Digital Publishing Reader Revenue
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New study points to publisher priorities for revenue growth

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According to a 2022 survey from the UK’s Association for Digital Publishing (AOP), more than half of publishers are prioritising subscriptions as the biggest area for revenue growth over the next three years. Other important publisher priorities spotlighted in the AOP report include lead generation, audio and ecommerce.


  • The subscription focus highlighted by the AOP’s Digital Publishing: Meeting the Future Report 2022 is unsurprising. Stalling advertising revenues and newsstand sales have pushed reader-revenue strategies to the front of the line for a long time. That a solid 55% of publishers surveyed by the AOP are following a subscription development path is confirmation of what we already knew.
  • What is maybe more telling is the positioning of the revenue opportunities that follow subscriptions on publishers’ priority lists. Display advertising is stuck at eighth, with just 20% of publishers showing any belief that growth is possible in a sector dominated by the Triopoly. At fifth on the list, sponsorship does better, showing potential for about a quarter of publishers.
  • Possibly reflecting the damage COVID-19 inflicted on the conference and exhibition sector since 2020, events are down at sixth on the AOP’s growth-potential list. Less than a quarter of the publishers surveyed see events having a place among their priorities, a stark turnaround from just a couple of years ago when events were high on every publisher’s agenda.

Other opportunities

  • Second on the list, lead generation was highlighted as an area with significant potential for growth by a third of the publishers in the AOP survey. The report authors point out that, alongside subscription development, the focus on securing leads highlights the importance of building direct relationships and opportunities for leveraging their first-party data.
  • Reflecting the exponential growth in publisher ecommerce since the beginning of the pandemic, ecommerce was cited as a priority growth area by 31% of the AOP’s survey respondents. The development of ecommerce revenue aligns with the top strategic priority highlighted in the report – developing new revenue streams through product innovation.
  • Neck-and-neck with ecommerce in potential for growth, 31% of publishers surveyed identified audio products as having strong revenue potential. This covers in-page audio, podcasts and internet radio and, considering the growth in ecommerce over the past two years, that shows surprising optimism around the potential for audio.

Beyond revenue

Additional organisational priorities cited by publishers include a strong focus on audience and subscriber development. Publishers are also working to refine business models in the face of commercial and regulatory change. Richard Reeves, Managing Director of the AOP said:

We already know that publishers have successfully weaned themselves off a sole reliance on advertising and continue to focus on new and alternative revenue streams, which is mirrored in the findings.

Somewhat surprisingly, recruiting and retaining talent, and ensuring a diverse and inclusive workplace, are rated higher than the technology focused challenges that the digital publishing sector would be assumed to focus on.

While 70% of publishers said they are facing recruitment challenges across all areas of their business,  respondents believe that having more diverse journalistic talent is the most effective way to respond to the rising challenge of misinformation.

This piece was originally published in Spiny Trends and is re-published with permission. Spiny Trends is a division of, a content analytics and revenue generation platform for digital publishers. For weekly updates and analysis on the industry news you need as a media and publishing business, subscribe to Spiny’s Trends weekly email roundup here.