Digital publishing revenue ended 2022 3% up on 2021

Despite the increase in overall revenue, just 43% of companies reported growth, indicating that the rises are concentrated among top performers.

Total digital publishing revenue for Q4 2022 totalled £179.6m – a 3% increase from Q4 2021 – the latest Digital Publishers’ Revenue Index (DPRI) from the Association of Online Publishers (AOP) and Deloitte has revealed.

Subscriptions saw the strongest growth for publishers, increasing by 12.9% year-on-year for Q4 2022, indicating that despite the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, audiences continue to prioritise premium content.

Display advertising and video revenues remained relatively static at 0.1% and -1.9% growth respectively, but 75% of respondents reported strong confidence in advertising revenue growth.

Dan Ison, Lead Partner for telecommunications, media and entertainment at Deloitte, said: “Many consumers remain committed to their subscriptions, despite tighter budgets as a result of higher cost of living. It is evident that the appetite for exclusive content remains intact, making it even more important for digital publishers to continue to prioritise consistent, high quality outputs to maintain consumer interest and drive growth.”

Less promising is the fact that two growth leaders from Q3 2022, recruitment classifieds and other classifieds, fell by 3.6% and 10.7% respectively. The biggest decline in revenues however, was in sponsorships, by 24%.

In terms of revenues by platform, the index identified a clear trend whereby audiences are continuing to shift away from desktop-only devices to mobile devices, with mobile taking in £26.6m and growing 16.7% compared to Q4 2021 while desktop fell 9.5% down to £28.7m. Both of these categories were blown out of the water by multi-platform revenues, totalling £121.6m and increasing by 3.7%.

This increase was driven by substantial growth in video (33.3%), subscriptions (12.9%) and display advertising (8.1%) and represents the benefit of publishing campaigns across several platforms.

Year-on-year outlook

Despite a tumultuous economic year, total digital revenues on a 12-month rolling basis went up 4.4% compared to 2021, totalling £637.7m. In terms of year-on-year growth, revenues from recruitment classifieds stayed strong at 16.9% – despite declining in Q4 2022 – as did display advertising revenues (16.6%) and subscriptions (11.3%). B2B and B2C publishers experienced growth of 6.8% and 4.2% respectively.

Although total revenues have trended upwards, less than half of respondents (43%) reported growth, indicating that the revenue increases are somewhat concentrated among the highest performers. This increasing economic pressure is being felt around the industry and the need for cautious spending is represented by 75% of respondents now prioritising cost reductions, up 50% from Q4 2021.

Richard Reeves, Managing Director at AOP, said of the cautious optimism: “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.

“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.”