Touch-Centric, but Paper-Free: Looking into the Digital Publishing Future


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When I think of digital publishing over the next year and beyond, I see three trends dominating the landscape: mobility, ubiquity, and touchability. User-generated content (UGC), social sharing, and social advertising are replacing the old-world concepts of traditional advertising. Your technology (today or tomorrow) should be able to support this paradigm shift.

You never know when the muse will strike you. You may be on the run with only your mobile phone or maybe a tablet to make a quick sketch or to type that next Pulitzer-winning article. Increased mobility means real-time collaboration; social sharing is also important for the digital publishers of today and tomorrow. From being able to share pieces with a group of colleagues and get editorial revisions and approvals on an iPad to being able to share the final product on your social networks, users expect to be able to do it all on-the-go.

Funny enough, mobile was hot a year ago; it is still hot now. It will still be hot 5 years from now, as organizations are catching up with the trend. How many times have you abandoned a site on your smartphone or tablet because you couldn't get the same experience as you would on a desktop? There's always something that prevents you from finalizing a check-in (domestic only) or a food order (this restaurant is out of your reach). This will cease to be acceptable.

Whether it's in an app, on the mobile web, or through a touchscreen at a bank, content has to be available anywhere, anytime, to anyone. Don't force users to go to printers and desktops to check in for flights and print boarding passes, because this functionality doesn't work on a mobile phone. The same goes for any coupons or specials offered in online magazines that become more bothersome than valuable when they cannot be taken advantage of right then and there. What content authors, publishers, and media need to understand is that audiences are now more impatient and demanding than ever-and this trend is here to stay.

Today's toddlers will likely not even know what a desktop is or how to operate a mouse. Touch is the only digital reality for them. Look at the generation that has recently entered or is entering the work force. It's Generation Y and Z. These Digital Natives have probably never paid a paper bill, written a paper check, printed out a boarding pass, or bought a paper newspaper or a magazine. Yet, they're the ones behind some of the most creative ideas in writing, design, social innovation, and digital publishing in general in the modern world.

Their preferred work environment is not paper-centric or even heavily reliant on desktops. It is nothing but touch-centric-a digital golden age of a brush stroke, if you will-in the era of touch devices. Today's creative professionals are the Raphaels and Michelangelos painting their Madonnas and Sistine Chapels with a digital brushstroke.

Innovation will drive the future of digital publishing. It is already very clear that mobility, ubiquity, and touch-centricity will drive a lot of software and hardware application development for digital publishers. The question, however, is whether the publishers will be ready to embrace all this innovation in time to keep pace with some of the vendors in the media and publishing verticals.

Sometimes, the industry is a step or two ahead of the real world, which is not yet ready to make the necessary investments. Choosing the right technology is hard, but that doesn't mean that planning for the future should be halted. The implementation is even harder, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't have the proper people on staff to carry out the projects.

In the world of WCM/WEM, we talk a lot about engagement/experience management. Despite the many talks about WCM turning into CXM or WEM, most organizations are not yet ready to embrace what vendors are cooking up in their kitchens. Often, the needs are still as simple as ensuring brand management for DAM and posting simple articles that are properly rendered in a variety of browsers from WCM. Personalization, multilingual content, and analytics all create additional levels of complexity to online publishing.

Paper won't go away for decades, but it is not the future. Preserve your physical archives, but look toward the rising star of all-digital-mobile, ubiquitous, touch-enriched-publishing.

The future is here, but we are not there yet.