Digiday+ Research: Publishers’ revenues fell short of expectations in 2023, but most see growth ahead in 2024

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 →

Half of publishers expected revenues to increase last year, but it turns out only about a third of publishers saw revenue growth in 2023. However, half of publishers expect their revenues to fare better in 2024.

That’s according to Digiday+ Research surveys of over 100 publisher professionals.

Digiday’s surveys found that publishers’ revenues didn’t quite meet expectations when 2023 was said and done. More than half of publisher pros (51%) told Digiday in Q4 of 2022 that they expected 2023 revenues to increase compared with their 2022 revenues. In reality, just more than a third (36%) said in Q4 2023  their revenues actually turned out to be higher last year than the year before.

Thirty two percent of publisher pros said at the end of 2022 that they expected their 2023 revenues to be between 1% and 10% higher, compared with 20% who said at the end of 2023 that their revenues were actually 1% to 10% higher. And 17% said in 2022 they expected to see revenues rise by 11% to 25% in 2023, compared with 11% who said they actually saw revenues rise between 11% and 25% last year.

Meanwhile, just 19% of publisher pros told Digiday in Q4 2022 that they expected their revenues to decrease in 2023. In Q4 2023, 38% said their revenues did end up decreasing last year.

The highest percentage (20%) said their revenues decreased between 1% and 10% last year (11% had said in 2022 they expected their revenues to decrease by that amount), while 11% said they saw revenues drop by 11% to 25% (just 6% had said they expected this).

The reality of publishers’ struggles in 2023 is not stopping them from hoping for a better year in 2024. Digiday’s Q4 2023 survey found that half of publishers (50%) said in Q4 2023 that they agreed their companies’ ad revenues will grow this year, albeit to varying degrees. While 35% said they somewhat agreed their ad revenues will grow this year, 15% said they strongly agreed.

On the other hand, fewer than a quarter of publisher pros (24%) told Digiday at the end of the year that they disagreed that they would see ad revenues rise this year. Twenty percent said they disagreed only somewhat that their ad revenues would grow this year, and just 4% said they strongly disagreed.

So exactly how much do publishers think their revenues will actually grow this year? Overall, Digiday’s survey found that 58% of publisher pros said in Q4 2023 that their 2024 revenues will increase by at least 1% compared with their 2023 revenues — a significant share.

But most of the publishers who are hopeful about revenue growth for 2024 are exhibiting somewhat of a tempered optimism. Thirty-eight percent of publisher pros told Digiday in Q4 2023 that they think their companies’ 2024 revenues will increase by between 1% and 10% over their 2023 revenues. That’s compared with the 13% who said they think their 2024 revenues will be 11% to 25% higher than in 2023 and the 7% who said they think their revenues will grow by more than 25% this year.

Meanwhile, about a quarter of publisher pros (27%) said they think their revenues will remain about the same this year, and just 16% said they expect their revenues to decrease. And of those publishers who think they’ll see a decrease in revenues this year compared to last year, most think the decrease will be small.

Eleven percent of publisher pros told Digiday in Q4 2023 that they expect their revenues to decrease by between 1% and 10% this year, while just 5% said they expect the decrease to be between 11% and 25%. Zero respondents to Digiday’s survey said they think their revenues will fall by more than 25% in 2024.

https://digiday.com/?p=531128

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