Research Briefing: Most publishers expect their revenue to increase in the next 12 months

revenue diversification

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Welcome to the Digiday+ Research Briefing, your weekly curation of media and marketing research insights. Digiday+ members have access to the research below. 

In this edition, we share focal points from Digiday’s recently released reports on how publishers are optimistic about revenue and hiring in the second half of the year, and how publishers upped their marketing spend in the last 12 months.

80% of publishers expect overall revenue to increase in the coming year

The media industry has weathered several storms in the last 12 months, and a lot can change in a year. With news late last week that the U.S. GDP grew at an annual rate of 2.4% in the second quarter of 2023, the economy appears to be rebounding, and publishers are expecting that things are looking up for them as well. That is according to a recent Digiday+ Research survey of 35 publisher professionals.

Digiday’s survey found that, heading into the back half of 2023, publishers have had a rough go of it over the last year. More than a third of publishers (38%) said their overall revenue decreased significantly or somewhat in the past 12 months, and only slightly less than a third (32%) said their companies haven’t invested at all in overall staffing. However, despite the less-than-ideal outcomes of the last 12 months, publishers expect their revenue to increase in the coming year.

Key findings:

  • When Digiday asked publishers what they expect to increase the most in the next 12 months, a whopping 80% of publishers said overall revenue. That choice was the overwhelming winner among respondents — the second-place choice was marketing spending at a much lower 17%.
  • Publishers aren’t quite as optimistic about staffing in the next year, but Digiday’s survey found that more than a third of respondents (40%) do think their companies will invest in people in the coming months.

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Half of publishers upped their marketing spend in the last year, but slower spending is ahead

At a time when the phrase “ad slowdown” is commonly used (even if that slowdown might be abating), it might be surprising to hear that many publishers actually increased their marketing spending in the last year. This is according to a Digiday+ Research survey of 35 publisher professionals that found that about half of publishers increased marketing spend in the last year, but that increase isn’t likely to follow publishers into the next year.

Digiday’s survey found that 48% of publisher pros said marketing spending increased for their companies in the last 12 months; 42% said it increased somewhat and just 6% said it increased significantly.

Key findings:

  • Most of that spend went toward online marketing, rather than offline. Ninety-one percent of publisher pros said their companies invested at least a small amount in online marketing in the last 12 months, compared with a much lower 57% who said their companies invested at least a small amount in offline marketing during the same period.
  • When asked what they expect to increase the most in the next 12 months, only 17% of publisher pros said they expect marketing spending to increase. (Compared with the 80% who said they expect overall revenue to increase in the next 12 months, as we reported above, that 17% is a very small percentage.)

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Research Rewind: Marketers warm up to podcast ad targeting capabilities, while brand safety is less of a concern

A large proportion of brands and agencies seem to be satisfied with podcast ad targeting, and the majority (80%) of advertisers are comfortable with the average level of brand safety in podcasting as well. That is according to a newly released Digiday+ Research report on podcast advertising, produced in partnership with Sounds Profitable

But the current status quo might not last long. The podcast landscape is yet again in flux, with a proliferation of generative AI in podcasting, alongside a rise in programmatic ad serving methods, boosting the potential to target and personalize ads — even as the unpredictability of some of those generative technologies could court privacy and brand safety concerns down the line. 

From tools that create ads using AI-generated voices to sharper contextual targeting, agencies are exploring new solutions, including audio management platforms like Sounder, for their podcast ad campaigns. The result is more ad format options that rely on AI to produce audio ads and personalized campaigns using custom generative AI voices. The jury is out on whether using AI to generate ad content brings with it more potential to erode confidence in brand safety even as it expands scale and precision.

Key findings:

  • Eighty percent of survey respondents said they agree with the statement, “I am comfortable with brand safety and suitability in podcasting.” Of those, 40% strongly agreed, while another 40% only somewhat agreed.
  • More than one-third (38%) of survey respondents said that they were very satisfied with audience targeting capabilities in podcasting, and 44% said they were somewhat satisfied. However, other Digiday reporting shows there’s still room for improvement, especially among more seasoned buyers who might have more sophisticated audience demands.

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