Priorities for specialist publishers in 2024

Priorities for specialist publishers 2024

New survey of specialist publishers who were asked about their priorities for 2024. Plus which revenue sources proved most lucrative in 2023. And how they have reshaped their business in 2023.

2023 revenue sources

Priorities for specialist publishers 2023 revenue sources

Advertising is still a universal source of revenue, both print and digital, with marketing solutions important for over 50% of media businesses surveyed. But digital subscriptions is gaining ground, and just beats print subscriptions. Live events are going strong, and post-Covid, virtual events are slipping down the rankings. Job boards and research & reports are strong contenders.

2023 strategic actions

Priorities for specialist publishers: 2023 strategic actions

In 2023, over half grew digital subscriptions. There were also a raft of initiatives around content formats and reader revenue, from video content to launching digital subs or reg walls, podcasts or community. Meanwhile, some reduced print frequency or converted print titles to digital only. Over half launched live events. Publishers also showed active portfolio management: relaunching existing brands, closing or merging brands, or launching entirely new titles or events. A few even acquired or sold media brands. Developing new marketing solutions was a common theme. And media is becoming more like a tech business: almost a third either developed in-house tech or invested in AI.

Plans for 2024

Priorities for specialist publishers: 2024 plans

2024 priorities echo the same themes. Launching live events, growing marketing solutions, relaunching and investing in current brands. Almost half plan to launch a new premium subscription or membership package (and nearly as many plan a digital registration wall). An interesting split emerges between those who wish to encourage their team to return to the office, and those who have decided to stay remote. Technology is a recurring theme, with almost half planning to develop in-house tech and invest in AI. Virtual events are not dead yet, as a substantial number plan to add more to their portfolio. And a few have more ambitious strategic plans, such as acquiring a media brand or entering a new country.

Focus on digital revenues

Priorities for specialist publishers: digital revenue focus

The proven digital formats have driven revenue growth in 2023, with emails and newsletters, digital content subs, digital display ads and marketing solutions/sponsored content contributing most. Virtual events still receive an honourable mention. Focus for 2024 is obviously on these four, but what I find interesting is the bets being placed on revenue sources that have not yet delivered significant revenues. Most notable investment priority is memberships, followed by podcasts and premium digital subs.

New challenges for 2024

Priorities for specialist publishers: challenges for 2024

Economic pressures are still top of mind, followed closely by the challenge of developing new digital products, and working out how to use AI. But there are plenty of secondary challenges for specialist publishers, including how to build first party data, enter new market sectors, replace legacy tech systems, plus attract and retain talent. All while reducing the cost base in an inflationary environment and providing clients with evidence of RoI. It’s an increasingly challenging environment.

Setting your priorities as a specialist publisher for 2024

Specialist publishers like you know you must diversify content types and revenue streams in order to grow your business. And of course this diversification requires new skills in your team and adopting new technology and processes. But in an environment of uncertainty in advertising demand and rising salaries, the challenge is allocating scarce resource and investing in the best opportunities.

The companies participating in this survey were part of the Speciall Media Group, an invite-only online community of over 250 specialist media leaders. Members can share best practice, ask questions and make connections with their peers. And we run occasional surveys and virtual round tables. It’s free (for now) but invite only, and only open to media leaders, not suppliers, vendors or service companies. You can request to join here.

If you would like to have an informal chat about your strategy for 2024 and how we might be able to help then get in touch to schedule a (real or virtual) coffee with Carolyn.

About the author

Carolyn Morgan has acquired, launched, built, and sold specialist media businesses in print, digital and events. She now advises niche consumer and B2B publishers on developing new products and digital revenue streams as a consultant and NED.

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