The Latest Digital Strategy for Publishers [2021]

Digital Marketing Publisher


The publishing industry, as we all know, cannot avoid the digital shift. According to a survey by Pew Research Center, 44% of the world population read news online, and in the U.S., 86% of people read news on digital devices.

And to prove that, in 2020, global digital ad spending grew at an astonishing 12.7% despite the pandemic, which is almost the prediction rate before the pandemic hit. In contrast to that, traditional media ad spending growth visibly declined by 15.7%. And in 2021, digital ad spending is expected to increase by more than 20%, with the entire industry going digital all out.

In this article, we will focus on issues needs to be addressed by publishers in order to drive their digital strategy, with the latest industry news and trends.

Source: marketingcharts.com

7 issues publishers need to address to drive their digital strategy

1. High quality content that captures the reader’s attention

The media industry, especially newspapers and magazines, are undergoing major environmental changes against the backdrop of a shrinking market for print media and the diversification of information transmission together with advertising methods whereby many of these media are developing new businesses and working on digital transformation.

New business development in media tends to be a discussion of business models, however we must remember that, it is essentially important to continue to provide high quality content as per readers’ demand.

In fact, in one survey, 23.3% of publishers said that their biggest challenge for 2021 will be “creating unique content that readers want to read,” being the highest of all responses received. 

Publishers say their biggest challenges of 2021 include creating unique content that readers want, 23.3 percent, keeping up with Google algorithm changes, 22.5 percent, and diversifying website revenue, 20.8 percent.

Source: Trends Transforming The Publishing Industry Outlook In 2021


In the meantime, most media have relied on advertising for most of their monetisation. As a result, they have become desperate to increase page views, writing articles with catchy titles that lack substance, dividing pages too much, and mass-producing articles with inadequate fact-checking, which deteriorated media credibility.

Especially in the past 10 years or so, audience targeting was the mainstream advertising delivery method, whereby focus was on “who to advertise” (people) rather than “where to advertise” ( the ad placement) resulting in media that produced high quality content to be at a disadvantage.

Nevertheless, in recent times, monetisation has become more diversified and at the same time, audience targeting became difficult to use due to privacy issues. The value of “placement” has been reevaluated and the importance of creating high-quality content has been increasingly recognized.

2. Providing personalized information with AI

In all industries, the era of mass production and mass consumption is coming to an end. Instead, consumers are demanding more personalized products and information. The publishing industry is no exception.

As information overflows more than ever, users will demand information that is more relevant to them and more personalized. This will lead to the information flow of “mass to one” becoming the mainstream, and the development of AI technology that can deliver information suited to the individual, and the power of platformers that can edit and organize information will become stronger.

Media companies are betting on AI as a way of delivering more personalised experiences and improving production efficiency. Over two-thirds (69%) of our sample say these technologies will have the biggest impact on journalism over the next five years, ahead of 5G (18%), and new devices and interfaces (9%). But many think that AI will benefit big publishers disproportionately, leaving others out in the cold.

Source: Journalism, media, and technology trends and predictions 2021


3. Optimized content for each platform

The use of social media and news platforms is also essential for digitization.

One thing to keep in mind is that you need to deliver contents that match the characteristics of each platform and the attributes of the users. Also, the frequency and time of the day for effective posting differs depending on the platform.

For example, Japan’s leading newspaper, Nikkei Shimbun, offers digital subscriptions, posts their content on various SNS, diversified to news platforms (Yahoo!, Smartnews, Newspics, etc.), and develops a wide range of online-only contents. It features media development that specializes in each content format. “Nikkei visual data” is a news portal highlighting various data and summarizing them in an easy to understand visual format. “Nikkei Channel “, a portal dedicated to video content, and “Voicy” is an audio platform that provides selected news in a short radio clip for younger users.

Magazines have utilised social media platforms as well. Each publisher is putting more effort into developing online contents, such as content that introduces the actual pages of the magazine in small snippets, countdowns to the release date, and online exclusive interview videos.

In the U.S., on the other hand, a recent survey from Pew Research Center shows that 53% of adults regularly get their news stories from social media, with the top 36% getting their news from Facebook. 

The New York Times has developed its own tech tools to improve the efficiency of its social media platform and optimized its content for the platform.

The New York Times has developed a new tech tool to determine which articles it promotes on Facebook and Twitter — without using those platforms’ tracking pixels. The tool, called TAFI (Twitter and Facebook Interface),  measures which articles draw the most social engagement with specific audiences, then adjusts spending to promote the high performers while weeding out the articles not attracting interest.

Source: How The New York Times mines data to pick articles to promote on Facebook and Twitter

4. Using Video

As indicated in the previous section, even newspapers are now distributing video content online.

Many companies are now actively using video, and as a result, the number of times consumers watch video is increasing every year. In 2021, most people watch more than 100 minutes of video per day on average, a 19% increase compared to 2019, a survey shows.

Source: marketingcharts.com

According to Dr. James McQuivey of Forrester Research, one minute of video is said to contain the same amount of information as 3,600 pages of a typical web page. That’s 5,000 times more information than text plus photos.

Furthermore, 5G is being spread around the world and forming the infrastructure for achieving digital transformation. It will be a positive trend for online media such as the Internet, mobile gaming, video, and other large-volume content where it will use higher speeds with more simultaneous connections than ever before.

It is of utmost importance for brands, marketers, and media to develop their strategies with video content in the mainstream.

However, unlike text, videos require a lot of time and effort. If it is difficult to create videos on your own, tools such as “Glia Cloud” are emerging that automatically generate videos by combining existing article text and photos. The use of such supportive tools and tech development is also essential in the video market.

5. Monetization through advertising in the cookie-less era

Advertising is still an important part of media monetization. What’s the latest on the cookie-less issue that’s been buzzing around the industry lately? From the perspective of privacy protection, the use of third-party cookies will be restricted, which is said to affect the delivery of targeted ads using audience data, frequency control, and conversion measurement. According to Google’s research, if cookies are disabled in Chrome, publishers’ ad revenue may decrease by 52%.

On the other hand, since it will be more difficult to use audience targeting with third-party cookies, the emphasize will be on “placement” rather than “people”. This may benefit premium publishers who have first-party user data or anyone specialize in a specific field of media.

At this point, some of the measures that publishers should consider are acquiring and using first party data, joining consortiums, and implementing contextual targeting. For more details, the following article also explains.

6. Support programmatic media buying to achieve advanced ad serving optimization

Advertising technology is constantly evolving, and there are wide range of aspects that major publishers need to consider when monetizing online content: selecting and implementing ad servers and DMPs, designing a menu of reservation ads, joining ad networks and SSPs, implementing PMPs, prioritizing ad delivery, and support for the latest technologies such as header bidding, acquisition and utilization of first party data, monetization of content other than your own site such as social media and news platforms.

It is extremely difficult to keep up with the ever-evolving state of trends in advertising technology as well as to make the best choices. Recently, professional ad monetization consulting companies have begun to emerge work across platforms to help publishers optimize their ad monetization.

FreakOut is also helping digital publishers with revenue amplification through our group company, Playwire. If you are looking for more information, please feel free to contact us.

7. Seeking monetization other than advertising revenue

As everything goes digital, revenue streams will need to shift accordingly, and the situation is the same for all companies and publishers. The global book publishing industry is worth about $103 billion and has been growing at 0% per year for five consecutive years. Publishers who have failed to make the transformation are fading away, and companies are desperately searching for ways to monetize their business in order to survive.

One primitive method is for publishers to raise subscription fees in addition to advertising revenue. In Japan, 5 major newspaper companies were forced to raise newspaper subscription fees by 7-9% due to deteriorating business conditions.

However, a business model that relies only on print sales and advertising revenue is already a matter of life and death, and in order to stably monetize digital media, it is important to develop multiple mainstays of monetization without relying on any particular method.

Revenue axis other than advertising revenue:

  • Subscriptions
  • Monetization of content (paid article, sales of archives /audio and video contents /articles as e-books, paid mail magazines)
  • Sales of original goods and affiliate income from the products introduced
  • Online events (paid tickets, acquisition of sponsors, sale of merchandises)
  • Community (online community for readers, Sending readers to the services of other companies in cooperation, recruiting and matching service for readers) etc.

In the different article, we introduce the diversified media monetization methods in detail with examples.

Digital strategy is the key to success for publishers

In this article, we have introduced 7 key issues that publishers need to consider in their digital strategies. The recent pandemic has further accelerated the digital shift, and it is inevitable that publishers will have to rethink their monetization strategy.

We will continue to provide valuable information for publishers with issues to be addressed, methods and trends in the advancement of publishers’ digital strategies.

The FreakOut Group also provides support for publishers, including the introduction of our advertising network, optimization of monetization through advertising including other platforms(e.g. Google ads). Let us help you build up your digital assets, use them effectively, and turn them into a new source of revenue.

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