In the fast-moving world of digital publishing, change is the only constant. To get an insider's view on the key challenges publishers will face in 2024, Hum + Silverchair surveyed industry leaders for the 2024 Publishing Tech Trends Report. Their insights reveal that relevance, discoverability, and leveraging technology like AI will be critical focal points for publishers this year.
With content volume ballooning, our panel of experts emphasized the increasing difficulty of differentiating offerings and connecting content to the right audiences amidst the noise. Maintaining visibility through innovations like machine-readable metadata was also identified as a priority for 2024. At the same time, publishers must balance these evolving priorities while transforming workflows, business models, and reader experiences.
As our panel sees it, the publishers that will thrive in 2024 will make staying relevant, visible, and innovative their main priorities. Read on for their key predictions about the critical challenges and opportunities facing digital publishers this year.
With content volume continuing to rise, publishers continue to feel the pressure of staying relevant amidst the noise. Ensuring their offerings provide meaningful differentiation and resonate with target audiences, while maintaining integrity and trust, will be critical to maintaining market share and mindshare.
- “Relevance. Continued output growth adds downward pressure on visibility and relevance of the average finding.” - Neil Christensen, Morressier
- “Creating a differentiator/unique selling proposition amongst the deluge of digital content.” - Anjali Chadha, Maverick Publishing Specialists
- “The number one challenge for digital content publications in 2024 is staying relevant in a rapidly evolving landscape, where numerous platforms and services compete for attention, and content dissemination happens at a fast pace.” - Christian Grubak, ChronosHub
- "The number one challenge for digital content publications in 2024 will be shifting mindset from quantity to quality output. The publishing community across the board are very concerned about the loss of published output market share. Younger publishing operations are coming into fields with more agility and speed, taking market share from those with more traditional workflows that are stifled by red tape and hard to adjust processes.
Rather than focusing on the quantity of publications, focus on the quality of publications, saving valuable resources, staffing and volunteer time and money, and reducing strain on internal workflows.” - Lou Peck, the International Bunch
Visibility and Discoverability
As the booming digital content landscape challenges publishers to stay relevant, many are also focused on maintaining or improving content discoverability and visibility. Publishers will need to prioritize optimizing for machine readability and harnessing metadata to help readers efficiently find and consume the most useful content.
- “Visibility. With AI-assisted content generation, the number of messages that an individual encounters on a daily basis is going to increase significantly.” - Rory Williams, Rockefeller University Press
- “Optimizing content for machine readability - something journal publishers have been doing for some time but where book publishers are seriously lagging.” - Tasha Mellins-Cohen
- “Optimizing advertising/reach to new prospective customers.” - Dave Oakley, MEI Global, LLC
- "Publication output reached 2.9 million articles in 2020, based on data from the Scopus database of science and engineering (S&E) publications. The compound annual growth rate of publication output has increased in recent years. So much content! While there is never just one answer to solve this challenge, I'll likely retire from my career shouting the same approach – start with proper content structure. It simply amazes me that in 2023 we still see some content that does not take full advantage of reference / citation tagging that JATS provides. Also, broken links. Publishers that move content to new platforms must conduct a full analysis of content, DOIs, URIs, URLs, IDs to ensure the structure is there that facilitates content interchange." - Marianne Calilhanna, Data Conversion Labs
Juggling It All
From managing researcher overload to transforming business models to integrating new AI tools – publishers have a lot on their plates. Investing in new technology and systems that can help them deliver the personalized, streamlined experiences readers now expect is key.
- “Researchers are bombarded with too many publications to manage – let alone read and cite effectively. Getting researchers what they need, when they need it will continue to be a challenge. Recommender services will help researchers customize their feeds, and research management tools, including summarizing tools, will help researchers to build effectively on the work of others.” - Heather Staines, DeltaThink
- “Publishers now need to be operating on multiple horizons like never before. Happily, the #1 focus to drive short term revenues will also drive long term success in an AI world. Deep wells of proprietary impactful research will remain highly valuable. Getting the licensing right, and bringing authors along with those decisions, will be critical here. As is capturing and using data about the audience/content interaction to drive effective acquisition and submission strategies.” - Tim Barton, Hum
- "In the past, publishers have primarily directed their marketing efforts towards librarians, which reduced the urgency to develop business-to-consumer (B2C) capabilities. However, the open access business model now demands these B2C capabilities. Consequently, organizations must elevate their focus on harnessing data analytics, increasing author submissions, cultivating a positive author experience (AX), and nurturing audience engagement. This transformation is a multi-year endeavor that begins with a well-defined vision grounded in practical use cases, capabilities, and key performance indicators (KPIs).” - Colleen Scollans, Clarke & Esposito
With AI poised to transform publishing workflows, identifying high-impact AI applications presents a major opportunity. However, publishers will also need to address valid concerns around responsible AI development and usage. See what our experts had to say about what they’re most optimistic and most worried about when it comes to the ways AI will influence scholarly publishing.
- “Other than the continuing conversations around business models and OA, the challenge is using AI to mine useful information out of content that moves science forward.” - Ann Link, Linked Strategies
- ‘Leveraging AI to deliver meaningful, trusted answers and insights.” - Phoebe McMellon, GeoScienceWorld
- “Figuring out what AI use cases are most relevant for their specific organizations and how to mitigate risks and fear around AI.” - Avi Staiman, Academic Language Experts