Digiday+ Research: Publishers look to diversify revenue streams ahead of possible recession

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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 →

No matter where you look, there are signs of an impending recession. Publishers are certainly not immune to the downturn. Many have shifted their businesses operations already, and that is likely to continue in the coming months.

Digiday+ Research surveyed 58 publisher professionals this summer to find out where their revenue is coming from, how their revenue streams compare with six months ago and where they’ll be focusing their business over the next six months — in light of a possible recession.

It turns out most publishers are getting their revenue from direct-sold ads: 45% of respondents to Digiday’s survey said a large portion of their revenue comes from direct-sold ads, making it the No. 1 revenue source among publishers this summer. However, that percentage is a significant drop from six months ago. Direct-sold ads was also the top source of publisher revenue in the winter, but at that time 59% of respondents cited it as a large portion of their revenue.

Branded content also took a considerable hit over the last six months. In the winter, branded content was the No. 2 source of revenue for publishers, a third of whom said a large portion of their revenue came from branded content. However this summer, branded content dropped to fifth place among revenue sources, with 21% of publishers pointing to it.

Programmatic ads bumped up from the No. 3 revenue source for publishers in the winter to No. 2 this summer, while video advertising including branded content and pre-roll went from No. 5 six months ago to No. 3. Subscriptions remained in fourth place between the winter and summer.

Digiday’s survey found that, as they gear up for a possible recession, publishers are looking to prioritize different revenue streams. Fifty-six percent of publisher pros said they will put a large focus on building direct-sold ads in the next six months, making it the No. 1 focus for publishers heading into a downturn. But subscriptions, programmatic ads and video advertising will also be a big focus for publishers: 43% of respondents said they would be putting a large focus on building each of these revenue streams in the next six months — the No. 2 spot.

Branded content didn’t come far behind: 42% of publisher pros will put a large focus on building their branded content business in the face of the possible recession. And events will also play an important role for publishers as people become more comfortable attending gatherings: 40% of publisher pros will put a large focus on building their events revenue.


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