Digital Publishing Reader Revenue
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In a time of flux, new publisher survey aims to shine a light on the year ahead

AI-powered publishing tech company Echobox is running its third annual Publishing Trends survey

2022 was another year of great change in the news publishing industry. Engagement with traditional mediums appeared to decline, whilst formats such as newsletters and podcasts grew in popularity. 

And if the landscape for news publishers seems rocky, the picture for social media is something else entirely. Huge changes at Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, coupled with the rise of TikTok, means that publishers’ relationships with the tech giants are in a period of flux.

In this context, the Publishing Trends Survey provides a detailed insight into the publishing industry around the world, from the challenges publishers faced in the past year to the successes that they can build upon in the year ahead.

The survey will cover topics such as publishers’ top priorities, the most important social media platforms for 2023, and the future of newsletters. You can take part in the survey here.

What were the results of last year’s survey?

Declining traffic and stable revenue

News fatigue was a major issue for publishers last year, with the survey finding that 73% of respondents said arresting declining website traffic was a top priority in 2022. Contrasting these results with the previous year’s, where declining website traffic was only a major concern for 25% of those surveyed, shows the speed with which industry-wide pressure on publishers to keep audiences attentive and engaged intensified.

Only 10% of those surveyed, however, said that developing new revenue streams would be important last year, with the same number identifying cost-cutting as a priority — in part due to  the continued strength of ad spending and online sales in the period immediately after the pandemic.

The past year has been far more challenging on this front, with inflationary pressures impacting the advertising market as consumers rein in discretionary spending, and this is expected to continue on into 2023

The results of this year’s survey should produce a more detailed picture, showing the extent to which publishers have been able to insulate themselves through other revenue-generating activities such as digital subscriptions.

Converting traffic into subscribers was important

The 2022 report highlighted the increased level of joined-up thinking on the part of publishers in developing their digital strategies. In tandem with increasing referral traffic, 24% of respondents planned to begin publishing newsletters last year, whilst 40% intended to increase the number of newsletters they already offered.

As a recent INMA report makes clear, newsletters are fundamental for publishers aiming to increase subscriptions, as they are the primary resources that new subscribers expect. In addition, they also enable publishers to expand their audience into new demographic segments, with Gen Z readers finding the idea of curated content direct to their inbox appealing.

Sustained development of a newsletters strategy will also enable publishers to prepare for the impending demise of third-party cookies, with Google setting a target date of having them replaced by the end of 2024 in its Chrome browser. 20% of those surveyed believed that collecting first-party data would be more important to them in 2022 than in 2021. 

Serious focus on Instagram

Another indication that publishers were looking to reach younger audiences in 2022 was their increased interest in Instagram. A huge 83% of respondents to Echobox’s Publishing Trends Survey 2022 said that Instagram would be more important to them than in 2021.

It’s been well documented that Meta’s platforms are undergoing significant change, with a focus on Reels as a means to restore competitiveness with TikTok. Given this, and with recent moves from Facebook in particular to downgrade its relationship with the news industry, it will be interesting to see whether publishers are looking to raise their investments in video. Even in 2022, 63% reported that video would be more important to them than in 2021, a sign of the versatility of the medium on newer platforms, as well as sites such as YouTube.

The disruption at Meta pales in comparison to Twitter, another high-profile media story of 2022. With ad spending on the platform decreasing and a host of controversial decisions by the new management, whether publishers continue to interact with the platform in the same way will be interesting to note.

Investments in AI

Recent innovations such as ChatGPT have placed AI in the spotlight once more, for both good and bad. The seemingly covert employment of text-generating AI to write SEO-friendly articles for CNET has highlighted the ambiguities of incorporating this technology into news businesses.

That said, there is clearly enormous scope for AI — responsibly used — to generate returns for news publishers, for example using AI to write pro forma articles which require little in the way of analysis and freeing up staff for more creative work. 

In 2022, 74% of respondents indicated that AI would be important to them in the coming year, and as the efficacy of these technologies are publically proven, we expect to see publishers continue to invest in AI in 2023. 

Are publisher priorities shifting in 2023? What place will AI occupy in the newsroom this year? And how are publishers approaching issues like data protection and the phasing out of third-party cookies? Take the 2023 survey to weigh in now, and stay tuned for the results.  

The Publishing Trends Report 2023 will give an exclusive insight into publisher priorities in the upcoming year through a global survey of publishers. 

We’d love to hear publishers’ thoughts about the main challenges for this year, and how they intend to build upon the success of last year. The survey will cover questions about top priorities, the most important social media platforms and the future of newsletters for publishers of all kinds and all sizes. 

The anonymous survey can be found here.