2017 Digital Publishing Trends

These are exciting times in the digital publishing world and I’m just amazed at the pace of all the transformative trends that are enabling new and disruptional capabilities. There are many, so I’ll just touch on a few here.

A ubiquitous trend, impacting most of the other trends, is the massive data and processing capabilities that are now available due to the growth of cloud technology and tools. 

Improving engagement and growing your audience for a successful digital publishing product can be significantly enhanced with the right tools and processes.  Some of the 2017 digital publishing trends are not altogether new but rather improved evolutional extensions of current best practices.

Digital publishers continue to harness new technology and adjust their strategies to better engage their audiences and effectively optimize their website properties.

Digital Platform Architecture

We’ve all heard the different buzz about things like customer first and mobile first, both of which are very important, but having been involved with many tech projects over the years, “API first” is very important in today’s IT environment. 

One of the major trends in architecture is to utilize a platform to “assemble a solution” that provides the best and most engaging digital experience. Customization is certainly involved, but application software and services are evolving so rapidly and disrupting existing capabilities that stakeholders need the flexibility to evaluate new and innovative solutions. When a new “awesome” capability surfaces that can potentially improve your business outcome, it helps if your platform is flexible enough to consider implementing it without having to embark on a major rebuild initiative.

For that reason, among others, I really like open source frameworks that enable the building of superior digital capabilities through APIs. For example, integrating Salesforce Marketing Cloud with your Drupal CMS.

These open source frameworks, e.g. Drupal, WordPress, etc., also entail reusable software libraries and modules that provide existing, and constantly improving, capabilities that are invaluable when evolving your digital publishing products.

Flexible Editor and Web Production Capabilities

One of the trends being driven by users and the proliferation of smartphones is the reduced time being spent by your audience online in each instance. These are called micro-moments and user experience specialists and need to accommodate this type of usage. When a user goes online looking for specific information, and spends less than two minutes on that task, it’s imperative that content be formatted optimally for a quality experience.

The set-up and layout (workflow) of your various types of content, with this fast-paced and intermittent usage, needs to be flexible. A system where the “content” prescribes the best presentation, rather than forcing the content into fixed preset layouts, is the most effective way to tell stories. Editors and web production teams can use flexible tools to arrange content in ways that simplify and modernize the user journey.   Speed is importance for both editors and your audience with regard to setting-up and consuming content. So ongoing testing and refining of the presentation can significantly improve the user experience and increase engagement.

An example of this would be the existing Drupal Paragraphs module that offers a rapid and straightforward workflow for content editors to have more control over the presentation without the tech department being needed.

Know and Understand Your Audience

For improved engagement publishers need to give readers what they want, and for that to happen it’s imperative that they understand the needs and preferences of their audience. Reviewing, analyzing and working with the data structure and taxonomies is essential to clearly understand the opportunities and limitations provided by the data.

Audiences are looking for ideas, information, connections, or learning opportunities and it’s the publisher’s job to enable their audience to have the best possible experience (content and presentation). 

Data modeling, categorizing, tagging, and taxonomies are imperatives that enable you to quickly bridge the users need with the content best suited at that moment. Content recommendations and predictive analytics can be accomplished by analyzing current and historical data to make better decisions.  Data-driven decision support systems deliver an exceptionally engaging user experience by delivering the right content, at the right time and in the right form.

Even artificial intelligence (AI) is being used today in some situations, but is still in its infancy compared to where it’s going to be in a few years.


A successful digital publisher needs to be well versed with regard to strategy, quality content, audience personas and development, engagement and editor workflows.

Strategy gives you direction but today’s environment is so fast-paced and constantly evolving that flexibility is an important requirement. 

The platform architecture needs to support an innovative and constantly improving process that enables an agile culture that is smart and strategic in providing more perceived value to your audiences.

Various Things Live is a Website Design and Development Company based out of Chicago, Illinois.

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