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What are the three most critical challenges facing magazines & digital publishing?

By Esther Kezia Thorpe May 3, 2016

This year has brought monumental changes to the magazine and digital publishing industry, and we often work with publishers who are facing a variety of challenges.

Each publisher is different, but there are some issues that are facing almost all publishers. From a digital perspective, the following three points encapsulate the critical challenges facing magazine and digital publishing today:

1: Monetization

This year has brought its biggest ever challenge to publisher’s revenues, as readers increasingly seek free content, print circulation declines and ad blockers rise in popularity. Some are trying creative ways of recouping that lost revenue like the Economist’s low-cost Espresso subscription, but others will reluctantly admit that neither apps nor social channels are delivering the cold, hard cash that they need to keep going.

Many digital magazine publishers admit that they struggle (with little help from ABC) knowing how to leverage advertising in digital editions, with advertisers struggling in equal measure. Digital circulation is also causing a headache, which brings us to the next challenge:

2: Readership

A trip to the Digital Magazine Awards demonstrated that digital magazines seem to finally be getting it right…but the readership simply isn’t there. Beautiful, mobile-responsive digital editions are lying undiscovered in the app stores. Whether readers have lost faith, don’t have the space, don’t want to pay or just don’t know the magazines are there, publishers are facing huge challenges shouting loudly enough about their digital editions. Or perhaps magazines just don’t work as digital editions. But that’s a story for another day…

3. Keeping up

Nine months ago, Apple News, Google’s AMP and Facebook’s Notify simply didn’t exist outside of Silicon Valley. Now, they’re all making a grab for publisher’s time, attention and content, with each company able to reel off a list of top publishing houses as their partners for various launches.

Article-based publishing and the ‘unbundling’ of magazine content is not a new concept, but the opportunities for reach and promises of ad revenue have made Apple and Facebook tempting prospects for publishers. This raises all sorts of challenges and debates, from control of content to advertising compliance and resourcing.

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