Brand Experience

2023 Digital Publishing Trends: Revenue, Ethics, Engagement, Sustainability & Challenges

23 March, 2024

As the digital world ushers in 2023’s final quarter, industry professionals are taking a moment to reflect on the transformative trends that have dynamically shaped digital publishing, setting the stage for 2024. It has been a challenging yet rewarding year marked by adaptability and originality, especially in optimizing revenue streams in a landscape fraught with change—from phasing out third-party cookies to the escalation of Connected TV (CTV) usage. Identifying these pivotal trends is crucial for those leading digital media ventures to maintain a competitive edge.

In this ever-shifting digital domain, seven key trends have emerged in 2023:

The demand for brand safety has skyrocketed, aligning with a greater call for high-quality journalism and dependable content. As next year approaches, sustaining high editorial integrity will be paramount for securing a credible and safe environment for both users and advertisers. A notable 40% of marketers anticipate brand safety concerns to mount, spotlighting the essential role publishers play in creating a transparent, safe advertising arena.

Consumers exhibit a marked preference shift toward sustainable and ethically conscious advertising. With a whopping 92% placing their trust in such companies, and 81% of consumers chasing eco-friendly marketing, the message is clear: the public favors businesses that employ sustainable, ethical practices. As 2024 looms, building alliances with organizations dedicated to ecological sustainability and scrupulous carbon footprint tracking will become increasingly significant.

Another significant wave shaping the industry is the expansion of subscription models, highlighting the balance between generating revenue and offering a superior user experience. In 2024, the emphasis will likely shift toward delivering impactful content while ensuring users encounter no friction and superior engagement. For perspective, one publisher topped the charts with over 9.3 million subscribers in 2023, amplifying ad revenue through their subscribers and setting a precedent for the persuasive power of subscription models.

The decline of third-party cookies has spurred a reimagining of digital advertising strategies, prompting publishers to embrace first-party data. Nevertheless, adoption rates have been sluggish, with more than half (53%) of digital marketing strategies still operating on third-party data. As we march towards 2024, crafting a cohesive cookie-less blueprint is imperative for a seamless transition to ensure the continued effectiveness and efficiency of digital advertising.

Publishers have faced numerous challenges in 2023, particularly due to algorithm modifications effected by large tech companies, which led to decreased inventory and advertising returns. Moreover, plummeting CPM rates have exacerbated pressure on profitability. To navigate this, publishers should pivot towards producing content that resonates deeply with their audiences to reclaim control over their data and revenue channels. This point is reinforced by recent figures indicating that social platforms owe US publishers an estimated $11 billion to $14 billion annually, underlining the necessity for more equitable revenue-sharing practices.

The past year has also seen rising demand for engaging, non-invasive video and interactive content. In the year ahead, collaborating with partners who can proficiently produce and deliver such content will be critical for enhancing user experiences. Notably, interactive content generates 52.6% more engagement than its static counterparts, positioning it as an invaluable tool for capturing audience interest. Interactive modalities also serve as lucrative avenues to glean audience insights without resorting to cookie-based methods.

Lastly, the formidable rise of CTV, marked by a 19.6% spike in ad spend just within this year, points to fresh monetization paths. Choosing the ideal CTV supply partners will be crucial for advertisers to target their desired demographics and deliver impactful, pertinent ads that resonate with viewers.

In sum, the digital publishing landscape of 2023 has been catalytic, crystallizing trends such as brand safety, ethical marketing practices, and the shift to a post-cookie era—each forging the bedrock for the future of our industry. Learning from these developments is priceless, as is the preparedness for future breakthroughs and strategic partnerships for those at the helm of media enterprises as we advance into 2024 and beyond.

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Overall, the right partners can fortify brands’ initiatives, synergizing user-centric experiences with monetization opportunities. While the road through the digital media expanse can be complex, embracing these multifaceted trends, with the right alliances, renders it navigable and replete with opportunities for growth and innovation in the evolving sphere of digital publishing.