Digiday+ Research: What are publishers’ priorities heading into Q4?

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 →

There’s a lot of uncertainty in the air right now — just in time for publishers to decide on their plans for next year.

We found out earlier this month that about two-thirds of publishers agree we’ll be in a recession in the next six months to a year. And it’s now that time of year when the all-important fourth quarter is quickly approaching. So Digiday asked publisher professionals what their business priorities will be in the next six months, and assembled a list of the top five:

Publishers’ priorities have shifted since Digiday asked publisher pros the same question at the beginning of the year. But interestingly, the shift has been slight.

Digiday’s survey found that publishers’ top two business priorities have not changed throughout the year so far, despite the current economic climate. At the beginning of the year, more than half of respondents said direct-sold ads would be a large focus for them in the next six months. That number remains about the same, according to Digiday’s most recent survey. Direct-sold ads were followed by subscriptions in both Q1 and Q3, with more than 40% of respondents identifying subscriptions as a large focus in the next six months in both surveys.

Branded content, programmatic ads and video advertising also remained in the top five areas of focus for publishers from Q1 to Q3, with slight shifts in how much publishers plan to focus on them. The percentage of publisher pros who said programmatic ads will be a large focus jumped from 32% in Q1 to 43% in Q3, for example, and video advertising saw a similar jump from 36% in Q1 to 43% in Q3. These shifts indicate that it’s possible we’ll see publishers work to diversify their revenue streams in response to economic instability.

It is interesting to note what publishers don’t consider to be priorities heading into the end of the year — particularly when it comes to programmatic ads. While programmatic came in at No. 2 on the list of the top areas of focus for publishers, it also came in at No. 4 on the list of areas publishers don’t plan to focus on in the next six months, with nearly a quarter of respondents to Digiday’s Q3 survey saying they are not focused at all on programmatic.

Meanwhile, most publishers agree that connected TV has not been a priority throughout 2022. In Q1, 58% of publisher pros said CTV was not at all a focus for them. In Q3, the percentage remained flat at 57%.

All this talk of publishers’ theoretical priorities begs the question: Where are publishers actually getting their revenue from at the moment? It turns out publishers’ priorities line up well with where they’re making money. Nearly half of respondents to Digiday’s Q3 survey said they get a large portion of their revenue from direct-sold ads — giving it the top spot on the list of publishers top revenue sources. Here’s the full top five:


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