Recently, What’s New in Publishing released their first annual report, written by the team at Media Voices and sponsored by Sovrn.
It’s been a pivotal year in media, with so many developments across different areas, from the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the pivot to paywalls, milestones in reader revenue and programmatic trends. The report looks back and reflects on these moments, how media and publishing organisations responded to them, and what direction these may take this year.
It also draws on plenty of case studies of publishers who have successfully tackled these challenges head-on, as well as those who have struggled.
Here are 8 key statistics – one from each section of the report – and why they’re significant in today’s media landscape.
90% of Amazon searches end with a purchase
Amazon’s ascension to the rank of ‘ad giant’ is now guaranteed, thanks to the vast reams of purchasing data to which it has access. On its own platform, nine out of ten product searches ultimately end with a purchase being made and, at least for the partners with products they can huck on there, that makes it an extremely attractive proposition.
As a result, one Havas Media executive has reported that 20% to 30% of their clients are shifting 50% to 70% of their total search budgets to Amazon, encroaching on Google’s territory. Amazon’s revenue from ads was up 129% year on year in Q2 2018. Before anyone starts cheering the demise of the Duopoly, however, it’s worth bearing in mind that digital ad spending is still increasing overall – and Google’s ad revenue was up 20% year on year as well.
Retaining readers is 4 to 5x cheaper than acquiring new ones
There are always going to be a limited number of new subscribers that a publication can bring on board, so retaining readers is vital for a stable revenue stream. Research from the FT shows that it’s much easier to keep existing subscribers than acquire new ones, with the estimate that it’s four to five times cheaper to retain.
This means that reader revenue is more about demonstrating value, and keeping the promises which attracted that subscriber in the first place. Some publishers are working on tools that surface more relevant content to subscribers, and we can expect to see some innovative uses of AI in this space over the next few years.
44% of 18-27 year olds have deleted the Facebook app in the US
To say it’s been an eventful year for platforms is an understatement, but when we were putting together the report, the impact of the scandals that have engulfed Facebook seem to finally be taking their toll. By September, 1 in 4 Americans had deleted their Facebook apps, and more significantly, 44% of 18 to 27 year olds had deleted it.
This doesn’t mean that they’ve deleted their Facebook accounts, but the app itself, which has been dogged this year with data leaks, unauthorised collection of phone logs, and recording location even when the app isn’t active.
Facebook has a way to go until it’s consigned to the same graveyard as MySpace, but growth has plateaued this year in its most valuable Western markets, not to mention the distinctly uncool reputation it has with younger people. Not that Facebook has any immediate worries; it also owns some of the fastest-growing and most popular apps among under 25’s – Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp. This means it can still capitalise on the growing trend among teens to share news and opinions through private and group messages, and Instagram is still growing strongly.
The Spectator has 11% subscription growth
It’s been a difficult year for some print publications. The women’s weeklies are down 40%, and just this week it was announced that Shortlist was closing its print magazine and Esquire is reducing its print frequency. Commodity print is taking an absolute kicking, but publications that people love are doing well, with some magazines like The Week Junior seeing strong growth this year.
The Spectator is another publication that has seen 11% subscription growth, showing that people are turning to brands they trust. But it’s not just about print – The Spectator is taking advantage of digital to drive its print growth. 2018 has finally seen publishers working digital and print together.
1 in 5 people now ignore the news completely
The measure of the fourth estate’s success is its ability to hold the powerful to account. Against that measure 2018 has been a failure. Powerful politicians on either side of the Atlantic have routinely made denigration of the press a central tenet of their campaigns, and trust in the media is only just starting to rebound after its nadir in 2017.
One of the worst consequences of the vilification of the press and the misinformation crisis is that a number of news consumers have simply given up on consuming the news. One in five people now actively choose to ignore news content, while still others will only consume news from the sources they feel an affinity with (and consequently the ones that most appeal to their own biases). For the press to reclaim the title ‘fourth estate’ and all it entails, 2019 will need to see publications come together as a group to win back the trust of the public.
Publishers target an average of 6 alternative revenue options
One fact that 2018 has well and truly brought home is that a publishing company can no longer be run on just advertising income.
A recent survey from Reuters has shown that publishers are looking to target a ‘mix of six’ when it comes to alternative revenues, with digital subscriptions, events and ecommerce being the most popular add ons.
As with all extensions of a publishing brand, alternative revenue plays must add value for readers, and maintain brand trust at all costs.
More than 1,000 news sites are still unavailable in Europe
On the morning of May 25th, a significant number of US news sites shut off their sites to European traffic, replacing it instead with apologetic messages promising to reach a solution soon. Was it just a case of needing a little more time to get compliant?
Apparently not. Six months on, more than 1,000 US news sites are still unavailable in Europe, most of which are run by Tribune (formerly Tronc), GateHouse Media and Lee Enterprises.
Lee Enterprises, who are the fourth largest newspaper group in the US, have actually stated that they have no plans to work towards a solution as the web traffic from European users isn’t high enough to justify compliance, and is of little interest to their hyper-local advertisers.
How long they’ll be able to take that stance depends on the time it takes for the US to implement its own privacy regulations, of which there are a number of options in the pipeline.
40% of Slate’s revenue will come from podcasting
The early bird gets the worm, and the Slate family of titles has undoubtedly been a beneficiary of an early move into podcasting. Between its strong… slate… of titles and the backing of its sister company Panoply’s Megaphone advertising capabilities, Slate is set to see growth from this burgeoning medium.
Beyond that, there is still room for growth in new markets and mediums for the publishers willing to take a punt. While VR hasn’t quite hit the tipping point, it and AR are forecast to be an increasingly valuable marketing medium, particularly as VR-enabled devices continue to become more mainstream. It might take a while – and a few more rows about new mediums being ‘overhyped’ – but it’ll get there, and probably sooner than we think.
Download the full report here.