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Publishers’ business priorities and “readiness to meet the future”: Key AOP survey findings

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55% of publishers see subscriptions as the biggest area for revenue growth in the next three years, according to a new AOP study. Other important opportunities cited by publishers include lead generation (33%), creation of new audio opportunities – audio, podcasts, or internet radio (31%), and e-commerce (31%). 

Source: Digital Publishing: Meeting the Future Report 2022

The study was conducted by AOP between 5th January and 9th February 2022 and had 111 respondents. 83% were publishers and the remaining 17% were companies providing solutions to the publishing industry. The findings of the survey are presented in AOP’s Digital Publishing: Meeting the Future Report 2022. It provides a snapshot of how digital publishing companies across the UK are continuing to respond to the challenge to change. 

“Right tactics and strategies to provide an effective response”

“We wanted to understand business priorities and the readiness of the industry to meet the future,” the authors write. “A world without third party cookies where first-party data will provide control; a world where online safety and privacy concerns are taken increasingly seriously; a world where consumers are wondering which sources of information to trust; and a world where businesses are having to focus on attracting and retaining diverse talent.” 

What emerges is a picture of digital publishing companies that understand the bigger picture challenges, have identified the opportunities, but are perhaps still working through what will be the right tactics and strategies to provide an effective response and a proactive competitive lead.

Digital Publishing: Meeting the Future Report 2022, AOP

The top strategic priorities include developing new revenue streams through product innovation, and data privacy compliance and transparency. “Interestingly, recruiting and retaining talent, and ensuring a diverse and inclusive workplace, are rated higher [in joint third place with “developing new first-party data strategies”] than the tech-focused challenges you might expect the digital publishing sector to rate highly important, such as internal development of proprietary tech solutions to support business objectives,” the authors note. 

Source: Digital Publishing: Meeting the Future Report 2022

The respondents believe that having more diverse journalistic talent is the most effective way to respond to the rising challenge of misinformation and disinformation and break the echo chamber. However, 70% of publishers said they are facing recruitment challenges across all areas of the digital publishing business, particularly in more technical roles, sales, and journalism. 

“Truly harness their unique understanding of their audiences”

Google’s plan for the deprecation of the cookie was a dominant topic of discussion. When asked how well prepared they were for the changes, publishers rated their confidence level at 6.6 out of 10 on average. 20% said they were already collaborating with other publishers on alternative data initiatives, 16% were discussing collaboration and 40% were open to the possibility of collaboration. 

The importance of first-party has grown in the last few years as publishers prioritize reader revenues. Even those who still rely on advertising as a major source of revenue are giving more importance to first-party data to serve their users and advertisers better. 75% of publishers say that they are working to ensure that audience data informs everything they do. However, only 17% have all of their teams are aligned internally around their audience data.

Source: Digital Publishing: Meeting the Future Report 2022

“Collaboration is going to be key factor”

Additional organizational priorities cited by publishers include a strong focus on audience and subscriber development; refining business models; building the right ecosystem of commercial, data, and tech partnerships, and leadership training.

“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,” says Richard Reeves, MD, AOP. “Confidence levels are broadly optimistic, with publishers realizing that the year ahead heralds a new era, where they can begin to truly harness their unique understanding of their audiences.

“Collaboration is going to be key factor, and we’re already seeing the value of shared testing and learning through our dedicated working groups.”

The full report can be downloaded from AOP:
Digital Publishing: Meeting the Future Report 2022