening history and providing insights on the music and artists, users get their own individualized experience. It also helps that the DJ has a realistic voice and not your typical robotic voice (sorry Siri).
The rise of niche publications
As the digital space becomes increasingly saturated, there’s a growing emphasis on niche publications that cater to specific interests and communities.
These hyper-focused platforms offer tailored content, allowing them to build a loyal and engaged readership. Niche publications often foster a strong sense of community among their readers. They offer a platform for like-minded individuals to connect, share experiences, and engage in discussions related to their shared interests.
Afar, a travel publication, focuses on experiential travel and dives deep into unique global cultures and experiences, catering to a community of adventure and culture enthusiasts. In 2024, the growth of niche publications signifies a shift in reader preferences towards more specific, in-depth content.
If it’s on a topic they’re passionate about, users will stay longer and digest longer forms of content.
Diversifying revenue streams
In an uncertain digital economy, diversification is the key to sustainability. Forward-thinking publishers are exploring alternative revenue streams that go beyond a typical ad or subscription-based model.
This could be in the form of sponsored content, affiliate marketing, hosting events, or even launching online courses. Publishers can also look at their traditional revenue model and how it can be better customized for the user.
Paywalls are a common practice, but the new trend of micropayments is emerging where users pay a small fee to access a specific article instead of committing to a full subscription.
If you want to think even more out of the box, Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit is a great example of gathering your customers together in a flagship event that not only strengthens your brand, but provides an alternative form of revenue.
The idea is to tap into the multifaceted potential of the digital audience—users will engage with brands they love in different ways, you just need to show them how.
Balancing yield against UX on mobile
The mantra for 2024? Mobile-first. With mobile web traffic continuously surpassing desktop, it’s imperative for publishers to prioritize the mobile experience.
This means switching to responsive designs, optimizing for lightning-fast page load times, and delivering an intuitive user interface.
It’s about delivering an app-like experience in a browser setting.
Building a successful monetization strategy for mobile devices takes an entirely different mindset and approach when compared to desktop.
According to a widely quoted statistic shared by Google, 53% of mobile site visits are abandoned if pages take longer than 3 seconds to load. Users consume information differently on mobile devices, as it is much more transactional—with the end goal of finding the quickest route to the information that they are seeking. This translates to a more precarious tradeoff between ad latency and page abandonment.
If the ads take too long to load, or shift the content on the page, half your users will be out the door before you are able to monetize them. But if you’re too cautious and don’t optimize for ad density, you’ll leave revenue on the table. The key is prioritizing user experience first and then finding the right balance between yield and audience retention.
Integration of e-com and shoppable content
As we move into 2024, the blending of e-commerce and digital publishing is becoming increasingly sophisticated. Publishers are finding innovative ways to integrate shoppable content into their platforms, transforming the reader’s journey from mere content consumption to an interactive shopping experience.
Articles and blog posts are increasingly featuring embedded links and widgets that allow readers to purchase products or services related to the content they are consuming. This integration is done in a way that feels natural and enhances the content rather than disrupting it.
Magazines like Vogue have incorporated shoppable articles, allowing readers to purchase featured fashion items instantly. While shoppable content keeps users engaged and on your page longer, it can also be a component of your revenue model.
With affiliate marketing, publishers can tap into an alternative revenue stream by curating products and services that align closely with their content and audience’s interests.
Data privacy takes center stage
Trust is a valuable currency in the digital age. With regulations like GDPR and CCPA in place, publishers are under scrutiny regarding data collection and usage.
2023 already had some changes including the latest release of TCF 2.2, a new version of the Transparency and Consent Framework industry standard that helps publishers and advertisers ensure that they comply with GDPR rules.
In 2024, the focus on data privacy represents a shift towards a more ethical, transparent, and user-centric approach in digital publishing. New frameworks and tools are available, but publishers need to go further than simply complying with privacy laws by also focusing on building trust and a stronger relationship with their audience.
With the cookieless future on the horizon, there is uncertainty around how publishers will track user behavior moving forward. Nonetheless, we know for certain that however publishers may track users, they need to be transparent with the process.
Staying connected with CTV
As we progress into 2024, connected TV (CTV) is emerging as a pivotal trend in digital publishing. CTV refers to the use of internet-connected TV to stream digital video content, offering a new frontier for publishers.
This platform allows publishers to reach audiences in a more intimate, engaging setting—their living room.
The rise of CTV has led to an increase in video content tailored for larger screens and a more passive viewing experience, different from mobile or desktop consumption. Publishers are capitalizing on this by creating high-quality, serialized video content and leveraging targeted advertising opportunities provided by CTV platforms.
This trend represents a significant shift in content consumption habits, indicating a move towards more diversified and platform-specific content strategies in digital publishing.
Enhanced accessibility features
With an increasing recognition of the importance of inclusivity, publishers are investing more in accessibility features, ensuring content is consumable by people with disabilities.
The BBC has been a pioneer in this space, offering subtitles, sign language, and screen reader compatibility on much of its digital content. BBC created their Digital Product Accessibility Policy to provide transparency around their commitments to accessibility.
Online accessibility has come a long way, but there is still much that can be improved. While it’s hard to tie revenue to these features, accessibility enhancements can improve your brand perception and brand loyalty.
If users know they can easily navigate your website and find the content they’re interested in, your page becomes their go-to and they have no need to look elsewhere.
2024 promises to be an exciting year for digital publishing.
With technology advancing at lightning speed and shifting user behavior, publishers have a plethora of opportunities (and challenges) ahead.
By staying agile, embracing innovation, and prioritizing user experience, publishers can navigate this dynamic landscape with confidence and success.
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