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Online publishers optimistic about advertising

Online publishers report subscription growth and advertising optimism

Total digital revenue was up by 3% in Q4 compared to the same period in 2021, UK’s Association of Online Publishers and Deloitte report. The growth was concentrated to the highest performers and less than half (43%) reported growth. There are also signs that economic pressures are being felt, with cost reductions now prioritised by 75% of respondents, up from 50% in Q4 2021, the report says. 

“However, there is increased optimism around advertising revenues, with 75% of respondents showing confidence in the category, compared to just half in 2021’s Q4 survey.”

Subscriptions saw the strongest growth for publishers in Q4 2022, increasing by 12.9% compared to Q4 2021, with AOP saying this shows that audiences continue to prioritise premium content despite cost-of-living pressures. 

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Display advertising and video revenues remained relatively static at 0.1% and -1.9% growth respectively, while recruitment classifieds and other classifieds — growth leaders in Q3 2022 — fell by 3.6% and 10.7%. Sponsorships saw the biggest decline in revenues at -24%.

When splitting revenues by platform, the survey shows a continuation of the shift away from desktop-only devices to mobile devices, with mobile growing 16.7% versus Q4 2021 and desktop falling 9.5%. 

Multi-platform revenues — by far the largest category – increased by 3.7%, driven by substantial growth in video (33.3%), subscriptions (12.9%), and display advertising (8.1%).

Total digital revenues increased to GBP 637.7 million when assessed on a 12-month rolling basis, up 4.4% compared to 2021. 

“Despite its quarterly decline, revenues from recruitment classifieds stayed strong at 16.9% year-on-year, as did display advertising revenues (16.6%) and subscriptions (11.3%). On a 12-month rolling basis, B2B and B2C publishers experienced growth of 6.8% and 4.2% respectively”, the report says.

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“It’s encouraging to see modest but positive revenue growth in the industry, despite the unsettled economic conditions. Subscription strategies, in particular, continue to pay off — far from a given in this period of consumer purse-tightening — which is a testament to the quality of content produced by premium publishers”, says Richard Reeves, managing director at AOP.

“Looking ahead, there are signs that the slight uptick in year-on-year revenues may be the start of a broader trend, with publishers showing high confidence in ad revenues and inflationary pressures soon reaching their peak. Hopefully this will ease cost pressures and better balance the share of growth across the industry, which is currently a little too top-heavy.”

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