Publishing is changing, but print is still vital

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There are many pertinent questions relating to the future of publishing. How will digital develop? Is it the end for print? We sat down with a man with more than 30 years’ experience in the industry to pick his brain

“I think the way in which people consume content is changing all the time,” says Ian Westwood, non-executive director at Real Response Media. “Digital has changed the way magazines work. I think there will be some very interesting developments around artificial intelligence and voice-activated search.”

This bold opening comes from someone who climbed to the top of the pole at Dennis Publishing, holding senior positions in advertising, publishing and marketing before being promoted to the company’s board and group managing director in 2010.

“We’re all getting very comfortable asking Google, Siri and so on for information,” he adds. “A whole new opportunity is emerging around that.”

Be alive to opportunity

Westwood references the development of smart phones and tablets to illustrate his point. “Before iPhones and iPads, people were designing webpages for people to view on 20-inch screens. However, the smart phone has changed all of that and now I think voice search will change that further.

“The idea of actually needing to optimise your digital content for voice is very different. The way you type something into a search bar is very different to the way you ask Siri a question. I think publishers need to become more alive to that.”

However, that’s not to say that print is dead. Far from it. “Print is a very effective medium for delivering content,” says Westwood. “There will always be a place for a really great print product. There are certain types of content that just lend themselves brilliantly to print. Cruise is one of them, as is fashion, motoring… where the visual appeal is compelling.”

The key is to be “constantly curious”. “Don’t assume,” says Westwood, “that because something has worked in one area it will work somewhere else. Be curious about different ways in which you can produce content and turn that into revenue. Look for new ideas, initiatives and technology.”