Much has been written about the rise and demise of blogging and the ability for small publishers to thrive, both editorially and financially. Recently, we’ve seen some exciting examples of independent writers forging a new value proposition for their readers. They’ve been able to assemble the tools — however imperfectly — to publish stories, develop and audience and build a business. People like Ben Thompson, whose Stratechery has become a must-read for those in the tech business, and Tim Urban, who has crashed through the definition of blogging on Wait But Why, where he recently published a 90,000-plus word epic series on Elon Musk.
In 2016, we’ll move beyond isolated examples to see a growing wave of small independent publishers launching publications and starting to achieve success. The key factors driving this trend — the atomization of publishing — are:
Improved publishing tools. Blogging tools and platforms have been around for close to 20 years, but recently we’ve seen a big step forward in easy-to-use services that make it not only possible but super easy to run a publication with zero tech investment.
Integrated CRM and audience insights. Increasingly small publishers will have access to sophisticated reader management and communications capabilities and will be able to develop a deep understanding of their audience in a way previously only possible by large publishers with dedicated analytics team. Software is the new team.
Multiple revenue streams. The world is freaking out about adblocking, tracking pixels, programmatic ad slots growing like kudzu, and plummeting CPMs. But small publishers with a clear focus and depth of relationship with their readership are well positioned to bypass the current advertising morass to achieve financial sustainability. Yes, it will require doing more than simply turning on AdSense. No, there probably won’t be a single model that works for everyone. But the beauty of being small and focused is that you are also differentiated and are able to achieve a depth of engagement that is valuable — to readers and to advertisers. That value might be realized via a membership, or a subscription, or a native ad from a highly aligned brand, or a podcast. Or in most cases, some combination of these.
As I said, this is already starting to happen today. in 2016, look for it to happen a lot more.