What is threatening the digital publishing industry?

Ad blockers, ad fraud, and clients becoming content creators are contributing threats to the digital publishing industry, says the latest report by the Association of Online Publishers.

Notably, these factors appearing in the Content and Trends Census report (since it began in 2006) is a first. Ad blocking was cited as a threat by 65% of respondents, with 19% citing it as the most significant problem. Ad fraud was cited and brands and agencies as content creators by 35%.


Despite these challenges, the study reports publishers remain positive about opportunities within digital publishing. Over four-fifths (85%) of publishers view content marketing as an important area of investment. Mobile continues to attract positive sentiment, with 81% and 77% respectively considering smartphones and apps / digital editions as key prospects for growth.


Mobile Advertising

Mobile advertising remains strong with 63% of publishers citing they have achieved growth in smartphone and tablet ad revenues over the last 12 months. Marking a significant industry development, responsive design is now the leading method of maximising site delivery on mobile devices, with 79% of publishers applying it across the majority of their portfolios. The top business priority for publishers looking to capitalise on mobile is increasing growth in revenues from incremental advertising (50%), with unique mobile ad formats cited as offering the most significant revenue generation model (68%), up from 53% in 2014.



Video continues to enjoy growth, with 12% of publishers achieving over 10% of digital ad revenues from the format. The study identified that demand is greater than existing inventory across desktop, mobile, and tablet ­ over half (54%) of publishers stated market demand is high, with the opportunity to sell increased volumes if available. Despite this confidence, 29% of publishers do not consider growing video to be a business priority, citing complexity of technical requirements (25%) and the selling process (25%) as obstacles, along with the reality that two thirds of publishers (64%) derive less than 5% of their digital ad revenues from video.


Social media

The study also reveals that increased integration with social media platforms provides a key vehicle to drive audience growth. Facebook and Twitter dominate as the most used social media channels for sharing and promoting content (both 97%), with over half (52%) of respondents looking to increase usage of Facebook compared to 14% for Twitter. WhatsApp is a new social channel identified for 2015, a quarter (24%) of publishers currently use the app to promote content, with 17% claiming they will increase their use of the channel.

Tim Cain, Managing Director, AOP, commented:

“The 2015 Content and Trends Census highlights an optimistic outlook within the digital publishing industry with opportunities for investment and growth. We need to work together to support premium publishers to combat identified threats, particularly ad blocking, given that the majority of publishers rely on ad revenue to provide free access to quality content.”

Related reading