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It was twenty years ago today…

On the occasion of InPublishing’s 20th birthday, James Evelegh looks back to 2003 and forward to 2043.

By James Evelegh

It was twenty years ago today…

The thing about birthdays is, if you don’t tell people when it’s yours, how can they wish you ‘happy birthday’?

So… I’m delighted to be able to tell you that this issue marks our twentieth birthday!

I hate to state the blindingly obvious, but publishing in 2003 was a totally different ballgame. For us, and most other publishers, print was the only show in town.

Our weekly newsletter was still seven years off. We had a website, but for the first few years it only had five pages – ‘about us’, ‘contact us’, ‘circulation profile’, ‘rate card’ and ‘register’.

Much of the lexicon of modern publishing – apps, webinars, podcasts, social media, mobile-optimisation, SEO, zero / first / second / third party data, AI et al – had yet to enter our consciousness.

The biggest difference between 2003 and 2023? It must be the transition from single-channel to multi-channel publishing. Publishing has become much more a plate-spinning exercise than it ever was before.

The other notable difference between then and now has been the change of pace and intensity – there is no downtime. I (fondly) recall in the early days, there being a slight lull after each issue was published – no longer!

What will InPublishing look like in 2043? I expect that our print magazine will still be our flagship channel, though not necessarily our most profitable, and that all the various spin-offs that we’ve introduced since 2003 will be done bigger and better. We will have found ways to bring the InPublishing community together both on- and off-line and ‘events’, which we have long discussed doing, will have become a central part of what we do. Who knows, we might even have gone international.

But, more importantly, what will the publishing industry look like in twenty years’ time?

Here are a few predictions from me:

  • AI will be commonly used across publishers large and small, to take on the heavy lifting of content management, workflow automation and content curation.
  • AI will become ever more sophisticated, but will never be able to replicate the nuances, insights and quality of human correspondents. That is why publishers’ human assets will be their USP.
  • The publishing world will be divided into two easily recognisable groups: quality publishers that use AI at the back-end to deliver efficiencies and enhance the user experience and to create some content that lends itself to being easily templated and only within tightly controlled parameters, and cowboy publishers that use it at the front-end to create all content.
  • Print will continue to be the flagship channel for many publishers, albeit perhaps loss-leading in itself, but a profit driver for the business as a whole.
  • UX will be uniformly good across all professional publishers’ digital outputs, with poorly constructed pages, weighed down with a surfeit of ads, a thing of the past.
  • Regulation will have created a more level playing field with a good portion of the ad revenue currently being gobbled up by the tech giants flowing back to the coffers of quality publishers.
  • Profit margins will have increased across the publishing sector, approaching those of the pre-internet age, as quality content reasserts itself…

Good times will roll again!

This article was first published in InPublishing magazine. If you would like to be added to the free mailing list to receive the magazine, please register here.