Publishers Look to Diversification Amid Falling Video and Display Revenues

Tim Cross 19 March, 2024 

UK digital publishers’ overall revenues fell by 1.8 percent year-on-year in Q4, according to the latest Digital Publishers’ Revenue Index (DPRI) from the Association of Online Publishers (AOP) and Deloitte, driven by falling online video and display advertising revenues. And while there were some positive signs among the results, the report’s authors described it as a “wake up call” for publishers that they should lean too heavily on major ad revenue streams.

The DPRI’s data is based on a survey of 13 UK digital publishers, including nine B2C publishers and four B2B publishers. Across these publishers, total revenues were down by an average of 0.5 percent in 2023, and 1.8 percent in Q4 specifically. Online video revenues fell by 17.6 percent in 2023 and 24.5 percent in Q4, while display advertising revenues were down 10.1 percent for the full year, and 17.2 percent in Q4.

There was more positive news elsewhere in the report. Some other revenue categories such as subscriptions and sponsorship saw significant growth (10.3 percent and 31.1 percent in Q4 respectively). Digital audio, while still relatively small, grew by 300 percent in Q4. And not all publishers were equally hit by revenue declines – half of those surveyed reported revenue growth in Q4.

The revenue streams which did see growth are significantly smaller than digital advertising, hence why their combined growth wasn’t enough to counteract the fall in display ad and online video revenues. But publishers may have to increasingly lean on these smaller (but growing) sources of income.

Andy Cowen, lead partner for telecommunications, media and entertainment at Deloitte, said the results show that “relying on display revenues is a risk for publishers”. Richard Reeves, the managing director of the AOP, said that “the future of publisher revenues is clearly in diversification.”

Reeves said that publishers who have been reliant on referrals from social platforms to drive traffic have been hit by ad revenue falls, while simultaneously advertisers are increasingly keen on running omnichannel campaigns. “Publishers planning to put their revenue eggs in many baskets would be wise to pay attention to audio’s meteoric growth, as well as the seemingly unstoppable rise in subscriptions,” said Reeves.

Indeed, this is the strategy publishers seem to be pursuing. All respondents to the DPRI survey placed new products and non-advertising revenues as top priorities.

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About the Author:

Tim Cross is Assistant Editor at VideoWeek.
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