Study: Publishing Rebounded By The End Of 2020, But Challenges Remain

Digital publishers have largely recovered from the stresses of 2020, judging by MediaAd Sales Trend Report 2021, a study by Boostr.  

Of the publishers surveyed, 67% say their revenue rebounded in the fall of 2020, and 94% claim it was stable by the end of the year.  

Moreover, the top 25% performers experienced 26% revenue growth for the year, compared to 2% for the median group and a decline of 21% for the bottom companies.   

But publishers faced challenges, including aggressive revenue targets (19%), working remotely (18%) and selling amid the cancellation of in-person events (16%).  

The top tactics used to address these challenges were: 

  • Increasing operational efficiencies—45% 
  • Added value—44% 
  • Channel optimization—42% 
  • Bundling products—41% 
  • Reducing costs/tech costs—40% 

    Among advertising categories, travel suffered a 56% revenue decline and utilities a 32% hit. In contrast, tech and telecom had a 31% growth rate and produced a 16% revenue share.  

    CPG generated 25% of revenue and retail 15%. Both were flat.  

    The factors driving revenue recovery for publishers included: 
  • Our ability to be nimble and react quickly—37% 
  • We are in a category that lent itself to the changes in behavior brought on by the pandemic (increase in streaming activity, interest in news, etc.)—33% 
  • We had offerings for election advertising which allowed us to gain revenue during the election season—29% 
  • Other—2% 

    Overall, 32% of publishers sold 51-75 products defined as “unique media ad placements or sponsorship sold via IO or programmatically,” the study states.  

    The media types sold were: 
  • Online (desktop, mobile, web, video, etc.)—59% 
  • Email—49% 
  • Streaming audio—47% 
  • Digital Out of Home—45% 
  • Linear TV—35% 
  • OTT/CTV—31% 
  • Linear Radio—30% 

    The most successful buying methods for advertisers were: 
  • Programmatic Guaranteed—28% 
  • IOs—27% 
  • PMPs—25% 
  • Open Auction—20% 

    Looking forward, here are the products they want to sell in six months not available today: 
  • Video—56% 
  • Digital Audio—47% 
  • Sponsorships—46% 
  • Digital Out-of-Home—45% 
  • Linear TV—38% 
  • OTT/CTV—34% 
  • Other—2% 

    Meanwhile, 48% of publishers are very satisfied with client retention, and 25% are somewhat so. In contrast, 15% are neutral, and 10% somewhat dissatisfied. A minor portion are not at all satisfied.  

    On the sales front, 36% have a two-month cycle, with a 29-day spread between top and bottom performers.  

    Boostr analyzed 54 primarily digital U.S.-based media companies within its platform from January 2019 to December 2020. In addition, it surveyed 200 media executives across sales, ad operations, revenue operations, finance and marketing functions.  



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