There were some key themes that came out of Mediatel’s Future of Publishing Conference on Thursday, 25th June. The first was the unanimous agreement that the relationship between newsbrands and their readers has become evidently stronger during COVID-19, with much higher engagement and reach than ever before. However, advertising revenue is falling at a disproportionate rate compared to other media, plus they have also suffered from advertisers including them on blocklists. Advertisers need to invest in quality journalism whilst recognising that there are ways around keyword blocking without excluding large engaged audiences.
Secondly, measurement was a big topic of conversation, especially in light of the changes ABC have made this year; they are no longer publishing monthly circulation certificates and have moved to a more private reporting option for publishers. The purpose of this was to prevent negative reporting of newsbrands’ circulation – it didn’t show the true health of a newsbrand because digital reach was not included in the reporting. There is a sense that this is just the tip of the iceberg and more changes need to be made to reflect the reach that newsbrands deliver. However, in order to do this, there is a need for greater consistency across the market.
The third theme was whether publishing will survive in a cookie-less world. It appears that they will be OK! Many publishers have a wealth of first party data and aren’t reliant on third party data. Ozone (a private marketplace just for newsbrands and magazine websites) is a great example of this, they can access 63% of the UK population daily through first party data. However, they are still missing out on the open market because advertisers aren’t prepared to pay a premium for this trusted content.
Finally, publishers have recognised that to survive in today’s world they cannot rely on ad revenue. Publishers have taken different approaches for survival such as: subscriptions-first model (e.g. The Daily Telegraph aim to be funded by subscribers), tightening of paywalls (e.g. The Times stopping their free trials and discount rates to avoid high churn), contributions (e.g. The Guardian website asks readers to donate or become members), data (e.g. News UK’s News IQ), diversification (e.g. Events) and licensing of their content (to some of the news aggregators). However, they are still up against the big tech giants who are still refusing to pay for news content in the UK despite three other countries (incl. Australia) now having regulations in place where Google and Facebook must pay publishers for their news.
It was evident from the conference that publishing, more than ever, is highly important to society right now. It is a key vehicle for communicating what is happening in the world from a trusted source. The Government’s newsbrand advertising is testament to this, having invested a lot of advertising money into the medium over the past few months to inform readers on what the latest COVID-19 regulations are and detailing out what people are and are not allowed to do. They understand the power of publishing and the trusted environment/association that comes with this.