By Nina Juss, founder of global subscriptions platform, Evolok
It has been a tumultuous decade for digital publishers. Technology is accelerating all the time, and with the advent of generative AI, that speed is only going to increase. It’s hard to believe that ChatGPT was only released last November, but is already being widely adopted in multiple industries. Or that Meta’s Threads microblogging platform went from sudden announcement to tens of millions of users in a matter of days.
Digital publishers must continuously balance the undoubted potential of emerging tools and technologies with the growing need for adaptive subscription gateways, improved data capture, and the need for effective personalisation. All these demands are leading to ever more complex and fragmented technology stacks.
With monetisation, as always, key, publishers need to regain control of their technology, and make sure that they are not simply responding in an ad hoc manner to the changes around them or adopting the “next big thing” that emerges, but are thinking strategically about how technology can strengthen their businesses for the long run while benefiting the most important people of all – their audience.
Here are six ways they can begin the process of doing that.
Keep it simple
The challenge of keeping up with a rapidly evolving industry sometimes means that publishers run multiple tools in an overly complex tech stack. These can be of different generations and apply to various areas of the business, whether that be subscription management, paywall automation, onboarding, customer satisfaction, or other areas entirely. Interoperability between these is often minimal, leading to silos and non-optimal workflows.
Plenty of worthwhile information falls through the cracks as a result, and plugging the gaps between disparate systems is a challenge that only becomes more difficult as time drags on. The answer is to make your tech stack as compact as possible and, where ever you can, consolidate functions within multi-purpose platforms; while creating synergies between different parts of the business to enable rapid optimisation as new technology appears.
Maximise first-party data
In the post GDPR era of cookieless advertising, and with legislators taking a steadily more robust attitude towards privacy concerns, most publishers are aware of the goldmine they sit on in the shape of first party data. First party data can provide invaluable revenue streams, and allow for the sophisticated personalisation routines that maximise customer engagement.
This is helping many digital publishers to pursue a beneficial quality over quantity strategy by using data to focus on journalistic content that is truly resonating with audiences. But it should be noted that data without insight is just numbers and it requires an optimised tech stack to work effectively and deliver consistent and actionable insights.
The customer is king
The goal to reduce complexity behind the scenes should be matched with a goal to reduce complexity when it comes to the experience for your readers. There are many publishers that have accreted systems over time – for example, elements from multiple email list providers – and the result is a messy and inchoate structure that can only, with great difficulty, be scaled and integrated with other elements in the tech stack, such as subscription management tools.
Perhaps more impactful, this lack of cohesion is often visible to subscribers in the shape of delayed load times and error-strewn communications. Consumers have little room for sentiment in the current economic climate, and anything less than the seamless experience they are increasingly used to is just another excuse to unsubscribe.
Increase agility with connected technology
One of the consequences of using a collection of tools that have been thrown together over the years is that it is very difficult to bring them into line and act with speed. Agility is one of the key attributes of businesses in any sector, and if a publisher wants to introduce a new element into their subscription model, for instance, or a new service to consumers, speed is always of the essence.
Integrating new plug-ins or standalone programs to an unwieldy tech stack, bridging across silos, ensuring interoperability with a motley collection of current and legacy systems – all these things take resources in terms of time and money. And often that is a resource that comes at the expense of other key departments – editorial teams for example.
A streamlined tech stack provides much more fluid and responsive actions, with less IT overhead, faster iterations, and a truly agile platform that can respond to the rapid changes and business ecology that characterises the modern publishing environment.
Strike a balance
It is easy to see the introduction of new technology as a panacea for all ills. However, the world is more complex than that and digital publishing even more so. There is a danger that new software is just plastering over significant cracks and will need the constant application of new coats (i.e. more software at more expense) to maintain the illusion of smooth operations. The true goal needs to be to declutter the tech stack, remove tools that don’t truly add value, consolidate functions and improve interoperability.
Publishers need to perhaps remember that modernising their technology is only one part of the equation and that they need to continue to invest in quality editorial as well. Striking a healthy balance between tech and the human teams that drive your journalistic output is vital and the impact this can have on keeping your customer engaged should never be undersold.
If you’d like to read more on the benefits of streamlining your publisher technology stack, read Evolok’s white paper.