Digital Publishing Reader Revenue Top Stories
1 min read

6 out of 10 publishers say revenue has increased over the last year: Reuters Institute

News publishers report more revenue from multiple sources and plan further push into reader revenue

One of the biggest surprises in this year’s survey is the growth in revenue reported by many publishers.

Nic Newman, Senior Research Associate at Reuters Institute

Leading publishers report higher revenue and are confident about their businesses in 2022. Despite lower traffic and news fatigue around the pandemic, they say they will get more money from multiple revenue sources. 

Many will focus on reader revenue models this year and some expect to get significant income from tech platforms and other revenue streams. Business plans include a bet on habit-forming products such as newsletters and podcasts, reaching younger audiences through visual platforms like Instagram and TikTok, and more use of artificial intelligence as a way of delivering more personalised experiences.

These are some of the findings from Journalism, Media, and Technology Trends and Predictions 2022, an annual report published by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. The report, authored by Senior Research Associate Nic Newman, is based on a survey of 246 CEOs, editors and digital leaders from 52 countries. 

  • 59% of news leaders in 52 countries say their revenue has increased in 2021 despite the fact that 54% also reported static or falling page views.
  • 79% of the news executives surveyed say reader revenue will be their key priority, ahead of both display (73%) and native advertising (59%). But 47% worry that subscriptions are pushing journalism towards richer audiences.
  • Publishers say they will pay less attention to Facebook (-8 net score) and Twitter (-5) this year and will instead put more effort into Instagram (+54), TikTok (+44), and YouTube (+43) in order to reach younger audiences.
  • Many publishers will be putting more resources this year into podcasts (80%) and newsletters (70%). They also say AI will be key for personalisation (85%), newsroom automation (81%) and business purposes (69%).

Here are the key findings:

1. Revenue is up for many and comes from more sources 

Almost six out of ten of respondents say their revenue has increased over the last year, despite the fact that 54% also reported their traffic hasn’t gone up. With the pandemic still impacting economic prospects in many countries, publishers report that digital advertising is booming and subscription revenue has increased. In the light of these figures, it’s not surprising that 75% of the managers surveyed say they are confident about their company’s prospects for 2022, though fewer (60%) say the same about journalism as a whole. 

More publishers plan to push ahead with reader revenue strategies this year, with 79% of those surveyed saying this will be one of their most important priorities, ahead of both display and native advertising. This raises questions about information inequalities, with 47% of respondents worrying that subscriptions may be pushing journalism towards richer and more educated audiences and leaving others behind. 

On average, publishers say that three or four different revenue streams will be important or very important this year. After agreements in France, Australia and other countries, 29% expect to get significant revenue from tech platforms for content licensing or innovation in 2022, with 15% looking to philanthropic funds and foundations. Others are hoping to restart events businesses that stalled during the COVID-19 crisis.

Covid has built confidence in the value of journalism and has focused minds on new digital revenue streams like subscriptions, but a key challenge for the news media this year is to re-engage those who have turned away from news – as well as to build deeper relationships with more regular news consumers.

Nic Newman, Senior Research Associate and author of the report

2. Publishers bet on visual platforms to reach younger audiences 

As younger audiences shift to more visual platforms, news publishers say they’ll be paying less attention to Facebook and Twitter. The survey shows that they will be putting much more effort into Instagram (net score of +54), TikTok (+44) and YouTube (+43), and less effort into Twitter (-5) and Facebook (-8). News organisations are increasingly worried about how to attract younger audiences and many see native video formats as part of the answer.

At the same time many news organisations will be tightening their rules on how journalists should behave on social media in 2022. Most of the respondents (57%) feel that journalists should stick to reporting the news on Twitter and Facebook this year and worry that expressing more personal views could undermine trust.

3. News leaders perceive climate coverage as a big challenge 

As the impact of climate change becomes more pressing, the news industry remains uncertain about how to deal with this complex story. Only a third of those surveyed (34%) rated general coverage as good, even if they felt their own coverage (65%) was better. News editors say it is hard to get mainstream audiences to take notice of a slow-moving story that can often make audiences feel depressed. In turn this means it’s hard to make the case to hire the necessary specialist journalists to explain and bring it to life.

4. Innovation will focus on newsletters, podcasts and AI 

News innovation will focus this year on improving existing offerings and not so much on launching new products. Up to 67% of respondents say they will spend most of their time iterating products and making them quicker and more effective. Only 32% said their priority would be launching new products and brand extensions. Publishers say the biggest barriers to innovation are the lack of money and the difficulty in attracting and retaining technical staff. 

News publishers say that they will be putting more resources into formats that increase loyalty and attract new subscribers. Most of the respondents say they’ll focus on podcasts and digital audio (80%) as well as email newsletters (70%), two channels that have proved effective in creating news habits in audiences who are willing to pay for news online. By contrast just 14% say they’ll be investing in voice and just 8% in creating new applications for the metaverse such as VR and AR. 

Media companies continue to bet on artificial intelligence as a way of delivering more personalised experiences and greater production efficiency. Up to 85% say these technologies will be important for better content recommendations and newsroom automation (81%). More than two-thirds (69%) see AI as critical on the business side in helping to attract and retain customers.

After a period where digital advertising revenue has leaked away to giant platforms, publishers have an opportunity to secure better results this year. 

Nic Newman, Senior Research Associate and author of the report

Get the full report from the RISJ website:
Journalism, Media, and Technology Trends and Predictions 2022