Digital Innovation Digital Publishing
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Looking ahead for 2022, tech and talent will be key

According to the director of Oxford University’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, Rasmus Kleis Neilsen, publishers will need to start spending more money on technology and talent in 2022 if they want to make their businesses fit for a digital future.

Takeaways

  • Writing for NiemanLab’s Predictions for Journalism 2022 series, Kleis Nielsen highlighted the fact that publishing companies invest 10 times less in R&D than businesses in other industries. Publishing invests just 0,57% of gross value added in R&R compared with 5% in other sectors.
  • He believes publishing is a technology and talent-based industry that has ‘for decades’ failed to invest in either. His prediction for 2022 centres on the idea that future success will come from committing to long-term investment in ‘tools and talent’.

Rasmus Klies Neilsen writes:

If the global newspaper industry alone invested just 5% of revenues in R&D and 2% in formal training (the industry averages mentioned above), that would be billions of dollars dedicated to figuring out the future of journalism every year.

Fixing user experience

  • In its roundup of NiemanLab’s prediction series, Twipe spotlights a call from University of Illinois professor Nikki Usher for publishers to stop making the excuse that much needed improvements to UX are too hard.
  • She gives the example of a reader trying to access content on a site they subscribe to from social media, describing the inevitability of bumping up against a paywall demanding a password again and ultimately abandoning the site in frustration.
  • Usher says anytime she has asked about this problem, developers say it is too hard to solve:

To allow this continued excuse for this click-hiccup is to ignore the kind of usability issues that are literally preventing even the most motivated news consumers from getting to news they want to read.

Focus on the audience

Usher says failure to solve basic user experience problems is an example of publishing’s inability to realise that users have to be at the center of ‘any sort of future success’. Other predictions focused on better serving publishing’s audiences. These include:

  • Vogues’s Sarah Marshall seeing audience development experts, audience engagement managers, and growth editors tasked with getting stories in front of more readers.
  • Francesco Zaffarano of Italy’s Will Media saying that data is valuable but not enough; publishers must start asking their audiences what they value as relevant for their daily lives.

Looking further into the future, Web3 gets some attention. Daniel Eilemberg of Exile Content says Web3 offers new ways of monetizing archives and IP, creating patronage, rewarding readers, and funding startups. He highlights NFTs, which several publishers have used to sell cover art and photography, and DAOs (Decentralised Autonomous Organisations).

DAOs are a way for connected groups to organise around a common goal and raise funds in return for a share of future success. Eilemberg says:

Imagine, for instance, if your local newspaper subscription came in the form of a token which not only granted access to its content, but also ownership, and any number of rewards.

The full list of NiemanLab predictions for 2022 can be found here.

This piece was originally published in Spiny Trends and is re-published with permission. Spiny Trends is a division of Spiny.ai, a content analytics and revenue generation platform for digital publishers. For weekly updates and analysis on the industry news you need as a media and publishing business, subscribe to Spiny’s Trends weekly email roundup here.