Computer technology to create, sort and deliver electronic content that will engage and prove useful for the recipient is among the most important trends for the publishing industry between now and 2020 according to a recent study by Smithers Pira.
Smithers Pira's Print and Publishing Technology Forecast to 2020 investigates the trends affecting the print and publishing industry. With the face of the publishing industry set to change, it is digital technologies that emerge as one of the defining factors for future business.
"In 2010 print products and their producers have real competition from alternative media for the first time since the invention of movable type," explains Adam Page, Head of Editorial at Smithers Pira. "This is creating a changing playing field as publishers and print buyers are investing in new methods to sell products and communicate with end users."
"New technologies are entering the market with better, faster networks and new devices such as e-readers, smart phones and tablets. Publishers are providing content for these devices and advertisers are exploring how to communicate with prospects and customers. The world is becoming connected and print is having to reassess its position in the market as new alternatives are being presented with much marketing support."
According to Smithers Pira, electronic versions are not a panacea for publishers. The media removes physical production and distribution costs, together with the time involved, but the technology is being used to increase convenience for individuals. Many users have browsers that restrict pop-ups and spam filters, but they may also divert files and messages.
For television broadcasters the time-shifting function of watching a recorded programme means it is easy to skip advertisements. Advertisers are trying to develop alternative methods of delivering their message, some overt and some covert, using product placement and ambush advertising.
Smaller, more powerful mobile gadgets catch the public attention and there are armies of content providers broadening the range of applications for consumers. They represent a new and rapidly changing media challenge for publishers: how to supplement and earn revenue from these communication channels.
The traditional publishing industry has new competitors. In the news field there are 24-hour rolling news channels and the plethora of bloggers providing huge volumes of content. Though quality and objectivity are not controlled, blogs are growing in popularity, and they offer the potential of receiving payment for posts with many viewers. Technology also allows easy posting of a few characters to a high-quality video, so everybody can be both reporter and publisher.
The conventional distribution and retail channels are changing. With downloads the supplier is effectively paid instantly for content via a credit card or PayPal-type transaction, and there is no investment in physical stock or distribution. This is an attractive model, but publishers may not be the preferred digital shop, with Amazon, Redbook and Apple being the current leaders.
Technologies for exploring the Internet and receiving content are developing rapidly. Computers are changing from desktop to laptop to mobile devices. New e-reader devices are attracting a great deal of interest as alternatives to traditional print products.
Amazon's Kindle and the Apple iPad are selling in significant numbers and highlight reading as one of the applications for prospective customers.
Apple has reinvented itself as a much broader technology company than a pure computer and software supplier. The iPod and iTunes store effectively started the legal downloading of music, and Apple enjoyed the fruits of selling high-tech equipment and associated content.
Apple has followed up on iTunes with its iBookstore, which yields a healthy margin for the company that it will fight hard to maintain and grow.
Telecom providers are not currently active in content provision in North America and Europe, but they are in many Asian countries. These companies provide the distribution method and are looking to add more value by selling content as well. This is a good opportunity for them to enter potential growth areas and many will choose to do so.
While music, video and images are easy and straightforward to distribute electronically, there are significant technical issues still to be overcome for text-based information that maintains formatting and legibility. Text handling technology in print has developed over hundreds of years to provide many interesting type styles and design tools, to create appealing and easy-to-read pages and documents.
Smithers Pira predicts that telecom providers will compete with publishers to provide content electronically over the next few years. The available network bandwidth will grow and network traffic - an important revenue earner for telecom providers - will include electronic news, magazine articles, and books. It is a natural step for telecoms firms to add publishing functions to their services.
Though sales figures for e-readers, tablets and other latest-generation consumer electronics products - led by the Kindle and iPad - have been impressive, there have been few viruses and malware aimed at smartphones and e-readers. It is likely that there will be in future and such concerns will impact the take-up of such devices, and have implications for increasing connectivity.
The e-reader market is likely to split into several distinct parts according to Smithers Pira, from the high-end colour touchscreen with many other capabilities, through smartphones, down to cheap monochrome versions with simple controls to load and read titles. As the technology advances there will be cheaper, higher quality, lighter devices that will help reading and interactivity.
Before 2020 one publishing model will probably involve supplying a suitable reader in return for a subscription package, whereby newspaper content is provided over a period, according to Smithers Pira.
This benefits the publisher, which does not have to bear the cost of physical production and distribution of the print, and lose part of the sale price to distributors and retailers.
There is a lot of debate about the relative merits of e-books, and different claims for the relative market sizes. In 2010 e-books are in the great minority, but this may not be the case in 2020. They will be widely accepted and it Smithers Pira expects new book sales may include a licence for an electronic version.
Books that are digitally printed will include a unique link and code that allows a one-time download of the title, similarly for magazines and newspapers.
The Android operating system used in its smartphones provides interesting opportunities for content and interaction, and there are rumours about a Google e-reader. Android can be used as a reader on a mobile device.
Google is becoming a significant player in publishing digital content. Google Books has over 12 million books available to search as well as newspapers and magazines.
Through its well-publicised negotiated settlement with publishers and authors, Google can sell the full text of books, many of which are out of print. It is trying to broaden the content and is working with some 30,000 publishers to provide increased access, while creating new revenue streams for content creators, and Google. Over the next 10 years it is in pole position to redefine publishing business models, while earning revenue from the sale and distribution of content.
The social media revolution is connecting people, through their private and professional identities, and many brands, retailers and publishers are trying to tap into the technology. Users are prepared to share a bewildering amount of information about themselves, making their preferences widely known. This is very useful for publishers, and advertisers, who are working to provide tailored content to appeal to individuals.
The landscape of social media is young, vibrant and rapidly changing. There are lots of flavours, the similarities being the connectivity features that allow user