Publishing in the Age of Visual Content

According to Bradley Wilson, consumers from the Gen Z population are more attracted to interactive and visual content. With shorter attention spans and the need for more stimulating content, this generation presents a unique challenge when it comes to not only capturing their attention, but also their loyalty. According to a recent study, Americans spend an average of six hours per day consuming digital media, while only eight minutes a day is spent on reading, and these findings skew even more when it comes to Gen Z consumers. This new generation also has a need for “mobile-friendly communication.” This can prove problematic if publishing companies continue with traditional modes of advertising, because Gen Z has indicated a preference for more personalized messaging and the ability to connect with brands through word of mouth and influencers. Publishers are reaching a point where they need to start rethinking the way they deliver and market their stories, because it’s important to provide consumers with material in the ways that they consume them.
One way publishers are doing this is with the use of visuals novels, which are defined by Cecil Choi as “text-based stories told in a digital medium, often accompanied by relevant visuals and/or audio.” This offers publishers a way to merge the digital and visual needs of this generation with the stories they are already producing.
Surges in the popularity of story-based apps is something that the industry should be closely monitoring. For example, a popular app that was designed specifically to market an already-produced television show is called Love Island: The Game. Based on the popular British reality television show that shares its name, this app is written with the arc of an entire season of the show in mind. Drawing on plot lines from the show itself, writers developed a story that readers were then able to play out. The game has been a highly successful marketing tool for the show, and has spawned an online community of readers who have created more buzz on social media through sites such as Twitter, Tumblr, and Reddit. This is important because relationships that are formed on social media “have become a central life aspect” for Gen Z. There is so much untapped potential in the publishing industry for expanding into this market, and it is something that I feel publishing companies should strongly consider if they want to keep the attention of Gen Z while also redefining their own interactive digital marketing.
Marketing a novel using these avenues has the potential to be incredibly beneficial to publishers. It gives readers a chance to develop more interest and hold more stake in the success of the novel, since they are allowed to insert themselves and interact with the story in a way that they can’t with traditional publishing. This is a strategy that can be used to make backlist titles relevant and timely again; there is also potential to merge graphic novels with this visual formatting.
All in all, I believe that it offers incredible value for both designers and marketers. These apps are not only successful in that they are popular with Gen Z, but they are also lucrative. Many times these apps have the option to “buy in-game currency” (such as “gems” or “diamonds”) that lets readers make different choices or gives them the option to not have to wait until their “lives” are back in order to keep reading. This could potentially replicate the success that the industry has recently seen with new formats such as audiobooks, which saw a surge of “thirty-three percent last year,” and it is helping to keep the digital business of book publishing profitable. Because this is something that gaming and design companies seem to have a monopoly on at the moment, a partnership with one of these companies might be recommended for now.

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