As publishers look at what they can expect in 2019, the industry can benefit from reflecting on some of the trends that shaped 2018. As in years past, vendors, publishers, and production managers will need to arm themselves with adequate information and the proper tech-savvy in 2019 in order to keep their papers alive and — in the best-case scenarios — thriving. Let’s take a look at some of the trends News & Tech has identified for the year ahead.
On the production side of things, the cost of raw materials will continue to be major concern for newspapers and commercial printers. As the packaging industry dominates North American paper consumption (mostly due to the explosion of Amazon), paper costs will not likely level out any time soon.
Ink and plate costs also remain uncertain. Printing-plate pricing remains high due to inflated aluminum prices as vendors continue to endure lower plate demand aligned with the reduced demand for printed newspapers. Still plate suppliers continue to invest in development of new printing plate technology. Agfa trotted out its new Avatar V-ZH plate at IFRA World Publishing Expo in October 2018. The plate requires no preheating.
Ink prices won’t likely come down anytime soon either as prices continue to rise on raw materials such as carbon black, oil and pigments.
Tech platforms finding their stride
As we’ve reported in the pages of News & Tech over the years, publishers have been trailblazers for a number of technologies, including QR codes, AR, and even AI — although many have been slow to take root.
Augmented reality is gaining attention from newspapers as they see other papers harnessing the tech. Publishers including The Ledger Dispatch in Northern California and Yankton Media (South Dakota) dove into AR tech developed in partnership with Strata (see News & Tech November/December 2018). Strata’s Interactive News AR platform enables readers to trigger images and other features to access deeper content.
“This is the first time that we’ve crossed the digital divide,” Ledger Dispatch Publisher Jack Mitchell told News & Tech in November 2018.
The New York Times made a splash with its AR features during its coverage of the Winter Olympics (see News & Tech, March/April 2018), proving the power of well-planned use of the technology. Publishers will continue to benefit from leveraging AR around events and topics that allow deep dives into complementary features.
AI technology will also continue to play a role for newspapers in 2019. For many, AI provides a means to continue to provide quality content with less staff. For others, it is just another step towards increased automation regardless of newsroom staff size. The New York Daily News is among the publishers reaping the benefits of AI technology (see News & Tech September/August 2018). In its case, the paper is leveraging SendtoNews’ Smart Match AI video player to generate sports video content. In terms of trends, native advertising is one that’s been talked about for the past decade, but it’s really only begun to take hold within the past five years. According to an annual study from WAN-IFRA and the Native Advertising Institute, native ads accounted for 20 percent of overall ad revenue for newspapers.
“Publishers continue to hone their strategies around native advertising as it increasingly plays a significant role in their overall ad strategies,” Vincent Peyregne, CEO of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), said about the study. “With native advertising, advertisement becomes less disruptive and more relevant to the consumer experience. The appetite for native advertising grows as experiential becomes increasingly important to every business model, especially on mobile.”
Smart business decisions
We’ll also see publishers continue to leverage trends such as real estate listings and events listings as we delve into 2019. These technologies are among those that help newspapers continue to establish themselves as the go-to local resources in their communities. The San Francisco Chronicle is capitalizing on both platforms. In spring 2018 the Hearst paper launched a real estate app from Advanced Interactive Media in a bid to thwart the threat of platforms such as Redfin and Zillow decimating its market share.
And two years ago, the publisher launched an automated event-marketing calendar from Evvnt, to automate and monetize what was once a complex and expensive task (see related story, this issue page 27).
As in years past, newspapers and commercial printers will need to make informed and smart business decisions in 2019. There’s no question that a customer-first mentality is crucial and will continue to be a driver for newspapers’ success in this year.