With just a month to go until the end of 2022, now is a good time for publishers to consider the steps they should take heading into next year. To help counter an uncertain future, journalism professor Damian Radcliffe has listed the key media strategies for 2023 as outlined in this year’s Innovation in News Media World Report and in a conversation with report co-author Juan Señor.
Despite recent gains in reader revenue being down from the same period last year, the report is bullish on subscription strategies that build on the progress publishers have made over the last few years. The most recent Digital Subscription Snapshot from FIPP shows that growth remains healthy, with period-on-period gains at 5% for many publishers.
Señor advises publishers to ‘keep pushing’ with subscriptions, even if they have to discount to retain subscribers. A retention focused approach – investing in efforts to reduce churn – avoids the high cost of acquisition associated with on-boarding new subscribers. The hope is that, when economic conditions improve, publishers will have a solid customer base that they can upsell.
Reader revenues are unlikely to be enough to sustain a publishing business and in looking at media strategies for 2023, publishers should not give up on their revenue diversification efforts. The Innovation Report outlines 14 business models that publishers can look to to build a diversified revenue mix.
Building on the customer relationships established through subscription development, memberships, events and educational programmes are strong options. Habit-forming puzzles and games are also back in fashion following the New York Times’ acquisition of daily-word game Wordle. Even without direct monetization, puzzles and games can be used as the launchpad for deepening audience relationships.
Games are just one of the areas publishers are developing in tandem with their more traditional publishing output; newsletters and podcasts also feature heavily in media strategies for 2023. Radcliffe writes:
These efforts reflect product thinking, which has risen to the forefront of media strategies over the past decade.
Product thinking is based on the idea that every interaction that a reader has with your content could lead to the development of a ‘product or feature’ and a revenue opportunity. This means that publishers should become product companies and not just content creators, placing the customer at ‘the center of everything’.
Becoming more consumer-centric will inevitably lead publishers to get ready for a world without third-party cookies. Señor describes this as a ‘first-party data moment’ and says it is ‘the key to a stronger future’. He sees the opportunity to build direct relationships, shape content and control pricing without intermediaries.
Señor also points publishers at the possibilities of Web 3.0, citing Condé Nast’s experiments on Discord as an example of a publisher trialing community development in private online spaces away from traditional social platforms. He believes trials in this type of emerging space could give publishers insights that will inform future product thinking, help innovation in subscription models and help with first-party data strategies.
While encouraging experimentation with the metaverse and Web3, Señor warns publishers looking at their media strategies for 2023 not to ‘go overboard’. He told Radcliffe that, financially:
None of this stuff will make the difference. What will make the difference is investment in journalism.
By that he means original reporting, and he stresses the importance of high-impact visual content that will attract new subscriptions and assist in retention and upselling efforts. He said product thinking can shape how and where visual-first stories are told, pointing to the video Op-Eds pioneered by The New York Times and The Miami Herald’s award-winning “House of Cards” investigation.