Publishers saw significant increases in users from February (induced by Covid) with daily news media performing much better than weeklies and monthlies.
Majority of the publishers have maintained most of the gains well into the autumn, according to a new report by digital publishing platform Pugpig. The platform powers apps for publishers like The Economist, Condé Nast, Hearst Magazines and Tortoise, among others.
The report, State of the Digital Publishing Market, shares metrics on reader engagement and digital product features usage along with insights into audience development, product, platform, technology and organizational strategies of the world’s leading media brands.
It takes 12 months of sample data from across Pugpig’s stable of over 300 brands to look for macro level trends across daily and weekly news media, and monthly consumer media. The data is combined with in-depth interviews with senior industry executives from brands like The Economist, Condé Nast, Hearst, Tortoise, DMG Media and The Wall Street Journal among others.
Dailies outperforming weeklies and monthlies
Daily news media is doing better in both session durations and monthly sessions per user compared to weekly and monthly publications. This data, according to the report, can be “partly explained by the maturity of the news products and the value of habit-forming. It also suggests the monthlies may have work to do in creating more engaging products for their readers.”
A surprising finding is that live apps (that update throughout the day) are not used more frequently than editions. The latter enjoy longer session durations as well.
Readers are clearly favoring consumption on mobile devices with phones and tablets accounting for 81% of online minutes. Phones take up the lion’s share (67%) followed by desktops (19%) and tablets (14%).
It’s pretty clear that with so much time being spent on tablets and phones, you need to put mobile at the heart of your engagement strategy. Not only that but it needs to be phone first.State of the Digital Publishing Market Report, Pugpig
“Move towards meaningful long term relationships with our subscribers”
Looking at revenue, subscriptions continue to be the biggest driver in digital with websites dominating total revenue.
When asked about the top growth drivers in the coming year, most publishers chose subscriptions followed by new products and advertising.
“I think the correction that’s happening – the move away from the race to the bottom in terms of programmatic advertising and the move towards meaningful long term relationships with our subscribers is long overdue and that’s exciting,” said one of the executives interviewed for the report.
While subscriptions have been gaining importance for publishers in recent years, it’s interesting to note that most of them have ranked new products ahead of advertising. This implies that “publishers are thinking hard about new business models to stave off the decline in ad revenue.”
Most of the executives interviewed say they are optimistic about the future of their business and the publishing industry. Subscriptions are the biggest challenge with consumer magazines focused on acquisition and news media on retention.
“The emphasis is overwhelmingly on reader revenue”
“News media have been doing subs for some time now and are therefore focused on protecting their existing audience,” the authors write. “Many consumer publishers are only now starting to take digital subscriptions more seriously, and as a result they’re all about acquiring audience.”
“The emphasis is overwhelmingly on reader revenue,” says Jonny Kaldor, Founder and CEO, Pugpig.
“I think there’s a general feeling that the effect of Covid on publishing has been mainly to accelerate existing trends, squashing change timelines from years into months – and that has to be good for the industry,” he adds.
Publishers are innovating in a way that we haven’t seen since we started this business in 2011 – it’s a really exciting time.Jonny Kaldor, Founder and CEO, Pugpig
The full report can be downloaded from Pugpig:
State of the Digital Publishing Market