Blurred Lines: The Convergence of Publishing and Technology

Publishing has been as profoundly impacted by technology as it was by the Gutenberg printing press. Recently, tech companies have realized the benefits of creating and distributing content themselves. The line that previously separated BI publishers and tech companies has been blurred irrevocably.

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Publishing is an ever-changing landscape, one that can be quite unpredictable to gauge. It’s no exaggeration to say that the digital revolution has turned the publishing industry on its head in the past thirty years - traditional business models have shifted, and publishers and business information (BI) providers alike have been forced into an imperative state of self-reflection. Why am I here? What is the meaning of my existence? These are some of the questions that content publishers have had to face in a world where authors can self-publish, crowdfund/crowdsource, and market directly to readers.

Consequently, many business information providers and publishers have come to embrace technology, and particularly SaaS platforms, in new and dynamic ways. On the flip side, tech companies are moving towards providing data and content as part of their core product offerings. The border that once separated these industries and sub-sectors has become increasingly blurred, and convergence is all the rage. 

BI providers and publishers become tech-savvy

In the past five to ten years in particular, BI providers (and more widely, publishers) have been adopting technologies that deepen reader participation and engagement, a transformation that has enabled this global industry to continue to grow at a pace closely matched to its historical rate. Publishing companies that fail to uptake the latest technologies risk losing readers and other stakeholders to companies that have done so. 

A recent report by PwC hones in on five fundamental drivers of change to account for this transformation: ubiquitous connectivity; the mobile consumer; the need for new sources of revenue growth; value shift to platforms; and personalization. In short, publishers/BI providers view it as an imperative to own the entire user experience, and technology can make this process more streamlined through cheaper and more personalized content delivery. Technology also provides the data analytics and insights that will play an increasingly pivotal role for most publishers aiming to deliver relevant content and marketing campaigns. As publishers/BI providers chase new revenue streams, data may prove to be the most valuable asset of all.

In short, publishers/BI providers view it as an imperative to own the entire user experience, and technology can make this process more streamlined through cheaper and more personalized content delivery.

As a result, publishers and tech companies are linking up and merging in unprecedented and unexpected ways. Publishers are buying pure-play SaaS platforms and building out robust portfolios of SaaS capabilities. This is part of a wider shift in mindset; publishers are starting to think like tech companies, because they must upskill and reassess how they consider the world. EBSCO Information Services has partnered with pure tech companies such as Arkivum to leverage its SaaS-based portfolio, including EBSCO Discovery Service (EDS), and Akrivum Perpetua, an integrated long-term data management solution. Wiley constantly adds SaaS and technology companies, such as Atypon Systems, to its portfolio. Springer Nature partnered with Digital Science, a leader in scholarly technology, in compiling the Nature Index.

Technology is no longer disrupting publishers. Rather, it’s making it easier for them to leverage alternative revenue streams and to deliver content in fresh, creative ways. 

Pure tech incorporates content

Companies that once offered only technology and distribution are moving into content and data, making content creation and publishing a lynchpin to their success. The marketing and product teams at major tech companies are acutely aware that content has the potential to be a high-engagement, high-frequency, high-usage application that keeps users across all demographics and devices engaged, as well as enabling the provider to build relationships with those users. Ultimately, this focus on content is motivated by the prospect of a direct end-user relationship which enables the monetization of participation, engagement and customer loyalty. 

A recent research report in PwC’s Consumer Intelligence Series found that 85% of consumers will not do business with a company if they have concerns about its security practices. As we’ve seen, social media giants have had to face their day of reckoning here. Furthermore, nine in ten business leaders say that building and maintaining customer trust will be the competitive advantage of the future. 

Tech companies are at a crossroads - they must do more than that required by law and move beyond a compliance checklist. Publishing content is one way in which tech companies are proactively building trust amongst their users. By creating high quality and distinctive content, tech companies can show that they care about delivering a high-quality experience for their audiences and fans. These attributes create a sense of identity and community between the brand and its customers that is not easily matched.

For example, Sova Assessment, a pure tech company, saw that digital transformation and increased rates of remote working following the pandemic was prompting many professionals and organisations to look for alternative ways to learn, engage in continued professional development and network with others in their field. Sova saw this as a key need that they could satisfy by creating an online community for content creation, learning, and the sharing of ideas and experiences, with the common goal of promoting best practice and innovation to help change assessment for good. 

Tech companies are at a crossroads - they must do more than that required by law and move beyond a compliance checklist.

Implications for the future

Business information providers, and more widely, publishers, have had to embrace the latest technologies to avoid falling behind. These companies traditionally delivered content, and possibly data - now, many of them are building out portfolios of SaaS capabilities. More recently, pure technology companies have realised the benefits of creating and distributing content as part of their core offering, blending more into the publishing space. For both parties, it’s both a challenge and a huge opportunity - but the convergence is already happening. 

Sara Maybury

Solutions Executive, Zapnito

After growing up in Bermuda, I graduated virtually from the University of St Andrews this summer with a degree in International Relations. I have joined the Zapnito team to further develop and grow the business. Just happy to be here!


Go to the profile of Chris Sprenger
about 2 months ago

Very current and akin to many of the conversations we are having with the exec teams of major publishing organisations.