No strangers to evolution, publishers have proved more than a match for pandemic-boosted digital demand. The last twelve months have seen players both large and small moving fast to answer the consistently strong call for more diverse online content; and reaping rich rewards— with 92% reporting digital growth and Q3 revenues reaching over £149 million in the UK alone.
Through 2022, ensuring the right balance of positive audience experience, strong monetization and performance will require ongoing adjustment; alongside assistance from smart tools to find the best way sustainable forward for each publisher. We’ve rounded up a cross-section of industry thoughts for what 2022 could have in store for publishers…
Flexibility, adaptation and speed will be key
CEO of UK Publishing, Bauer Media
“2022 will see the beginning of intelligent regulation of digital platforms which can lead to a more level playing field for creators versus distributors. We look forward to the return of events and experiences under publisher brands and continued growth in audio, both channels that suit the personality and community that great magazine brands have at their heart. We expect to build more direct relationships with our readers, and to be more transparent with our advertisers about the influence we can have on our audiences.”
2022 will be a year where organisations will need to match the speed of these market transformations with the speed of their own ways of working; evolving both culture and capability at pace will be critical.Chris Duncan, CEO of UK Publishing, Bauer Media
Global Ad Product & Revenue Operations Director, Future plc
“With uncertainty set to continue into 2022, it is vital that advertisers build strategies that are both flexible and future-proof so that they can better their chances of reaching high-intent audiences. Publishers can help advertisers achieve this with rich first-party data – an essential tool in the privacy-first world and as the demise of the third-party cookie looms large.
“Some companies are already getting ahead of the curve and creating their own walled gardens by collecting and sharing first-party data in a privacy-compliant way, including Future with the launch of its own audience data platform, Aperture. The aggregated data allows all parties to gain valuable insights and target consumers more intelligently.”
It’s likely that publisher data will replace third-party data, especially at the premium end where larger publisher brands look to drive mid to upper-funnel impacts for marketers.Nick Flood, Global Ad Product & Revenue Operations Director, Future plc
Publishers should get ahead on page experience
CEO and Founder, Clickio
“The introduction of Core Web Vitals (CWVs) in 2020 highlighted that most publishers still struggle with site performance; something that negatively impacts the quality of the user experience and, in turn, publishers’ overall revenue. For example, when it comes to largest contentful paint (LCP) – which measures whether sites can load their biggest element within 2.5 seconds – less than half (44%) of global publishers and only 37% of the top 1,000 sites are able to do so.
As we move into 2022, it will therefore be vital for publishers to embrace technologies that improve site performance – and thus the user experience – by looking beyond strategies that focus on monetization alone. This calls for the use of intelligent tools that monitor and track sites’ CWVs scores, offering instant assessment of real user data and automated alerts when content falls below industry benchmarks – whether in terms of loading speed, visual stability, or reaction to consumer interactions. Monitoring site performance will be crucial for maintaining consumer trust, as well as boosting revenue, so we can expect site owners to prioritize the technology that enables this next year.”
As we move into 2022, it will be vital for publishers to embrace technologies that improve site performance – and thus the user experience – by looking beyond strategies that focus on monetization alone.Alexander Azarov, CEO and Founder, Clickio
CEO North America, MGID
“Page speed has been a talking point for some time, thanks to Google’s CWVs awarding higher search rankings to sites with faster load times. This is increasingly important as video becomes a more dominant medium and forms a key part of publishers’ ad monetization strategies. Lazy loading will provide a great solution for publishers, helping to maintain page loading speeds while keeping advertising costs efficient.”
Senior Director, EMEA, Total Media Solutions
“Thinking about how ads are used and placed on web pages will be a key concern for publishers going forward thanks to Google’s recent CWVs page experience update.
“Announced earlier this year, the user-centric update could see publishers slip down Google’s rankings if they don’t measure up well against three metrics – loading time, visual stability, and interactivity.
Publishers will need to evolve their ad offerings – exploring fixed ad sizes, sticky ads, lazy loading strategies or lower ad density – to stay higher in the Google rankings, and improve the experience for audiences.Steve Myslinki, Senior Director, EMEA, Total Media Solutions
Video remains a key focus for relevance and mixed revenue
Global Product Marketing Lead, Smart AdServer
“Leading print-oriented publishers that have experimented with audiovisual content on the web over the past five years are now recognizing the engagement and subscriber service value of video as a primary format. And no group has moved more quickly than national newspapers and weekly periodicals to build out video content studios to populate their digital editions. The Economist, for example, was an early mover in the CTV space, launching “The Economist Films” as far back as 2016 to create a hub for its long-form content.
“And as their production capabilities increase – and the cost and operational barriers to full-scale video distribution fall – these publishers will become challengers to traditional news broadcasters on CTV platforms. In the periodical category we’re already seeing the aggregation of the best video-centric digital publishers into larger digital holding companies. For example, in the US, Meredith/Time Inc. was acquired by digital media holding company IAC.”
The ecosystem needs broader solutions for third-party cookie loss
EMEA Managing Director, Lotame
“The retirement of third-party cookies doesn’t mean third-party data will also disappear. The reality is that third-party data will continue to be present because the alternatives that will crop up in its absence aren’t feasible for smaller publishers. First-party data or contextual targeting can’t be the answer for those publishers who don’t have enough data to scale. Contextual data works only inside one’s own domain, which for small publishers is too small.”
Additionally, we expect marketers will be less willing to engage with sites that don’t have as many monthly visitors as the larger ones. Smaller publishers seem to have been forgotten about by the industry, since they’re pushing ideas that won’t work for them, instead of solutions that will work for everyone. In the year ahead, we expect the voices of small, independent publishers will be better heard.”
More than just advertising
General Manager, EMEA, Zuora
“In 2022 the Media industry will continue to see the acceleration of a trend already well underway; the migration from pure-play advertising monetisation to alternative revenue models – aka Subscriptions. In order to re-define the relationship with audiences and to grow global revenues, media companies across all segments – from OTT/streaming and gaming to publishing, education and music – will all continue to rely on subscription services as the predominant revenue stream.
“Just think about Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max, XBOX – all thriving subscription services. Early adopters in the publishing segment, like the Guardian – are already ahead of the curve. Through these programmes, members will be able to enjoy exclusive content including discussions, debates and interviews as well as customer-centric features such as holiday requests, suspensions and easy upgrades. They will enable publishers to boost the customer experience whilst attracting new sources of revenue.”