The start of the new year provides an opportune time to explore key trends that Maverick forecasts as having a significant impact on scholarly publishing in 2024. We’ve pinpointed three interconnected pivotal factors driving shifts in the industry:
• The evolving incentive to support higher education and R&D activities within a digital and decentralized economy
• The continuous growth of Open Access (OA) adoption and the lack of resilience in the existing financial framework
• The emerging challenges to the credibility and validity of the scholarly record
We hope that the following insights will serve as a roadmap for guiding stakeholders through the intricate terrain of an ever-evolving industry.
New AI tools have the potential to disrupt how we approach all aspects of the scholarly communication ecosystem and, if implemented correctly, build greater resilience and productivity within organizations. These initiatives can bring benefits to the direct prosumers (who both produce and consume products) as well as customers. They can also reshape how we deliver personalized and creative services to the research community and enhance the social and economic impact of research and scientific discovery.
In 2023, we witnessed a growth in experimentation with AI models across the industry but often with a lack of C-suite strategy. We expect a sea change in 2024 as organizations recognize that board-level AI strategies will be required to remain competitive and relevant. Strategies will include leveraging new licensing opportunities for data collection and combating threats to IP; identifying internal business segments where AI will have the most tangible benefit; and conducting continuous user behavior analysis to ensure an up-to-date view of how these tools are being utilized by librarians, researchers, students, and faculty.
2023 proved to be a highly challenging year for many businesses, as transitions to new funding mandates and payment models, such as subscribe-to-open and diamond OA, exposed deficiencies in financial risk management planning. The focus for 2024 will entail stabilizing and expanding current revenue-generating sectors, identifying fresh opportunities within portfolios (including models and licensing), venturing into untapped markets, and divesting any underperforming areas.
In 2024, we anticipate sustained growth in submission volume, emphasizing a commitment to maintaining high quality, while directing commissioning and development strategies toward the focal areas of corporate and funder interests. As projected in 2023, there has been a consistent rise in publications linked to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a trend we anticipate will persist throughout 2024.
We also expect to see more experimentation with short-form formats and multimedia to reflect changes in information consumption habits. Additionally, there are opportunities to explore new approaches to supporting interdisciplinary research, as well as managing and marketing special issues.
In 2024 we anticipate continued experimentation with OA models as publishers look to develop different sales models to generate sustainable, profitable sales growth. Alongside this trend, we expect to see the development of further institutional sales models for customised digital content packages. This will lead to questions surrounding author remuneration and retention and will also have implications for title visibility, particularly via aggregators, with SEO, social media interaction, and targeted advertising becoming more relevant.
These new sales models will reinforce the strategic re-development of commissioning strategies we saw throughout 2023. Of course, as OA and other digital models develop in 2024, publishers will need to be mindful of their rights and licensing strategies and the increased threat of piracy.
One of the dominant trends driving initiatives in 2023 was the shift to community engagement, with the goal of building deeper connections and collaborations with stakeholders. We anticipate further investment in this area in 2024, aligned to specific business goals, such as increasing brand awareness and loyalty, driving submissions, increasing visibility and impact of user research. Some of the strategies and tactics to achieve this will include developing post-publication services, author support and development programs, and audience development work to understand where and how stakeholders are interreacting. There will also be a drive to reinforce positive perceptions and the value proposition of scholarly publishers.
Marketing and Sales
‘Doing more with less’ will be a prevailing theme for 2024, reflecting key goals to maximize impact within an increasingly challenging landscape characterized by restricted bandwidth and budgets. Ensuring the correct prioritization will be critical, and we expect to see the delivery of hyper-personalized and targeted product recommendations and offers by leveraging data analytics and AI-powered tools.
In addition, there will be increased investment in marketing technology tools, developing dynamic social media strategies that can adapt to changes in user behavior and platform preferences, delivering effective B2C campaigns tailored to resonate with target audiences, and cultivating brand awareness and loyalty through engaging content. The impact of AI on discovery will, we predict, lead to experimentation with speech-optimized SEO (e.g., long tail keywords) and an increased focus on research into how users are finding content.
Technology and content
The persistent adoption of digital transformation strategies that we saw in 2023 will persist through 2024. Organizations are actively seeking to modernize their aging infrastructure, a strategic move aimed at maintaining competitiveness and enabling them to capitalize on evolving technologies within the market. Prioritizing cost management and fiscal prudence will be pivotal, necessitating stringent monitoring of acquisitions to ensure optimal returns on investment. Notably, there’s an anticipated surge in investments in AI-powered tools.
Furthermore, we saw an increased interest in submission systems and workflows last year that will continue as organizations look to streamline workflows, improve user experience, and implement automated intelligent business process solutions. Technology teams will also be extensively engaged in evaluating tools and platforms that facilitate scalable processes, meet accessibility standards, and that can be successfully integrated across internal divisions to expand capabilities (e.g., research integrity checks in terms of volume, speed, and efficacy).
Societies and Associations
The anticipated influence of OA and Transformative Agreements on societies and associations is set to persist throughout 2024. Organizations are strategically assessing their publishing and membership programs to safeguard revenue streams. Many are adopting business strategies to help secure and potentially increase revenue. This entails initiatives such as consolidating journals to mitigate losses, ending certain publishing and membership programs, reevaluating partnerships, and conducting comprehensive licensing and service audits to identify fresh prospects for revenue generation and enhanced member benefits.
Maverick’s global network of Associates is available to review our 2024 trends research in further detail and explore opportunities to help grow your organization in the year ahead. To schedule an appointment, reach out to your Maverick representative or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Rebecca Moakes, Head of EMEA Business Development
Rebecca Moakes is an accomplished senior publishing professional specialising in product and platform development. With extensive experience of working for and with publishers, she offers a combination of strategic, commercial, and technical insights to deliver measurable business goals.