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“Better opportunities for both engagement and monetization”: Publishers prioritizing audio/video innovation in 2022

67% of publishers plan to focus on iterating and improving existing products this year, according to Reuters Institute’s Journalism, Media, and Technology Trends and Predictions 2022 report. In comparison, 32% intend to launch new products and brand extensions. 

“This is partly because publishers have less money available for risky investments,” writes author Nic Newman, “but also because most publishers now have a clear path on which they are set.” 

“Unique features and products that differentiate us”

A lack of alignment between different departments such as editorial, marketing, commercial, and technology was cited as a major barrier to innovation by 41% of the respondents. 

We’re now in an age of mature product departments. But we still need to work to find the right balance between the rigor of product methodologies and processes and the specific editorial expertise of a given publisher.

Chris Moran, Head of Editorial Innovation, Guardian

“It’s about the right technology applied intelligently in ways that tie to our values and expertise,” adds Moran. “That way we will build genuinely unique features and products that differentiate us from platforms and their associated problems.”

“A good starting point is to ensure that existing digital products are as seamless and engaging as those produced by tech platforms,” suggests Newman. This is what a number of publishers are trying to achieve as they plan to replace legacy apps, optimize subscription pipelines, and upgrade their data infrastructure. The group of publishers that are pushing hard for growth through new products and brand extensions are looking at the strategies used by The New York Times which has found growth with cooking, crosswords, and shopping.

80% publishers plan to invest more resources in audio

More specifically, 80% of the publishers say they will be putting more resources into podcasts and digital audio, followed by 70% who will be prioritizing email newsletters and developing digital video formats (63%). 

Audio is being prioritized over other formats as publishers see better opportunities for both engagement and monetization with it. Not only has there been a steady growth in consumption of digital audio over the past few years but the last year itself has seen a spurt in the usage of audio articles, flash briefings, and audio messages, along with live formats such as social audio. 

In our conversations around trends and predictions, it is clear that many publishers believe that audio offers better opportunities for both engagement and monetization than they can get through similar investments in text or video.

Reuters’ Trends and Predictions 2022 report

Podcast CPMs have been up through the pandemic in the US with the New York Times making $36M from podcast ads in 2020. The Times has identified key ‘moments’ in a day when consumers may be open to audio-only experiences. The data shows that the publisher’s "current offer (in blue) is only scratching the surface." It is planning to launch a listening product this year which might be offered as a part of its subscription bundle.

Norwegian publisher Schibsted is also building free and premium audio products following the acquisition of the platform PodMe. There will be more revenue opportunities for publishers with paid features from Apple and Spotify, as well as other independent podcast platforms like Podimo. 

Audio is also effective in attracting new audiences - Tortoise Media’s podcast, Sweet Bobby, reached the No. 1 spot on Apple Podcast charts in the US introducing the brand to many more listeners, especially the much-sought-after younger consumers.

“A new pivot to video”

“Publishers are increasingly worried about how to attract younger audiences and many see native video formats as part of the answer,” notes Newman. The survey finds that they will be investing more resources in short-form social video to attract younger audiences encouraged by the raging popularity of TikTok and Instagram with its short video feature called Reels. Platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube are being prioritized over Twitter and Facebook. 

Short-form social video will make a comeback off the back of creator innovation in youth-based social networks. Expect publishers to adopt more of these techniques in 2022, along with the growth of streaming platforms such as Twitch, contributing to a new ‘pivot to video’.

Reuters’ Trends and Predictions 2022 report

There are some encouraging success stories as well for publishers who are concerned about platforms like TikTok not being suitable for distributing content like news. Spanish startup Ac2ality has grown to nearly 3M followers on TikTok where it shares a one-minute round-up of top stories. The Swedish Public Broadcaster SVT grew its younger audiences from 9% to 26% between 2017 and the present by investing in a range of mobile-friendly online video formats that get to the point quickly or address non-traditional subjects.   

“The first pivot to video was partly driven by new social media formats like Facebook Live, but quickly faded after the platforms lost interest,” says Newman. 

“Now live video is booming again, partly fuelled by COVID news conferences and dramatic events like the storming of the US Capitol, while short-form video has been revitalized by the creativity and dynamic growth of TikTok.”

Reuters’ Trends and Predictions 2022 report

Publishers’ emphasis on audio and video reflects their increased focus on digital formats and meeting audience needs with relevant content and delivery formats. “With a new generation of editors coming through,” concludes Newman, “we will see more focused attempts to engage younger audiences – as well as disaffected ones – with more constructive journalism, as well as by explaining stories better using visuals and data, building on lessons learnt during COVID-19.” 

The full report is available from Reuters Institute:
Journalism, Media, and Technology Trends and Predictions 2022