The online space has opened up a wealth of opportunities for digital publishers, enabling them to extend their market reach, cater to a more focused audience and increase the number of copies of their eBooks at a minimal cost. This is not to say that the grass is all green. As the digital space evolves so do the challenges to survive in this highly competitive arena. And as the turbulent year 2020 draws gradually to a close, here in this article we look at some of the challenges faced by digital publishers in 2020.
Digital Publishing Challenges
1. Retaining Your Audience
One of the greatest challenges faced by digital publishers in 2020 was, and is, to retain their audience. The Internet has simplified the process of publishing books. This has attracted almost all publishing houses and self-published authors to find their own piece of sky. When it comes to eBooks, whether fiction, non-fiction, research or any other category, the readers are spoiled for choice. The challenge for digital publishers is then to make their books stand out to attract readers. One way to achieve this is personalization.
Personalization in the context of digital publishing is a process of collecting and analyzing data based on user input and their online behavior. Insights from this data can help you understand what your customers are reading and what works for them and what does not. As a digital publisher, you can tweak your manuscripts with customer feedback and also use the data to build email marketing lists and run target promotional campaigns.
2. Fake Reviews
Fake reviews have emerged as one of the greatest global problems in 2020. Most readers rely on reviews before purchasing an online book. Unfortunately, several software programs are capable of writing high-quality fake reviews that remain undetected and consequently, deemed reliable by users. The problem of fake reviews is so huge that even publishing majors such as Amazon are unable to deal with it effectively. Estimates show that between 9% and 40% of reviews on Amazon are fake. That fake news can have severe repercussions for digital publishers is well-illustrated by Hilary Clinton’s memoir, which had 1500 fake reviews within 24 hours of the book being published. Within the next 48 hours, Amazon found and deleted 900 fake reviews. It is clear that the effects of fake news on digital publishers are devastating. First, if the customers don’t trust your reviews, they will not purchase the book. Second, a genuinely good book can fall prey to a malicious campaign, costing digital publishers severely in terms of revenue.
So how to address fake reviews? A good strategy for digital publishers is to use several market places to reach their audience. This will increase the probability of genuine reviews and also increase the customer base. The other strategy is to use a reputation system that connects each review to an actual transaction. This method helps to significantly reduce fake reviews by blocking out bots unleashed by disgruntled groups or competitors to discredit your work or settle personal scores.
3. Marketing the Books
As said above, the Internet provides a level field for authors and publishers to publish their content. However, with so much content online, the challenge for digital publishers remains to market their books. Social media is a great way to acquire and retain customers. While a social media strategy helps to extend reach and engage with your audience, you can further extend it for referral marketing. For instance, a reference link to your post becomes an opportunity for a share to turn into a purchase. In fact, studies indicate that a vast majority of people are more likely to make a purchase of any item or good recommended by their family or friends through email or social media.
As with other products and services, digital publishers need to have access to information about their target audience, or the people they are selling to. Simple demographics are no longer enough. A serious challenge is to collect data specific to what engages your audience in a particular demographic for instance, information such as income segment and purchase intent. Digital publishers can use this information to reach their audience and also their advertisers, who are more interested in the audience than the publication per se.
5. Retaining Copyright
Another great challenge digital publishers continue to face is that of maintaining copyright to their published material. The Internet makes it easy for people to share, plagiarize, or download content. Digital Rights Management (DRM) is a means to protect digital content. DRM uses technology that transfers control of the digital content from the content owner to a computer program. With DRM, digital publishers can restrict access to copying and printing of their content. However, while DRM empowers digital publishers to protect their IPR, it can cause inconvenience to the readers. As a case point, most readers would prefer access to their eBooks or documents on multiple devices but with DRM this may not always be possible. So for a digital publisher, the challenger remains to balance IPR with customers’ access to content.
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6. Print Versus Digital
It is common to assume that digital publishing has made print obsolete. However, contrary to this belief, a study has shown that 58 percent of online subscribers prefer to read their books in the print format. In fact, most publishers continue to generate anything between 60 to 80 percent of their revenue from print sales. It is extremely important for publishers to understand the current realities and how their readers react with their site and what they want. So print-first subscribers may also be interested in digital eBooks and vice versa. Digital publishers can do well to analyze this crossover data and use both media wisely.
7. Consumption Formats
Another challenge for the digital publishers is to determine how people want the delivery of their eBooks. For example, statistics show that people spend about 8 minutes reading each day compared to about 6 hours of reading online. The challenge for digital publishers is to provide content in different formats. One way to meet this challenge is to provide content in the audio, video or the text format. Then again, it is seen that some readers like to delve right in while others prefer to read a synopsis before taking the plunge. It is therefore important to understand the various consumption modes and keep abreast to retrain your audience.
While the Internet has levelled the playing field for new authors and publishers of all sizes and types to upload their content, the challenge remains to find the right audience, attract their attention and persuade them to make a purchase. The second biggest challenge for digital publishers in 2020 is protecting copyright of their content from unauthorized use. While traditional copyright laws are of little use in the online arena, DRM has come as aid to protect IPR. However, DRM to some extent restricts readers’ freedom in terms of the number of times they can access the eBooks or even read them on the device of their choice. So the challenge remains for digital publishers to walk a tightrope, balancing copyright issues without discouraging their readers. However, as with everything else, digital publishing is an evolving field and to survive publishers will have to keep themselves updated to the evolving themes and practices.
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