Each year following their annual survey of news leaders, the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism predicts the trends and changes the media industry will see in the new year. As always, the 2022 report is full of valuable insights and is well worth a read. Join us today as we look at the key takeaways for your strategies in 2022, straight from the brains of your industry peers.
Publishers continue to focus on subscription revenue
Business is good for publishers. Just 8% of publishers surveyed by Reuters reported that revenues had declined, with a healthy 59% saying that overall revenues have increased. Whilst increasing subscription revenue has been a key trend over recent years, advertising bounced back in 2021. According to GroupM, digital advertising grew at its fastest ever rate of 30% year on year in 2021.
Despite this, subscription revenue remains at the forefront of publisher’s revenue plans. 79% placed subscription revenue as their main revenue focus for 2022, up 5% from 2020. This is despite 54% publishers reporting static or declining traffic on their news sites. Promisingly for subscribers who appreciate their user experience, this focus on subscription revenue remains ahead of both display (73%) and native (59%) advertising.
Making sure that these subscriptions are still accessible will be important. 47% of news leaders are concerned that subscription models may push journalism towards super-serving richer and more educated audiences. Therefore, Reuters predict that publishers will offer more deals for those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
To keep subscription numbers high elsewhere, publishers will have to work hard to ensure people are still willing to pay for their products. Reuters expect that many publishers will look at innovative ways to counter subscription fatigue. This includes offering product extensions and bundling to enhance the value of their products. Moves of this nature have already been extremely successful for publishers, such as the New York Times launching their crosswords and cooking apps.
The outlook for 2022 looks promising for publishers, with 73% stating that they are optimistic ahead of 2022.
Journalism is no longer being taken for granted. The industry is explaining itself better and money is flowing proportionately to economic growth.David Walmsley, Editor-in-Chief, Globe and Mail
2022 will be the year of product improvement
Due to COVID-19, publishers have less money available to make riskier investments. 51% of publishers say that they don’t have enough money to invest in innovation in 2022. A similar number state that they are struggling to find or retain technical, design or data staff.
Financial issues weren’t the only reason for a lack of planned investment in innovation. 41% cited a lack of alignment between different departments as a stumbling block for product innovation. Others also cited the fact that they already embarked upon a clear product innovation path.
Instead, 67% publishers have their main focus on iterating or improving existing products. Just 32% plan to invest in new technologies or services.
Of these improvements, 80% told Reuters that their focus should be on podcasts or other audio. 70% plan to focus on building and revamping newsletters, with 63% choosing to focus on video. Clearly, finite experiences remain at the heart of publishers plans for 2022.
We expect audio to remain firmly behind the paywall. Subscriptions are the main revenue focus this year, and audio has proven to be an effective conversion and retention tool.Patrick O’Flaherty, Co-Founder and CEO, BeyondWords
In terms of technology, 85% say that AI will be important this year in delivering better personalisation and content recommendations. This is a trend we have also seen amongst our customers like NRC, Daily Mail or Keskisuomalainen who have leveraged JAMES Personalisation in their retention strategies.
Reuters expect images and video to be the next frontier of AI. They provide the example of DALL-E which automates original image creation from text instructions. Their tool has the potential to transform storytelling and visual journalism.
Despite much discussion in 2021, just 8% plan to focus on the metaverse in 2022.
Publishers bid adieu to Facebook and Twitter
In 2022, publishers will finally become serious about attracting new audiences. To do this, many plan to gamble with video. Live video is booming again, and short-form video is reaching tens of millions of Gen-Z viewers on social media. TikTok now reaches 24% of those under-35s, with 7% using it for news.
As a result, the net focus of publishers on social media has shifted drastically. According to Reuters, publishers will begin to abandon Twitter and Facebook. The platforms show a -5 and -8 respective net point decrease in dedicated effort compared to previous years. Instead, greater effort will be poured into Instagram (+54), with TikTok (+44) and YouTube (+43) close behind.
A significant challenge presented by this shift is for publishers to stand out amongst a bed of influencers and fake news. On TikTok, it is mainly influencers and celebrities that people are paying attention to for news, with relatively few publishers, like the Washington Post, being able to break through.
Researchers from The Institute for Strategic Dialogue found that just over 100 posts presenting vaccination misinformation had received a worrying 20 million views as a result of TikTok’s algorithms and unique audio features designed for virality.
New social networks will take off
Newer social media outlets will thrive in 2022. Reuters predict that influencers will build mass audiences via networks like Twitch. The gaming platform saw early success in 2021 with Spanish influencer Ibai Llanos securing the first interview with footballer Lionel Messi after his move to Paris Saint Germain.
Here, the Spanish influencer outcompeted traditional journalists and saw his original broadcast viewed by 300,000 people live. With the platform particularly popular with fans of e-sports and young men, keep an eye on Twitch’s progress in 2022.
Further copyright clashes to come
Waters may become muddied for tech giants in 2022. Legislative bodies around the world have been introducing regulations designed to curb their dominance and unfair competition. But, don’t expect it to stop there! Reuters predict that publishers can expect more copyright payments for news.
Publishers in France have already benefitted from the European Copyright Directive. Others in Australia have benefitted from the News Bargaining Code. In 2022, publishers will go further. National interpretations of the European Copyright Directive will see publishers in countries like Italy and Spain cash in.
The fight is not over between big tech and publishers
The lack of success of aggregation services is likely to harm social media and big tech further. Whilst Reuters claim that these services were partially created to head off harmful legislation, their success has been limited. As found in Reuters Digital News Report 2021, weekly usage of Apple News in the UK has been declining steadily since 2019 to only 21% of iPhone users. Reuters expect internal reviews on the value of these separate features.
Big tech will be able to fight back through their impending limitation of third-party cookies used by many publishers to track users and their activities. 2022 will see publishers focus on building first-party data to keep their products functioning. Reuters predict that this will be done through interactive features, events and competitions. Whatever happens, the relationship between big tech and publishers is bound to be up for discussion in years to come.
More brain snacks from the report
- Traditional media companies are expected to hoover up talent that has gone solo as a way to feed their subscription pipelines.
- The biggest players will continue to purchase more digital brands like The New York Times‘ purchasing of The Athletic.
- Publishers will look to become audio destinations of their own. This will spark a battle between competing platforms and publishers to control subscriber experiences.
- The AI gap will be bridged with Natural Language Processing and Generation models branching out to include more languages.
- Despite just 8% of publishers focusing on products for the metaverse, more interviews and events are expected to be hosted on it as companies try to understand the concept.