Our Digital Media Strategies event is less than a month away, and it’s all go here at TheMediaBriefing Towers as we get the final arrangements squared away.

Since our mission is to help publishers develop a successful digital publishing strategy we’re always keen to hear from speakers who have demonstrated aptitude in their own journeys (or at least the ability to quickly bounce back from any failed strategies!). Theory is all well and good, but we always like to hear from people who are laying the rails for the future of publishing with their own hands.

So ahead of DMS 2016, here are five insights from some of our speakers about the state of publishing in 2016 – and possibly some about the future of the industry too.

Technology facilitates great storytelling

Julia Beizer is director of product at The Washington Post, and has spent time on both sides of the editorial and commercial divide. As a result her approach to new platforms is influenced by her desire to tell great stories:

“I think that as news organisations, we have to make some bets on what are the next great storytelling platforms. I would say that wearables is something we definitely want to experiment with, [both] to tell stories on that platform and to experiment with how we can reach users in different ways.

“Our philosophy here at the Post is that a text feed distributed to everywhere is not the right way to do it. The way to do it is to think about the platform itself, what it offers the reader and how we can take advantage of that.” 

She cites the Post’s ‘Big Story, Small Screen’ experiment as an example of that platform-based experimentation. The initiative saw the Post distill content on its other platforms down to images and bold text that gave the key points of the story in six scrolls or less.

A publisher’s value isn’t tied to any one platform

Hayley Romer is vice president and publisher of The Atlantic. She believes that its success is down to having an editorial focus on the changing world, which in turn helped reshape its proposition. As a result, The Atlantic accelerated its transformation into a brand whose content wasn’t tied to a print product.

Romer explains that refocusing on what made the brand appealing to its audience required a radical rethink of how people are now discovering and finding news:

“People are going to access content wherever they want to.

“Once people are into your brand and recognise the value of it they will follow it in other ways. We’re seeing the magazine circulation grow even as our digital audience grows.

“The interesting thing is you never actually have to come to The Atlantic to engage with our content so what we need to do is continue to invest in the quality of the product and that ultimately people will continue to come back.” 

Everything old is new again

Many legacy publishers are seeing their digital fortunes eroded by a number of pureplays who are encroaching on the serious news and original content territory the legacy publishers might have assumed were theirs in perpetuity.

One such digital upstart is theLADbible, which Alexa ranks as the eleventh most popular website in the UK, ahead of huge publishers like the Guardian and the Daily Mail. Its marketing director Mimi Turner explains how the site has grown to that position, and what headwinds are affecting the larger digital publishing industry as a whole:

“We follow the flow of our audience. Our audience are digital natives – nearly two-thirds are between 13 and 25 – and we know how to create the content that fits them. Our total following across all our brands and all our social channels is around 32 million, so that is a lot of Centennials engaging with us in a lot of different spaces.

“They are the first generation to have had smartphones from their teens and to use them as their prime window to the world. They are constantly evolving and refining the way they use social networks to discover, curate and connect to their worlds. We listen a lot and try to understand their changing behaviour.

“We also have a window on the way audiences are changing through the amount of inbound content we are sent by our community. We get around 1500 content submissions a day – so we can see when new platforms are coming up because people use them to send us content.” 

Publishers need answers, now more than ever

Finally, our own co-founder Neil Thackray has seen more than his fair share of tumultuous changes in the publishing world. He had this to say about exactly which facts publishers need to face if they’re going to survive, let alone succeed, in the coming years:

“Newspapers and magazines around the world have experimented with the paywall revolution. There has been some success here but it has been patchy. The Sun took its paywall down just a few months ago and for others progress has been slow and expensively won.

“The alternative approach of building mammoth audiences and monetising through advertising has run into some huge challenges. Not only has the rate of advertising revenue growth slowed, but also the industry is wrestling with the multiple challenges of click fraud, viewability, bot traffic and ad blockers.

“Native advertising is harder to do than to talk about and even the pioneering Buzzfeed has run into some chop being criticised by the ASA for the way in which native content is labelled.”

To face those facts – and to help the industry collectively come up with some solutions – sign up for Digital Media Strategies now. Stay tuned to TMB, too, for more insights from our speakers in the four weeks left until the event.