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Publishing Future Survey

Written by Barry Cronin on March 13, 2014

Listening to a UK newspaper publisher talk through their plans to “reinvent” themselves on BBC Radio4’s The Media Show was very revealing. In summary, by curating the news, from any/every news-source their coverage would provide “news without the boring bits” the objective being to build a bigger audience and then monetize it largely through native advertising (which was described as advertorial on steroids).

The radio segment was revealing in that it wasn’t revelatory. No sense of this being a new, daring strategy, more an acceptance of how dire the situation was and this was their only option or last resort. In this same week, there was a buzz emanating from Business Insider’s Ignition event in NYC with the announcement that Google’s US ad revenues were bigger than either ALL US newspapers ad revenues combined or respective US magazines coupled with the inevitable slide/announcement depicting how print revenue has fallen off a cliff.

Yes, it’s no secret that US newspaper’s ad revenues have tanked from $45 billion in 2003 to less than $20 billion in 2012. What is more disconcerting is the corresponding – minimal in comparison – growth of their digital ad revenues from an estimated $1.22 billion in 2003 to just $3.39 billion in 2012. And this trend continues, in 2012 for every 15 print dollars lost, only 1 digital dollar was gained.

This is just as true for the newspaper/magazine business on a global scale as it is in the US. So are we right to proclaim that digital media belongs to digital natives (Apple/Google/Facebook/ etc) as “old media” fades away?

Not necessarily. As publishers experience sharply declining ad revenue, the emerging gold standard for digital progress in the newspaper/magazine business is digital subscriptions - the New York Times is often used as the poster boy for building a paid-for content business model. With almost three quarters of a million digital subscribers its reader revenue has eclipsed advertising revenue and is only now just making a profit after years of significant losses. As an analyst wryly commented “The New York Times has a successful digital platform to help offset some of the ongoing newspaper advertising weakness. It’s still a headwind you’re going to try to offset every day.”

But what’s encouraging here is that it has turned a corner, its business model continues to adapt and can be replicated by others.

The Mail Online is another great example of an evolving, successful business model as it continues to grow its audience and build a premium ad model service through working with online/offline data companies, build high-value audience segments which can be bought at a premium.

Condenast is enjoying the continued growth of its high-end brands like GQ, Vogue, Tatler and in the technology space Wired, across most or all delivery platforms.

And the media industry is looking forward to seeing what changes/plans Jeff Bezos has for the the Washington Post.

These are just a couple of examples of how publishers are building successful paid-for content or advertiser/audience driven business models. Both rely on proving the value of their content and/or the audiences they build to their readers and advertisers.

Publishers are experimenting with new business models, technologies and processes to secure future success:

  • How do they evaluate these opportunities?
  • How do they staff/resource for these opportunities?  
  • What does the future look like for publishers?

  • What are the business models they will be adopting or adapting to?

  • Who will be the publishers of the future?

  • What ad models are publishers experimenting with at the moment? Have they gained useful/actionable insights which will help them rise to the challenges ahead?

These are just some of the questions we will be asking in our Publishing Future survey and we would like you to be part of it to help better understand what future success for publishers looks like.

You can complete the survey here:

Participants that complete the survey and leave their email will have access to the report.


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