Blog post

Top 5 Trends for digital publishers in 2023

This fall has been quite busy for our sales team who  attended  two leading events in the digital publishing industry: the WanIfra World News Media Congress 2022 in Zaragoza, Spain & INMA Media Innovation Week in Copenhagen. Apart from being able to network in person (finally!), they had the opportunity to hear from industry leaders on potential challenges and trends that will be popular in 2023.

In this blog post, we will go through the top 5 trends that we think you should keep an eye on for 2023. 

#1 Data transparency and the uses of cookies

Even though third party data has been used extensively across the digital marketing industry in recent years, it is becoming less reliable as an advertising and personalization tool due to the limitations being imposed on its usage by Google, Apple and regulatory authorities. As users become more cognizant of the impact cookies can have on their privacy, they are becoming pickier with who they allow to have their first party data. On top of these restrictions, because third party data is taking information about all user behavior across a variety of different channels, it can be hard to pinpoint which behavior is most relevant to your specific channel.

For publishers trying to engage readers with content they find relevant, personalization using first party data is the differentiator to a solid user experience. Rather than pushing out content in bulk, many publishers now use powerful algorithms to generate curated content feeds for different audience segments or even on a user by user basis. Users have also come to expect a trade off from sharing their data, typically in the form of a smoother user experience.   As such, publishers are increasingly turning to first-party audience data as a means of generating actionable insights that help optimize user engagement and retention strategies and improve ad performance for advertisers.

You can check out our more in depth analysis of the importance of first party cookie data in our recent INMA article.

#2 An increased focus on subscription revenue

Advertising has been a leading revenue stream for digital publishers for a very long time. However, with the removal of third party cookies, and an increased user awareness around how their data is used, brands are starting to also focus on online subscription revenue. The pandemic has changed the whole market and fewer brands are advertising as they used to.  Although many well known brands have successfully incorporated subscriptions into their digital channels, some brands are just getting started and the competition is fierce. This shift of priorities together with the increase of entertainment content and with users constantly reevaluating the value they receive from their subscriptions, publishers need to consider ways to make that value known. 

Subscriptions have the benefits of flexibility, having higher profit margins and predicting a revenue stream. In fact, 75% – 95% of revenue comes from subscriber renewals and upsell, and only 5% – 30% from acquisition (Reuters Insitute, 2021, Reuters Institute Digital News Report.). 

There have been plenty of Innovations focused on this topic, including personalization and the use of paywalls. This is being further advanced with use of propensity models to determine the absolute best moment to show a paywall, in combination with recommending the best articles to entice them to subscribe. From there, the use of push notifications and newsletters increases the chances to engage with the brand even more than just the traditional channels. We are excited about what is coming in 2023. 

#3 A trustworthy media industry

The news industry is constantly fighting against the spread of fake news but it is important to keep in mind that readers are becoming more vigilant in the content they consume. They are making sure the story is not only coming from trustworthy sources, like newsrooms and broadcasters, but also evaluating the  social media channels they use to find this content. 

As Reuters describes in their 2021 report focusing on Digital News, the current situation in many countries is that audiences are turning to trusted brands over only social media sources. This is especially true in countries where there is a strong local news media presence As one may expect, the trust gap between the news and social media has grown considerably, especially with concerns of false and misleading information becoming more prevalent  Depending on where you are in the world will dictate which social media platform is believed to spread more false stories, be it Facebook or Whatsapp, but those that are active users of social media are likely to admit they have been exposed to fake news. 

Beyond accessing reliable and accurate news sources, there is also an increasing demand for diversity and inclusion in the newsroom and the resulting stories. There are worrying inequalities in both consumption and trust within multiple communities including young people, women, ethnic minorities, and political partisans that often feel less represented by the media. 

As we move into 2023, these topics will remain top of mind for both readers and publishers, especially as social media platforms, and the regulations that try to regulate them, evolve to match consumer expectations and demands. 

#4 Engaging with readers across generations 

A hot topic across industries, but especially in the news industry has been around Gen Z. How can a brand attract and engage Gen Z readers? Compared to other generations, they have shown to be very unique in terms of consumption habits and consumer behavior, leading to publishers having a hard time balancing content for all generations of readers. 

TorStar, is one of North America’s great metropolitan daily newspapers. Knowing that 71% of media consumers fall within the under 30 bracket, they have been focusing their user research on understanding their consumption habits and how to effectively deliver them the news. . In this podcast episode,  Sr. Director, Product Management and Delivery, Mohan Gulati of the Toronto Star, explains that in order to reach this demographic, TorStar is focused on consistently  creating video content, especially short form video, to be posted specifically on channels like Tik Tok and Instagram. Understanding that this group consumes media across platforms and tends to have a lower attention span, this kind of content is key to brand awareness and building trust. By building this relationship early on, as their consumption habits change as they get older, they will hopefully think of TorStar when they want to consume longer form and more local content.   

Gen Z will remain the most important generation to engage with in the years to come, and publishers will need to continue to bring the content where they frequent most if they want to win the war for attention. 

#5 Partnerships for media viability

Collaboration between publishers can be key to success in  a competitive landscape. Strategic alliances with fellow publishers allows for a pooling of resources, knowledge and audiences that help to combat the effects of large technology platforms.

A great example of these partnerships in media is the BBC and the Local News partnerships to provide an ongoing commitment to the production of public interest journalism for local or regional audiences. Since 2017, the LNP supports more than a thousand print, broadcast and online news outlets across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland by providing free access to news content generated by BBC News Hub (BBC). 

Another example is The Dallas Morning News (DMN) and Texas Metro News (TMN), two daily newspapers that decided to start collaborating after identifying gaps in coverage that the other could fill in. What did they do? They both share content in a collaborative fashion. When a local mayor died, TMN offered the tip but allowed the DMN to publish the story online first, linking to the TMN story once it was posted.


As 2022 comes to a close, we are curious to see how these 5 trends will continue to develop throughout the coming year. Did you spot another trend that news organizations should have in mind in 2023? Let us know on our social media channels! 

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