In 2022, Customer Experience Magazine published its first print issue and distributed more than 500 copies. This was the year the world was recovering from the economic losses caused by the pandemic.

At the time, the predictions indicated that non-digital advertising is barely rising and is expected to decline after 2026. Why did we still decide to go for a print in the age of everything digital?

Advertisers hit the wall in 2023  

Editors act for the readers. Publishers act for advertising. Put differently, publishers exist due to advertising and other business models that require ads, lead-generation campaigns, and consulting services. However, without advertisers, editorial teams suffer from budget cuts and further investments in magazine development.

The PwC 2022 report showcased that  the worldwide advertising revenues fell nearly 7% in 2020. But in 2021, advertising grew 22.6%. This trend continued throughout 2022 just to hit the wall at the beginning of 2023. Even though the same report predicted that advertising is set to grow rapidly by 2026, we saw marketers struggling to meet their Q1 targets. What affects their clients, affects publishers as well.

The cost of living crisis is nowhere close to the end and brands are now rethinking marketing investments. This will also force publishers to diversify their revenue streams. New subscription models, podcasts, video formats, and monetisation of all social media channels has to be approached strategically.

Contextual advertising will give publishers more  control

With the announcement of the zero party policy in 2023, many publishers have already started exploring opportunities for contextual advertising. With statistics showing that ads based on the searching history appear to be creepy for many users, publishers got a new chance to build trust and deeper understanding with their readership.

For instance, one piece of research showed that over 79% of UK consumers are more comfortable seeing online ads that are relevant to the webpage they appear. However, this requires both advertisers and publishers to rethink their partnerships and manage expectations based on different parameters – such as deeper contextual understanding of who customers are, how they behave, and what they really need. These new conditions give publishers more power than before. But what are some new threats and opportunities in 2023?

The three evils of media in 2023: budget cuts, lay-offs and generative AI  

Press Gazette analysis has found that across Q1 2023 there were 3,340 job cuts reported at publishers in the UK, US and Canada. In May this year,  Vice Media fired more than 100 of its roughly 1,500 employees and shut down its Vice World News bran. Similarly, Insider Inc. announced it would begin cutting an estimated 10% of its staff.  

With all these challenges, comes a new toy to the market capable of generating decent copies in no time and rising new questions for publishers. Some content writers I talked to fear being substituted; some already are; and some trust their skills are irreplaceable – at least at this stage of generative AI development.

However, since generative AI is here to stay, the better question is: How can content creators and marketers work with new tools to research, be more creative, and get rid of boring tasks? In any case, publishers will have to take care of their internal capacities and make sure senior editors, journalists, and content writers stay to pass on knowledge to their younger colleagues.

Time to trust, but why?  

In her book Dare to Lead, Brene Brown says ‘We’re afraid to talk about trust that our team members don’t even know it’s an issue until there are irreversible consequences.’ And if you’ve been there, you know how painful it is when there is no trust in the team.

When talking about media and the current state of the publishing industry, organisational, market, and societal trust deserve to be closely researched in cultural context. How much people trust the media will differ from country to country and their respective socio-economic context.

To understand how trust works in the context of digital publication, I’ll use the framework I learned about in my recent conversation with Aleksandra Pilniak. She introduced me to the 5 waves of trust by Stephen Covey:   

1. Self Trust: the confidence we have in ourselves

2. Relationship Trust: how we trust others

3. Organisational Trust: how leaders generate trust in organizations

4. Market Trust: trust toward customers, investors and partners

5. Societal Trust: creating value for society

Societal trust, which reflects in our ability to create value for society, comes from understanding what readers think is valuable information, is it worth spreading, and of general contribution to the quality of their work/ life. This might sound cliche, but societal trust comes from the question: Why do we exist in the first place?

Market trust will manifest though clients and partners we chose and why. Will we do anything to gain quick wins?

Finally, organisational trust will come from decisions we make in difficult situations, the way we report, the technology we apply, and the level of transparency and vulnerability we are ready to communicate both internally and externally.

Stat by evaluating your values

Remember my question from the beginning about why go print in the digital age? While I won’t leave this one unanswered, here is my invitation to you to reflect on the following question first: What values do you never compromise? 

When our team at Customer Experience Magazine met last year to discuss how CXM Review should look, we dug deep into our values. We discussed the contribution we offer as a publication, and the societal factors shaping our views.

We agreed never to compromise values of quality, fairness, bravery, and authenticity. To guard these values means constant awareness and investment in what we’re putting out in the public space. It made us face some hard truths and brave actions to change internal processes. Let me name some that you can use as content leaders in your company:

  • We’re not the smartest people in CX. Seeking external help by assembling the first editorial advisory board builds the confidence and integrity of our magazine.
  • Making the CXM Stars(TM) scoring process transparent and fair by assembling the first judging panel. Publishing the report with participants’ stories available for the public to be inspired or create their own opinion.
  • Printing CXM Review as a symbol of trust our readers, partners, and clients showed us over the past decade positioned us as a magazine of dedicated content curation. We’re leaving a legacy, a mark in the industry that will pave the path for even more impactful initiatives.

In a time of crisis in media and digital publishing, we must stop and evaluate our values and how they fit the lives of our readers, clients, and partners.

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