The year 2022 will not go down as the most glorious one in the history of publishing.
There were layoffs, closings, problems with print and hurdles in converting to digital.
If there was any good news, it was that technology was advancing and helping publishers that could afford to leverage it.
Here are a few of the big publishing stories of 2022, and what they meant:
Publishers Become Marketing Service Providers
Gannett, the biggest newspaper publisher in the U.S. continued slashing jobs and selling off publications. In one of its biggest moves, showing a possible way for all publishers, it split itself into two business units: Gannett Media and Digital Marketing Solutions. The latter will supply marketing services to clients—not ad sales.
This is the road already taken by Foundry, the former IDG, which is “now driven more by “media markets and software as opposed to traditional sales," said Matt Yorke, Foundry CEO, in a recent interview. Even the New York Times seems to be going partly in this direction, with observers wondering if it is evolving into a tech company with an ancillary news product.
Digital Takes Over As Publishers Abandon Print
Parade magazine, the supplement that has for 80 years run in newspapers nationwide, published its last print edition and is appearing only in digital editions. This was hardly the only such story in 2022: Martha Stewart Living also shut down its print magazine. Publishing content has largely disappeared behind paywalls (which readers try to evade).
Even the mighty Condé Nast is not immune to the shift toward digital. “We have about 70 million people who read our magazines, but we have 300 something million that interact with our websites every month and 450 million that interact with us on social media,” said CEO Roger Lynch, in an interview with The New York Times. Condé Nast is no longer a magazine company, he added.
Merger Mania Continues
Informa, a UK-based B2B publisher and events firm, sold Maritime Intelligence, also known as Lloyd’s List Intelligence, to equity firm Montagu for £385 million, or $458 million, in perhaps one of the biggest publishing deals seen all year.
On a smaller scale, Cox Enterprises has acquired online publisher Axios Media for a reported $525 million. Forbes seemed to be nearing a takeover. But Alden Global Capital, which acquired Tribune Publishing in 2021 for $633 million, a move accompanied by a wave of layoffs, buyouts and the alleged gutting of newsrooms, abandoned its attempted hostile takeover of Lee Enterprises. Meanwhile, local nonprofits have moved in to either take over distressed news titles or start alternatives.
Email Newsletters Fade—At Least For Vendors
Twitter, the troubled social media channel, announced it is closing Revue, the email newsletter platform it acquired in 2021. This, at least symbolically, marked the end of the great newsletter surge. In 2021, Meta announced a newsletter service called Bulletin and Google came up with Museletter. Both have been discontinued.
That doesn’t mean email newsletters are going away. The New York Times provides several, as do the Washington Post and most other media channels. The danger is that email inboxes are being glutted with newsletters, and that some readers simply don’t open them.
Substack remained as an email newsletter server, and there were reports Elon Musk would try to buy it. Publishers are using social and other formats to publish news and other content. They’re also moving toward video and podcasts.
Privacy Is A Bigger Issue Than Ever
Privacy is top of mind as publishers and advertisers both face new laws like the California Privacy Rights Act. “Reputation matters, and brands are thinking more about how suitability strategies align with their overall values and their desire for advertising that scales,” says Mimi Wotring, senior vice president, publisher sales and client services at DoubleVerify.
What does that mean for advertisers? “While contextual advertising has been part of the digital landscape for some time, its challenges with scale have held it back,” Wotring contends. “Brands looking for new targeting methods in 2023 will look to utilize widely accepted contextual classification tools that allow for strategies to scale across publishers and platforms.”