By Ashley Norris
In some ways 2017 has been a turbulent year for the media, yet at the same time it is one that has given publishers reasons to be optimistic. New technology has helped to power significant new revenue streams, at the same time enabling innovation which might prove to be lucrative in the future.
Here then are eight key media trends from 2017 and how they might impact the publishing world in 2018 (all of these topics will be covered at the Digital Innovators’ Summit 2018 in Berlin, on 19-20 March).
There will be speakers that cover all the topics at DIS 2018.
1.Blockchain - In 2017 Blockchain morphed from being a technology with huge potential to one poised to disrupt multiple industries. It isn't any different for the media too as the technology can be transformative in terms of advertising, enabling micropayments as well as securing intellectual property. Ingo Rübe, CTO at Burda, will share his thoughts on blockchain and its potential impact on media at DIS2018. One Blockchain enabled startup to keep an eye in 2017 is Civil, a company which is using Blockchain to power an entirely new way to fund and deliver serious journalism. If successful, it has a business model which mainstream publishers might begin to explore. You can hear co-founder Daniel Sieberg map out Civil’s vision at DIS 2018.
2. Digital realities - 2018 promises to be a watershed year for the digital-only millennial focused media companies like BuzzFeed and Vice Media. After years of highly impressive growth the companies hit roadblocks in 2017 missing advertising revenue targets which has prompted serious revisions to their business models. The biggest apparent “casualty” was Mashable, which plummeted from a $250 million valuation in 2016 through to a fire sale price of $50 million in the autumn. The company, which was barely a decade old was snapped up by Ziff Davis. It will be fascinating to see if the search for new revenue sources coupled, with digital innovation will see the companies thrive one more in 2018. John Wilpers, Senior Director USA, Innovation Media Consulting, will be one of many speakers at DIS 2018 analysing the future revenue prospects for digital media businesses.
3. Ecommerce - A revenue source for that is becoming increasingly important for publishers is ecommerce, with companies from across the globe experimenting with ways in selling products to their readers without compromising their editorial integrity. For Dennis Publishing in the UK its big story was the success of its car sales business Buyacar. Others like Business Insider have developed subtle, yet highly effective advertorially-driven “deals” platforms, in this instance Insider Picks, which has seen ecommerce become ever more central to their business plans. Breton Fischetti, Senior Director: Insider Picks, Business Insider, will be at DIS 2018 outlining how his company is breaking new ground in this area. Also at DIS 2018 Kerstin Schiefelbein, CEO, and Benedikt Böckenfröde, Founder, of Visual Statements will be explaining how he has built a very successful business mainly through marrying editorial and creative ecommerce strategies.
4. Rush to audio - After several years of focusing on a rush to video many mainstream publishers have now begun to realise that there could be significant revenue to be generated via a technology that many had written off just a few years ago. Podcasts were everywhere in 2017 created by brands, enterprising individuals and increasingly by mainstream publishing companies. And with connected smart speakers like Amazon Echo and Google Home doing brisk business in 2017, with the Apple HomePod to follow, there are even more devices for consumers to listen in. The key is working out how to maximise the revenue from committed, and in many instances influential, audiences. There’ll be more on this at DIS2018.
5. GDPR - On May 25th next year the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) from the EU will come into force with heavy penalties for companies who fail to implement its regulations. GDPR’s big challenge to publishers and the ad industry is that the collection of the data will have to be consented to by readers. Some companies like Wetherspoons, took the nuclear approach of deleting all its email databases. For many brands and publishers teams have been combing through their data to ensure that it was all acquired in a legitimate way via reader consent. For third party ad vendors though there appears to still confusion as to what is expected of them and how it might impact on their business. May might be the deadline, but GDPR is likely to be a key feature in the marketing press for the whole of 2018. It is a topic that Oliver von Wersch, Founder and CEO, vonwerschpartner Digital Strategies, will be unpacking at DIS 2018.
6. Potential of Augmented Reality - 2017 was pretty good year for Apple. After a series of muted reactions to its previous new phones, the new X finally had the tech reviewers spouting superlatives. One of the key features that Apple launched in 2017 as part of its iOS 11 operating system was ARkit - a way for developers to create Augmented Reality games, gimmicks and more. After the initial rush of AR rulers and updates of kids books, the hype around AR has abated a little. Yet many mainstream publishers that are starting to looking at how its undoubted potential for immersive experiences can be harnessed from a creative storytelling perspective. There are examples of how AR is working for the media industry here. At DIS2018, we will look at for example how AR can be used by publishers to enrich their live event experiences.
7. The bots are coming - Artificial Intelligence is continuing to feature highly on the agenda of forward thinking publishers. Much of the discussion around AI has focused on how it can be used to create content, and there are now many examples of how AI systems are being harnessed to deliver basic sports and financial news content. At FIPP Congress in October Francesca Marconi of Associated Press (who is also a confirmed speaker for DIS 2018) spoke not only of the way that AI was enabling the company to scale the number of stories it creates, but also how it could help in research analysing data such as tweets and social media posts for trends. Also at the FIPP World Congress, Google’s Alice Zimmermann spoke about how the company was ploughing significant resources into researching the potential of AI in the media. She stressed that “as a platform we want to enable enterprise tools for anyone to use. You don't have to be a big company. Anyone can use our tools to build AI.”
8. Subscriptions and membership schemes - If 2017 has taught us one thing, it is that in an era of political upheaval people are prepared to pay for high quality news content. Moreover, faced with the duopoly of Google and Facebook on digital advertising, reader revenues are of increasing importance to publishers. Winners in 2017 included newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic with The Guardian and The New York Times reporting massive surges in supporters (in the case of The Guardian) subscriptions and members. Current affairs magazines like The Economist and The New Statesman also reported significant growth, while in the UK The New European, a pop up weekly newspaper for people who oppose Brexit, has gone from strength to strength off the back of its £2 cover price. At DIS, speakers like Stefan Betzold of BILD, Greg Piechota of the Reuters Intitute at Oxford University and of Harvard University, Tomas Bella of Dennik N, and others will shed more light on subscription and membership models at DIS2018.