Media Publishing in 2024: Predictions for the C-Suite
2023 brought significant change to the world of digital media. The Justice Department’s lawsuit against Google over alleged anticompetitive practices in search went to trial, for example, and tech giants like Apple introduced more privacy features to their omnipresent platforms. The digital advertising status quo of third-party cookies and tracking has been upended, while inventory across channels has proliferated, and measurement practices are playing catch-up.
It’s an exciting unpredictable time to be in publishing. With the new year on the horizon, we’ve been speaking with many of our partners about what’s next—specifically, what they’re most excited, nervous, or unsure about. We’ve consolidated these insights into four predictions we expect to see in 2024.
#1: Social traffic continues to decline
We’ve already observed traffic referrals from social start to dip in 2023, and that trend will continue in the new year. The traffic-driving influence of X (née Twitter) and Meta’s Facebook has collapsed, in some cases plummeting by as much as 100 million referrals since late 2020.
Publishers must brace themselves for this continued downward trend as Meta threatens to block news-sharing in the U.S. after already doing so in Canada. (The same redesign is expected to happen in the EU in the coming months, too; in fact, the news tab is already gone). For website business models reliant on social for clicks, this is a scary development.
This requires publishers to pivot—especially those that depend on social media for their audience. They must beef up their strategy in search and direct by emphasizing SEO and building their brands. Tactics to accomplish this should include building targeted landing pages, reworking and expanding email marketing efforts, and putting even more effort into editorial content. They may consider experimenting with new business models for content distribution and monetization. For example, Post News is helping Gannett, The Independent, and other publishers with micropayments by putting paid content directly within the social feed. The bottom line: Publishers must think creatively about how to bridge this traffic gap.
#2: AI delivers quantifiable value
AI has been at the forefront of every conversation about the future in practically every industry. While 2023 was a breakout year for the technology as programs, like ChatGPT hit the mainstream, 2024, will be the year that businesses start to derive real value from their AI investments. If you haven’t already started to investigate how AI can perform for your unique business, now is the time to start.
AI will make even more waves in the new year by powering increasingly personalized ad experiences via machine learning (ML). By better-analyzing user behavior data, ML can deliver highly relevant content with the power to boost engagement and sales. In addition to better consumer behavior analysis, sales teams will benefit by automating processes like lead generation and appointment scheduling. Lastly, AI is getting better at content creation, and businesses will increasingly use these tools for written and visual work.
Even if your company has no intention of introducing AI tools in 2024, now is the time to start outlining your goals for using AI technologies and a protocol for integrating them. AI isn’t going anywhere—it’s high time to identify how it can work for you.
#3 Payment terms extend
Sales cycles shifted in 2023, increasing by 24% on average to 75 days. This is an early indicator of what to expect in 2024 as payment terms get longer.
There are a number of reasons why brands push for longer terms. They may be trying to hang onto their money for as long as possible, raise capital without going to a bank, or appear more solvent to stakeholders. This often leaves publishers navigating late payments and the challenges of less liquidity, which can ripple throughout the organization.
As publishers lose negotiating power and terms inevitably extend, it is important to invest in technology that can expedite each step of the billing process—from invoicing to closing and every reconciliation in between. With software that can manage commissions, split reconciliation, and handle revenue actualization, many publishers can accelerate billing and payouts by as much as 10 days.
#4 Media companies acknowledge subscriptions aren’t the answer
In recent years, many publishers have shifted to subscription models to generate more predictable revenue. In fact, subscription-based digital publishing skyrocketed by 300% between 2012 and 2019.
Given this upward swing, the market is now incredibly competitive, and even major publishers are having trouble retaining subscribers. The Washington Post, for example, lost 15% of its digital subscribers in 2022. Just 36 English language publishers have more than 100,000 digital subscribers worldwide, and only some of the top titles are seeing stable or growing subscriber numbers. With one-third of U.S. consumers indicating they are “overwhelmed” by the amount of subscriptions they must manage, subscription-only models become even riskier for small publishers. Luckily, a new trend is emerging to take the place of the subscription model: pay-to-read micropayments.
Micropayments are one-way publishers are adapting to change and creating sustainability in an environment where ads don’t always pay the bills. The micropayment model allows readers to charge a very small fee to their debit or credit card for each article they read in lieu of a monthly subscription for all content on a given site. In 2024, we expect to see many mid-sized publishers adopt this model, and many more will reckon with whether a subscription model really works for them.
Alternatives—or additions—to micropayments and subscription models also include licensing first-party data. Publishers can support and monetize their work by helping advertisers meet privacy-related challenges with their first-party data. This has the effect of not just buoying publishers but also creating closer relationships with advertisers and a higher level of transparency with consumers.
Make the near year truly happy
2024 can be your banner year if you prepare for industry-wide shifts and consider how your business can navigate the resulting challenges and opportunities. Easy wins may include preparing your Olympics and election packages early since ad spending is set to break records. Other potential moves include:
- Commit your AI strategy to paper. How will you mobilize AI for your business? How will it be integrated? Outline your vision so you can move forward confidently.
- Research alternatives to subscriptions alone. How else can you mobilize revenue? Can you leverage your first-party data? Model the potential profits from a micropayment system.
- Invest in SEO and direct traffic bids. Audit your website and existing email marketing. Start activating tactics that don’t rely too heavily on social media for audience development.
- Invest in software that accelerates billing cycles. Every day counts when it comes to cash flow. Explore technologies that can eliminate billing discrepancies, automate commissions, and help you navigate reconciliations.
As you look to the future, make sure you have the right technology on your side. CRM and OMS solutions underpin every move publishers make, and they can support businesses through the changes that this new year will bring. At Boostr, we’ve designed our ad management software specifically for media publishers and pride ourselves on our unique ability to evolve both with our partners and the times.
Find out how the right technology can make your new year happy and profitable. Let’s talk.
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