Advertising Digital Publishing
3 mins read

Publishers: What lies ahead in 2022

Insights into the challenges—and opportunities—for publishers in 2022, from Sovrn CEO Walter Knapp

This time of year, you see a lot of articles predicting what the new year will bring.

Let’s look at what’s going on in the world and consider the impact big-picture trends may have. The biggest and most important variables often are things that (paraphrasing Ernest Hemingway), “happen gradually, then suddenly.” 

For publishers, there are several macro factors that have the potential to shape the next 12 months:

  1. The 2022 midterm elections here in the US will create a huge wave in advertising spend.

    This year is a bit unique, because social networks — which typically have carried the bulk of political advertising — are under intense scrutiny. Political advertisers will be looking for other options for their ad dollars to work. Independent publishers will have a choice to make: refuse political ads and miss out on potential revenue, or accept political ads that target readers but may conflict with a publisher’s personal outlook. The adjacency effect will be in play, where non-political advertisers will not want to “pay up” for ad spots and pressure their already thin ROI. This could well cause more spend in digital display while the political ads tend to soak up video. We can treat the midterms as a trial run because these issues will only be amplified in 2024.
  2. The convergence of rising interest rates, increased inflation, and staffing shortages.

    The cost of doing business is going up, which puts pressure on companies to be more operationally efficient and intensely focused on the things that matter most. This is especially true in the media space where so many businesses already have thin profit margins. Layer in the difficulty of running a business while short-staffed and it becomes clear that improving operational efficiency will be critical in 2022.
  3. For the past couple of years eCommerce has been on a tear.

    Consumers ditched the physical store experience and flocked to online purchases. This meant that eCommerce merchants either lowered or eliminated the affiliate commissions they paid to publishers. As we emerge from our homes and start getting back to “normal,” the eCommerce merchants will once again start paying publishers the commissions they deserve. For publishers whose content drives purchase behavior, 2022 will be a big year.

Here are a few areas where publishers can focus their attention to prepare for the challenges — and opportunities — that lie ahead.


No business ever has enough time, people, or money. Resource constraint is an opportunity for companies of every size, in every industry if they can become more focused on cutting through the noise and homing in on what truly matters. There’s going to be a real push toward solutions that make life easier — especially given the increased need for operational efficiency that I mentioned above.

There’s a tendency in the media business to make things seem more complicated than they need to be. After all, more complex problems require more expensive solutions – look no further than the “advertising industrial complex”. Businesses have had it with solutions that are too complicated, too expensive, and that don’t work well together. Instead they’ll be looking for vendors who can simplify to offer better insights for smart decision-making. Those who figure this out will have the inside track to success.

Connect the dots

Publishers are at an extreme disadvantage when it comes to truly understanding their visitors. This includes the differing levels of engagement with content. It’s really tough to make good decisions with incomplete information. Advertisers and data brokers collect and hoard data about visitors: behavior, demographics, and preferences. They use this to get the best (lowest) price for ad space. Those third parties aren’t sharing their knowledge anytime soon — and even if they did, how would you take action?

In order to get a fair deal, it’s critical to have a clear and actionable understanding of your audience. Developing a view into site visitors is about more than just effective monetization; it will help to improve your editorial content, optimize your site layout, better manage your ad strategy, and enhance the overall visitor experience.