The top priority for media companies this year is to increase web traffic, according to new research from the social media and newsletter-automation platform Echobox.
That objective was cited by 73% of respondents, followed by growing social followers and engagement, which was named by 57%, and improving the quality of content (50%).
Echobox queried 30 publishing executives, representing 17 countries, for the research, titled “Publishing Trends Report 2022.” It was conducted in the first quarter of this year and released last week. Thirty percent of the respondents were senior management, and another 30% were in the social media function, with the rest scattered across the enterprise, including content producers, tech, audience marketing and more.
In the report, there’s a significant correlation between this year’s priorities and last year’s challenges. For example, 47% of respondents said declining traffic was their biggest challenge in 2021, and another 40% cited keeping up with Facebook’s algorithm changes.
But here’s the disconnect: In Echobox’s 2021 report, respondents indicated that a transition to a subscription model and a reduction of reliance on advertising were the top priorities for most publishers. And those two objectives—building subscription revenue and reducing reliance on advertising—are directly at odds with this year’s concern: declining traffic.
You could make the case that increased web traffic means more opportunities to convert viewers to subscribing customers, but web-traffic scale is almost always tied to ad revenue.
There’s another disconnect here as well. Even as addressing declining traffic is revealed as a priority, only 13% reported declining ad revenues as a major concern in 2021, and even fewer (10%) cited a loss of revenue from print and live events.
Maybe this report just reflects the continued (and anomalous) fallout from the pandemic, where ad dollars soared as marketing dollars were redirected away from live events, which were widely cancelled in 2020 and last year.
“As the pandemic deepened, much of the important and timely [editorial] coverage was unrestricted, causing a surge in traffic numbers,” Echobox noted. “In the following months, as the crisis waned, content was once again placed behind a paywall, meaning that traffic went down, but an engaged, paying readership remained.”
Seems like a good place to be, but apparently publishers don’t think so. “Responses to our survey suggest that publishers view this situation as untenable in the long run,” the report states. “Hence the focus on traffic generation this year. In addition, the substantial number of publishers looking to grow social followers and engagement (57%) and improve the quality of published content (50%) suggest that social media and content will be two key levers for generating and maintaining traffic.”
Elsewhere in the report, findings indicate that: