Digiday+ Research: Publishers lack confidence in 2022 revenues heading into 2023

This research is based on unique data collected from our proprietary audience of publisher, agency, brand and tech insiders. It’s available to Digiday+ members. More from the series →

It’s the most wonderful time of the year — before the tough time of year when publishers have to confront the year’s results and talk about what they mean for the upcoming year.

Digiday+ Research surveyed 63 publisher pros this month to find out what exactly those results look like and how they’re influencing publishers’ confidence about 2023.

Digiday’s survey found that 58% of publisher pros said their 2022 revenues are up compared with their revenues in 2021. This certainly doesn’t sound like bad news. However, in Digiday’s winter 2021 survey, a significantly higher 86% of publishers said they thought their 2022 revenues would go up compared with 2021, which makes 58% seem like a small majority in comparison.

It turns out that, overall, confidence is down among publishers heading into the new year. While 86% of publisher pros told Digiday last winter that they expected revenues to increase this year, that percentage is down to 51% this winter.

The group of publisher pros who think revenues will increase only slightly (between 1% and 10%) next year didn’t take too big of a hit: Last year 36% of respondents fell into this category and this year the number is 32%. The story changes as we get into the bigger increases. Last year, 28% of publishers said they thought revenues would increase between 11% and 25%. This year, only 17% think so. And publishers think large revenue increases will be unheard of in 2023. Last year, 22% of publisher pros told Digiday they thought their companies’ revenues would increase by more than 25% this year. This year, a mere 2% are optimistic about seeing that kind of increase.

The largest jump this year came with those publishers who think revenues will remain the same into 2023: Last year, only 9% of publisher pros said they thought revenues would be about the same in 2022. This year, 30% said they expect revenues to be unchanged next year.

The fact is, though, that many publishers’ revenues did end up increasing in 2022, despite the overall lack of confidence across the industry. Digiday’s survey found that the largest set of respondents (30%) said their companies’ revenues are up between 1% and 10% over last year, while 12% reported revenue increases of 11% to 25% and 16% reported revenue increases even higher than 25%. Meanwhile, 12% of respondents to Digiday’s survey said their companies’ revenues decreased between 1% and 10% this year, 13% said revenues are down 11% to 25% and only 3% reported revenue decreases of more than 25%. So, all in all, few publishers said revenues went down this year.

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