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Digital publishing trends for 2020 - 1. It is the reader, not the content

  • 25 December 2019 by
  • Krishna Kumar
Digital publishing trends for 2020 - 1. It is the reader, not the content

In the world of publishing, content used to be King. Readers come for the content and then you monetize this content, through subscriptions and advertising. Simple. Right? Get your content right and everything will be fine. But with the advent of digital, this maxim has virtually been made to stand on its head. Today, smart publishers realize that it is not content that you monetize, but the reader! Bulk of publishing revenues now come from activities like events and leadgen programs that do not form part of regular content generation. And many of these activities target audiences who are not otherwise regular consumers of your content!  As you move from B2C to B2B publishing, this change gets even more pronounced. Content, at least in the form of regular articles on the website and in print, is no longer the unquestionable king of the business. This content gives the respectability and the positioning. Part of the revenue for your website, like with leadgen will come from audiences who may not be consuming your routine content! And part may come from one- off visitors who click on an ad or an affiliate link.

More the information you have about your reader, their behavior and their demographics, the higher your ability to monetize it. Advertising and marketing companies already collect volumes of information about your reader using third party cookies and aggregate this information across websites and publishers. Publishers have been lax in this area and have been content to cede this territory. Large B2C publishers have now sensed the opportunity and have started building their own repositories of reader profiles across their sites. Digiday reports that "News Corp… has established a news ID for individual readers so they can be identified without the use of third-party cookies. The media group has created 590 million global anonymized user IDs…From those, it has created close to 100 million de-duplicated user profiles." With a little bit of effort, B2B publishers can also build up such repositories and effectively and aggressively pursue new monetization opportunities using this data.

The website, in a 2018 article listed the following revenue opportunities for a digital publisher.

  • Subscriptions
  • Video Ads
  • Branded or Sponsored Content
  • Display Advertising
  • Events
  • Membership
  • Ecommerce & Affiliate
  • Related Businesses
  • Donations
  • Micropayments

Building up reader profile and demographic data can help the digital publisher improve monetization across multiple of these opportunities. It has to be remembered here that such profiling should not fall afoul of privacy concerns and privacy laws like the GDPR and the CCPA.

While creating content based on reader demographics, the challenge for the publisher is to ensure that there are also diverse revenue streams that target different reader groups and needs. For this accurate profiling of readers and their behavior is a must.


This article is part of a series on Digital Publishing trends for 2020. You can read the others in this series below

2. Long tail content comes into play to increase pageviews
3. The lure of the walled gardens
4. Is custom content the new king?
5. Programmatic advertising and other technology nightmares
6. The bot brigade and more such frauds
7. What is happening to affiliate revenues?
8. The second digital transformation is well on its way
9. Are paywalls really the next big opportunity?