What’s your New Year’s resolution? Digital detox?

The resolution cheat route – don’t detox, be selective.

What’s your New Year’s resolution? Work less, spend more time with family, enrol for a dry, alcohol-free month, … You name it – I’ve seen it all pass by over the last days. What surprised me most is how many young people were doing a digital detox for a month. A whole month not checking your mobile or iPad? Can you really keep this up in today’s news-driven society?

The “Digital News Report 2016“ study by Reuters shows that a staggering 64% of people between the ages of 18 and 24 consumes news online (incl. social channels) and no less than 28% of that age group consumes news on social media only. A mere 5% listens to the radio, 6% reads the news in print and 24% watches the news on television. The latter percentage grows as the age of the respondents rises, presumably because of a slower adaptation to change.

(To be fair, we’re just talking about the news here, not other forms of communication to inform an audience.)

Interesting figures. Even more so, considering this is the digital native generation I see talking about a digital detox. Why are they doing this? Digital overload, plain and simple. Too much clutter, too often. The key to a less chaotic year will lie in the digital selection they’ll be executing after their detox moment. No doubt they’ll return, but what do they want to return to? Ask me – not more content, just right content.

Publishers who play their cards right, could make this overhaul work for their business models.

How to make these mobile communications work over the next two or three years? Here are some pointers:

  1. Reinvent your “Letter to the editor”. For years, it’s been the main form of communication between the publisher and his reader (usually covering a new subscription or cancellation thereof, or feedback on the lead article). Over the years, its journalistic content has been complemented by extensive analysis of the reader’s consumption of the digital counterpart of the publication. The time, place, route and duration of the reader’s digital consumption, is a treasure trove for publishers to steer their content strategy. But it’s not the data collection that will make the digital product a success. The analysis will be crucial. Not to mention the consecutive action, ability to deal with the resultant consequences and (re-)actions. And that isn’t a journalist or editor’s job. It will be up to the data scientists and data analysts, a profile that’ll be golden for media companies’ recruiters over the next few years. Use the data and its analysis to create a non-intrusive digital communication route with your reader.
  1. Come up with new, disruptive and pertinent journalism for those people between 18 and 24. They don’t want your average daily randomly delivered on the doormat. They actively hunt and select information in the digital realm, mercilessly throwing away non-value adders. So why push, if they’re eager to pull in? Should they ask for push effects (news ticker, push notifications etc.), make sure these are relevant. I understand this young clientele may be a demanding one for publishers to get used to, but they also offer a great opportunity for their brand connection. BTW, did you know your household brand reputation of 60 years or more, only plays a minor subscription influencing role with this generation? It often even discourages them from consumption, because of the “old-fashioned” connotation. That’s why many regional publishers established new portals incl. new names. They feed these portals with a wide range of content – from short, browse-only snack titbits to well-researched vertical content on in-depth topics. The smartphone will be this age-group’s decisive interface, so smartphone-geared content will be indispensable.
  1. Relevant and entertaining advertisements pose another pungent issue at hand. What good is a strategy if not for a fiduciary outcome? Some studies suggest that in various countries adblocking is in decline. Why? Relevant ads that are not a disruptive banner provide added value, both to users and the advertising client. Relevant ads geared to geographical or user-specific behaviour will be successful and just naturally distinguish themselves. Bear in mind this requires investments in advertising campaigns, content development, multichannel strategy and a use of customer-specific data (CRM, data analytics etc.). The added value will emerge from the symbiosis between the article’s relevant content and the congenial ad. And I insist: a 1:1 JPEG copy of a printed ad in an app does not make for a successful digital advertising campaign. HTML ads in conjunction with multichannel advertising strategies are forward-looking, especially today.

Don’t call the above a challenge, think of it as an opportunity.

Allow me to conclude by saying something that doesn’t only concern publishers. Printers, companies with corporate publishing requirements and agencies worldwide will all have to deal with digital distribution – sooner, later or right now. The younger generation is oblivious to the conventional, unless we find new ways to draw their attention. drupa 2016 revealed there are pioneers out there who complement their print products with proper digital solutions, not afraid to take the high road to success via trial and error.

Where are you heading in 2017?

And if you’re doing the detox, let me know which content made the cut when you’re getting back online.


Rainer Kirschke

Business Manager Mobile Publishing

Agfa Graphics