- Publishers will look to diversify revenue streams further with commerce and interest-based newsletters.
- A first-party data strategy is no longer nice to have but a necessity.
- Demand for audio content will continue to grow.
Life and business are in flux as we enter a third year of pandemic existence. While the Omicron strain threatens the routines we were just getting back to, 2022 doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom, especially for digital publishers who are used to adapting and evolving.
This year will see the continuation of several trends that have been building steam; some were spurred into action because of the pandemic and others because of technology and consumer demands (we’re looking at you, cookie deprecation!). If necessity is the mother of invention, this is a prime time for publishers to reinvent themselves.
Below are the six trends that we predict will lead the publishing industry this year.
1. Content-commerce collaborations increase
Even before digital consumption dominated daily life, publishers used multiple revenue streams to support their business, including ads, advertorials, and subscriptions. Although advertising still generates the most revenue, publishers are embracing new revenue streams. According to Digiday, 64% of publishers rely on direct product sales as a revenue stream, and 72% say that affiliate marketing generates a part of their earnings.
Public trust in social media is at an all-time low. Consumers are spending more time on the open web, opening the door for publishers to leverage the trust they already have with audiences to sell them products. Although reports indicate 94% of publishers use affiliate marketing, we expect to see publishers produce more content that includes product recommendations from affiliate programs they are a part of and more direct sales deals with brands.
2. Diversified monetization strategy
According to eMarketer, digital advertising will continue to grow but not at the crazy record-setting pace of 2021. The pandemic taught us that no business, publishers included, should have all their revenue-generating eggs in one basket (or two when we consider commerce trends).
For publishers that haven’t yet jumped on the newsletter train, now is the time. Newsletters can help publishers develop deeper, direct relationships with readers. While that doesn’t offer an immediate financial payoff, a dedicated readership is attractive to brands that can advertise in it or sponsor it. In fact, the Washington Post was able to amass such consistent readership and a 40% open rate with their coronavirus newsletter, Slack, Salesforce, and Goldman Sachs all became sponsors.
Subscription models will continue to make a strong showing, but some consumers report feeling fatigued will all the content available on the open web, further noting that they prefer content-specific newsletters instead.
3. Consumers want to listen, not just read
Between audiobooks and podcasts, audio has captured consumers’ attention, or ears as the case may be. Edison Research found that some 80 million Americans listened to podcasts weekly in 2021, a 20% increase from 2020. Publishers can use audio to connect with audiences at times when users want to consume content but can’t read, like when they are driving.
Top publishers including The New Yorker, The Economist, and The Atlantic all offer readers narrated articles, not in place of written content but in addition to it. Publishers interested in this booming trend can partner with a service to create narrated content versions (like we do) or monetize their audio content through revenue-sharing agreements with audio apps such as Audm.
4. Capitalizing on a first-party data strategy
With the demise of the cookie looming on the horizon, current privacy regulations, and consumer-initiated tracking prevention, publishers need to reassess their data collection strategies. This isn’t news, but smaller publishers have been slower to implement strategies. We expect more of these publishers to adopt a few tried and tested collection methods this year, mainly because they are quick and easy to implement.
People are motivated by value and trade-offs. Publishers can use premium content or exclusive promotions to incentivize audiences to share at least some data like an email address. Piggybacking on that, as logins will become more commonplace, so will simplified registrations and logins. Giving users the ability to sign in quickly with a social media or Google ID will cut friction and give publishers access to more data.
5. Readers influence content production
Competition is becoming stiffer across every industry. To create brand loyalists, businesses are becoming more customer-centric, offering products, services, and solutions that speak to customer needs. Digital publishers are also taking this approach, analyzing traffic and data to see which stories get the most clicks and using that to inform their content strategy and production. With publishers now accumulating more first-party data, making those content decisions is even easier.
A number of publishers have been using questionnaires to gather information about what piques their audience’s interest, and we expect to see more publishers implement this tactic along with other engaging formats such as quizzes and polls. As a small example, a publisher could poll readers to determine how interested they would be in audio content before allocating a portion of their budget to creating it.
6. Continued focus on UX
We mentioned that businesses are becoming customer-centric, and Google is no different. However, for Google, customer-centric, at least partially, equates to serving users content that delivers a great user experience (UX).
Google will continue to ramp up its Web Vitals program, which means publishers will need to find ways to improve their sites, and those that have been slow to change will need to kick change into high gear. We expect to see some major site redesigns that improve page load times, stability, navigation, and the ad experience consumers see. We don’t know if Google will add new signals to its algorithm, but it’s best to optimize for the current signals, so should new ones be introduced, the workload is achievable.
Looking at the year ahead
The reality is that no one can predict the future, which is both daunting and exciting. What publishers should do is prepare for knowable situations like the need for first-party data and the eventual loss of cookies. Beyond that, diversifying revenue streams with audio, newsletters, advertising and commerce can future-proof a company as much as possible. In the end, the advice is the same: test new strategies, evaluate what works, and optimize along the way.
If you have questions about how to implement any of these trends, get in touch with us.
About the author Steve Myslinski is the Senior Director of Sales for EMEA at Total Media Solutions and brings years of experience helping publishers realize their true potential for monetizing their inventory.
Starting out as an engineer in the automotive industry, before getting his MBA and joining the adtech industry, he provides a unique approach to sales with an analytical and problem solving style to addressing a publishers needs.
Find Steve on LinkedIn or reach him ">by email.