2023 promises to be an exciting year for scholarly publishing. As the industry continues to adapt in the face of new technology and challenges presented by Open Access, publishers are increasingly aware of the importance of their audiences. 

Engaging and building relationships with readers, retaining the loyalty of authors and advertisers, and personalizing content for editors, librarians, members, and students are all critical to audience growth and success. 

In the 2023 Publishing Tech Trends report, Hum and Silverchair asked a panel of industry experts to share what they see as the largest struggles to grow and engaged audiences in the year ahead.

Here's what they had to say:

A lot of publishers have Google Analytics; a lot of publishers have straightforward advertising alerts and email marketing tools; but very few have a sophisticated understanding of the users, purchasers, their journeys or personas to pull together a robust digital strategy. Accordingly the biggest challenges of scaling, and having staff with the knowledge and leeway to implement new processes to experiment with tools and systems, and to try things out. There are very few experts in our industry, but there certainly are capable people. —Will Schweitzer, Silverchair

The general shift away from prominence of brand and community to a more agnostic way of consuming content. Content is what users are after, so if they can get it on PubMed or in another space, what creates loyalty to (or even awareness of) the OUP platform? There is no relationship between user and the platform - how do we create that? How do we keep users on the platform, engaging with more content once they've consumed the content they discovered via a Google search? —Tanya Laplante, Oxford University Press

A broad challenge to audience growth is access. There is lots of scholarly content that lots of people would like to read but can't. How do publishers make sure all of their truly relevant content gets in front of readers at the point when those readers are looking for it? The solutions to that are mostly technological. Publishers need vastly improved methods for understanding their readers and serving them accurate, timely, and personalized recommendations. —John Challice, Hum

The market is oversaturated. Journals are struggling to find the free labor to process manuscripts in a timely fashion (reviewers/editors). —Sven Molter, PLOS

Cutting through the noise, open access - researchers /authors don’t care about platforms. —Rebecca Moakes, Maverick Publishing Specialists

Information overload and uncertainty. —Heather Staines, Delta Think

Reader time/attention. It's just math: with the rapid growth in the amount of content being produced, there is much more content in various formats clamoring for readers' mindshare. The signal-to-noise ratio gets smaller.
Anything that increases the amount of useful content that is put in front of a reader helps address this (though of course, the amount of useful content will also be going up). Improving the efficiency of surveying the scholarly literature would also help. Emerging technologies–such as AI-derived summaries of research articles/scholarly literature–offer some promise to make this process more efficient. —John Challice, Hum

External noise and internal pressure to catch up on things that have been delayed by several years now. —Jessica Lawrence-Hurt, Cadmore Media

Motivation and enthusiasm from staff to drive change and push for it on a regular basis. This is partly due to limited resources and maybe a dulled workforce. How do we lead our workforce to have innovation top of mind and activate them to make and defend recommendations for the betterment of audience engagement? Of course a good workforce is needed along with excellent leadership, and, yes money helps too. Outsourcing this energy from one or two staffers may be the key for small publishers. —Stacey Burke, American Physiological Society


What do you think?
What challenges is your organization facing this year that are holding back audience engagement and audience growth? 

Interested in seeing what other predictions our leading experts see playing out this year? Download your full copy of the report, free: The 2023 Publishing Tech Trends Report.