Future Trends in Digital Publishing

Angela Collins is a design student from Australia who did extensive research on what we can expend in digital publishing in the future.  She kindly allowed me to publish her findings here:

Where is the future of digital publication heading and how does it affect the role of the graphic designer?

Furthermore, what are the expectations of the viewer?  These questions have been floating around in my mind and have sparked the desire to look for answers – answers that will offer readers an informative, but also interesting view of the future of digital publications.

Printed publicationsold books

Historically we have become very polarized in our view of what takes the form of literature.  Literature has generally  been regarded as a form of printed matter or in ancient times, written or illustrated  markings on various materials, relating to specific subjects.10 Today many of us are fully aware that the future of literature is a merger of print and digital mediums.  Due to this unification of disciplines, the word literature will take on a different meaning in future generations.

Currently, we are in that publishing hiatus with both print and digital media being available, but for how long? While it seems that print media is still a significant part of our lives, digital publications and other visually digital materials are quickly becoming part of our every day experience. This raises the question how dependent are we on both of them?

The growth of the digital world around publications

Today, the internet  is often our first port of call for any information we require.  The role of digital publications is a necessity for our present lifestyle.

Ask yourself the question, why do so many people spend countless hours playing video games and watching movies than they do in reading a book, whether it is fiction or non-fiction.

Personally, I am an avid reader.  I collect countless books. Yet in more recent times, I find myself looking for a YouTube video on the subject, rather than picking up a book, even if I have a book with the relevant subject on hand.  Though, you may be different.  This is a personal thing.

Is it easier for me to pick up a mobile device to look for the answer rather than looking through my library?  Generally, yes because it offers me the convenience of accessing information at any time, but it also provides a different user experience than reading the information in a printed publication. As a viewer, we are generally more engaged with digital publications due to the interactivity of the content and its ability to provide links to further information or enable additional clarification of the  material.  Due to this ability, it is rare to stay on one site.

People demand a different experience

Currently –  a multitude of e-publications flood the marketplace.  One could assume that with  such a supply there is falling demand.  However, Fortune stated that there is not a decline in e-books regardless of the propaganda around their falling popularity 9 and people still want to read a digital publication.  Due to a host of capabilities
from mobile devices, people are looking
for a  unique or different experience. To
stand apart and provide that next level of user experience rather than a simple text and picture based eBook, iMag or blog, we may need interactive media content.

What is interactive media content?

Interactive media content  requires the participants’ active engagement i.e. more than simply reading. Wikipedia defines interactive media as “ a method of communication in which the output from the media comes from the input of the users.  Interactive media works with the user’s participation. The media still has the same purpose but the user’s input adds interaction and brings interesting features to the system for better enjoyment”(12).  One of the most well known social media giants, Facebook, grasped the need for interactivity in their early stages,  as did most of the other social media companies.

Video and animation as part of the interactive element

More recently we have seen a surge in video content on our Facebook pages and links to video included on Twitter and other social media sites.  In 2015, Mathew Ingram wrote, “Facebook is playing catch-up to include video in content which will soon include live streaming video.  They are currently claiming ‘8 billion video views a day” (11).

Google noticed the trend and purchased  YouTube in 2006.  Other social media giants have followed the lead of both Facebook and Google and incorporated video into their content as well.

Magazine companies, newspapers, bloggers, educators, retail, manufacturing  and  the fashion industry have become cognizant of their need to include video or animated media in their digital content.

Video or animation still monetizes better than any other content. Why?  Movement!  Movement denotes energy and all living things are drawn towards energy.  Even a few seconds of movement (video and/or animation) to emphasise the written content, will provide greater engagement and user experience for the readers.

While the internet is still strongly text based we are seeing video content and animation creeping in everywhere.  Next time you open Windows 10, notice how the ‘personal assistant  Cortana’,  jumps up and down and through movement ignites our visual sense to gain attention to interact with her.  Including interactive content that incorporates the movement of video and animation increases the user experience and focuses our attention.

Micro-screens (mobiles) and focusing of the viewers attention

In the article, ‘The Rise of Phone Reading’ (22) the writer makes the point that with the shift predominantly towards looking at tiny screen sizes on mobile devices, we will need to capture the viewer’s attention instantly, in fact, in micro-seconds, as they scroll through the content.  Viewers filter visual content in an instant thus emphasising the need for content to be visually compelling.

In 2015, Publishing Executive stated that “..video consumption for magazines increased 58% from August 2014 to January 2015 compared to the prior-year period” and not only do “readers respond to video within a digital magazine” but a digital magazine  “also adds a layer of engagement for the reader and lends itself to social sharing, which also figures to play a greater role this year” (19) and into the future.

The January 2016 Magazine Media 360o Brand Audience Report shows “6.6 per cent total audience growth over January 2015.  Mobile and video continue to grow at the fastest rates – dramatically up 44.9 per cent and 41.7 per cent, respectively, over last year”(6).

With these statistics we need to look to the future for the interactive content of video to be incorporated in our digital publications.  My emphasis here is on short sharp video content, a trend of the future.

Short sharp interactive video content – the main interactive element

You may be thinking that video is already included in various aspects of online content.  In the article by Luxury Daily, ‘5 Emerging Trends in digital publishing and content”(14), the emphasis is on short sharp interactive video or animated content,  a few seconds or less than a minute of content. “Consumer appetite for snackable content is not going to wane” (14) they state.

Consumers today are time constrained.  Watching 3 minutes of video to grasp the information they are looking for can be frustrating.  A mixture of text with seconds of video content interspersed to emphasise, explain and visualise a point, is likely to be the demand in the future.  Whether it is fiction or non-fiction content, including ‘snackable’ mini bytes of video will increase the users experience.  Text with video will allow the user to scan ahead and decide what video piece they want to view to get
the information they require.

Authors, journalists and blog writers will be well advised to incorporate a few seconds of video or animated content to portray a specific point in their eBooks, article or blogs.  They will need to be creative and provide video and/or animation where it will most focus the viewers attention, for example, one of the most popular television series currently watched world-wide is ‘Game of Thrones’.  Maybe some of you had read the printed books before the television series started, as I had.  Some of you may have wanted to refresh your memory of the storyline again, particularly as we had often waited months for the next series to start. Think about how while reading a digital version of the book authors or publishers could throw in snippets of specific points from the video series such as the birth of dragons, a topography of the land or clips of interest.

Consider a digital recipe book with short sharp video content to emphasise a particular point rather than having to watch a dish being prepared from start to finish.  Or consider having to scan through a whole video to get to the part you want clarification on (14).  Today consumers want information, they want it now and they want it to be short so they can move on.  We are in a fast paced environment and demand answers quickly and simply.  With this in mind I believe that  including ‘snackable’ video content in our storytelling provides a greater experience for the viewer.

Other interactive elements

There are a host of interactive elements that can be introduced into a digital publication. Apart from video content as mentioned, narration, music, sound effects, links, images, animation, quizzes and even prize accumulation are but a few.  These provide the viewer with a sense of involvement or participation in the publication and with the ability of mobile devices that include smart sensors and touch capability we are offered a much more unique and engaging way to
story tell.

I recently watched a video featuring a future generation of 2nd/3rd graders who were asked to participate in a project sponsored  by the University of Oregon, USA (16). These youngsters spoke with enthusiasm of their build of a digital publication incorporating a host of digital elements – video, sound effects, text, images, links, narration etc.  You could see by their expressions and what they said that they loved the interactivity they were producing for the experience of other children viewing their publication. They were ‘storytelling’ in an interactive way.

Storytelling, digital video and the future

“Storytelling through rich media is one of the most innovative areas within digital publishing.  Since digital video is now used as a first choice for many digital publishers who may have opted to write articles in the past” (04),  it is inevitable that graphic designers will have to learn to work with digital interactive media and incorporate video and or animated content.

More work, knowledge and resources required.

Once content was king.  Today people not only want content and answers but they want to have fun or a mixture of both.  While having to create interactivity in our publications means a greater demand on time, application, knowledge and resources, it is simply human nature to want more interaction whether it is watching, playing, replying, answering, or joining. Interaction minimises the risk of losing interest and it captures attention(3).

Publishers are going to have to think differently when it comes to digital publications.  Introducing interactive elements will be a required part of the viewer’s experience.  So as previously mentioned, while the e-book currently is not in decline, without the viewer having a different or unique experience when reading an e-book, there may shortly come a time when people are less inclined to purchase a publication of text and image only.

Future requirements for graphic designers in digital publishing

Graphic Designers working in the digital publishing sector will need to have a working knowledge of interactive media and its application in digital publications. These skills can be appropriated through a host of education forums like online and local colleges and universities and self-learning through YouTube, Vimeo, Lynda to name a few.

Eventually, print publication may disappear and become obsolete, perhaps not in our life time, but we are seeing it minimise(18) .   Digital publications are on the rise and are continuing to do so.  With this trend in mind, I believe that the incorporation of video or animated content will be a requirement.

The future is interactive media with digital publications.  Graphic designers who have not moved toward the digital world and knowledge of interactive elements may find themselves left in the past rather than moving into the future.  With the wide array of interactive capabilities in digital publications graphic designers may need to consider starting now to upgrade or maintain their skills in the arena of digital publications.

 

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