In 2024, we're seeing a major shift in how publishers are approaching and engaging with their audiences. Gone are the days of taking a one-size-fits-all approach. The name of the game now is personalization and building direct relationships with individual audience members.

At the core of this transformation is a much deeper focus on truly understanding the audience through data analytics and insights into their needs, behaviors, and journeys. Publishers are investing in mapping out user experiences, creating detailed audience personas, and leveraging AI and machine learning to segment and target content and marketing with laser precision.

In the 2024 Hum + Silverchair Publishing Tech Trends report, we asked a panel of publishing leaders: How do you see publishers’ approach to their audience changing in 2024?

Expanded Audiences 

The primary audience is no longer just institutional subscribers. Publishers need to extend their strategies for reaching directly to authors, readers, reviewers, speakers, event attendees, and every other potential customer touchpoint. Developing this "audience intelligence" lays the foundation for highly personalized experiences that enhance engagement, conversions, and long-term loyalty.

For many, this means moving from the traditional B2B mindset to more of a B2C, person-to-person approach. It's about communicating the right message through the right channels at the right time in the buyer's journey. Publishers have to demonstrate clear value propositions to these individuals in order to secure future institutional deals and open access commitments.

  • “Deeper understanding of researcher needs and pain points. Readers are becoming increasingly important as an audience.” - Avi Staiman
  • “I hope association publishers, in particular, embrace the concept of audience as members rather than just those people who pay dues. All of the people who visit a publisher's site are a potential customer and can be upsold on another association product.” - Anne Link, Linked Strategies
  • “Many people talk about the shift from B2B to B2C, and that is a real and important shift, requiring publishers to understand and develop a personalized relationship with every member of their audience, whether reader, author, editor, reviewer, speaker, event attendee, learner, or librarian. But there is also a lot to be learned from B2B media companies who have been developing and monetizing specialist audiences without the help of institutional subscriptions, relying on advertising, lead generation, and sponsorship. These are real revenue lines that a deep understanding of audience enable." - Tim Barton, Hum
  • “In 2024, publishers will draw on strategies inspired by the 'pull' approach from other industries, placing greater emphasis on the prestige and influence of the journal brand over the publisher brand. Additionally, there will be a growing focus on enhancing the author experience as part of the pull and deepening engagement with authors, reflected in increased hirings and platform improvements within the publishing domain.” - Christian Grubak, ChronosHub

Audiences Expect Personalization 

As publishers expand their focus to diverse audience segments beyond just institutional subscribers, there is a rising expectation for highly personalized experiences. In today's digital landscape, consumers are accustomed to personalized service, content recommendations, and seamless user journeys across platforms. This has raised the bar for what audiences expect from their interactions with publishers as well. 

Publishers can’t rely on one-size-fits-all messaging and content delivery if they want to effectively engage modern audiences. Leading publishers are leveraging data, AI, and machine learning capabilities to provide personalized content targeting, behavior-based marketing, customized user journeys and recommendations tailored to specific audience interests and needs. 

  • “Publishers will automate and personalize every aspect of their interaction with each individual in their audience. People are accustomed to highly personalized service everywhere in their digital lives, anything less in the publication sphere will seem cumbersome.” - Will Fortin, Hum
  • “It's more than ever about knowing your audience and surfacing content/ads/recommendations/related courses/membership options that are relevant to them.” - Emilie Delquie, Silverchair
  • “Publishers are amplifying attempts to target content and behavior to reach people at the right time with the right content.” - Neil Christensen, Morressier

Delivering this level of audience-centric personalization is becoming a competitive necessity.

Publishers need to be investing in and experimenting with new digital strategies to understand, reach, and effectively connect with their audiences. Data and AI – and the ability of your team to harness true intelligence – are essential to building an audience strategy. 

Those making this audience-centric transition a top priority will be able to nurture stronger relationships, provide better service, and unlock new revenue opportunities through finely-tuned audience segmentation and monetization strategies.

  • “Use of AI tools to drive more segmentation in author/reader marketing.” - Tasha Mellins-Cohen, Mellins-Cohen Consulting
  • “With transformative and transitional agreements, author awareness of publisher agreements is of the utmost importance. Marketing departments will need more resources to reach this constituency, communicating directly and via library partners. Publishers will need to demonstrate that value to researchers to continue to secure institutional agreements. Data will be critical for both of these efforts.” - Heather Staines, Delta Think
  • “Publishers are increasingly emphasizing the development of a contemporary audience strategy. This strategy begins with the collection of audience intelligence (e.g., insights and information about website visitors or users collected from their online activities and interactions) and connecting this audience intelligence to other sources of customer data.  This foundational intelligence serves as the basis for constructing cross-channel journeys that enhance audience engagement, identify audience members (e.g., move from anonymous users to known profiles), boost conversions (e.g., author submissions), and foster long-lasting loyalty and brand affinity." - Colleen Scollans, Clarke & Esposito

Download a copy of the 2024 Publishing Tech Trends report to see how publishers are adapting in 2024.