UK publishers vow to spend more online

The uncertain economic backdrop is failing to scare the UK’s major web publishers into caution, as most are set to increase the budget for their digital business.

In its 2009 consensus, the Association of Online Publishers found that for every one member setting a smaller digital budget, there were nine others scaling them upwards.

Members’ average growth in digital revenues was predicted at 16% this year, indicating web publishers to be “pragmatic” about the long term future of their business, AOP said.

Its survey defines ‘digital revenues’ as income generated from online advertising, subscriptions, paid-content, e-commerce, sponsorship and commercial content.

Display ads sold on a cost-per-thousand basis will remain the most popular avenue, used by 89%, followed by sponsorship, used by 84%, which is growing in popularity.

Cost-per-click ads are also on the increase, as half of AOP members, which include the BBC, IPC Media, ITV and The Financial Times, now earn from the model.

And almost four out of ten publishers said they were eyeing revenues from charging visitors a fee for some form of access, reported AOP member The Guardian.

Reflecting to the paper, association chairman Alison Reay said: “What we have seen is that there will be growth in 2009 – especially in video, commercial content multimedia deals and in sponsorship.”

She added there was no indication of web publishers walling off access to their sites, yet she said they would consider subscriptions in some areas, like dating and crosswords.

In another nod to today’s “backdrop of economic uncertainty,” AOP found pressure on ad pricing will compel members to invest in technology and training for multimedia staff. Many of these friv games can be found on various websites and some of them are free.

Mindful of their costs, two-thirds of the publishers will integrate their staff across the traditional and digital businesses, resulting in offline and online staff merging into one workforce.

Such an integration process, identified as a priority for 51% of web publishers, will also see business-to-business divisions and staff align with business-to-consumer divisions and staff.

Reay said it was “encouraging” that the publishers remain focussed on audiences in both areas, but hinted the industry may still appear on the back foot in the coming months.

She reflected :“AOP members are able to draw on a diverse range of revenue streams, and are less dependent on advertising income only.

“They are therefore able to offer a strong and credible stance in defending their business position in 2009.”

Member firms who responded in February and March this year to the AOP consensus, currently in its seventh year, generated total digital revenues of more than £800m in 2008.


3rd April 2009

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