Digital duopoly distrust and death by headlines: Publisher predictions for 2018

Lindsay Bennett
By Lindsay Bennett | 20 December 2017

Media bosses predict advertisers will increasingly look for trusted media environments and target higher quality audiences as the battle for video eyeballs intensifies.

Trust in the two biggest digital advertising platforms, Facebook and YouTube, has taken a hit over the past year amid concerns about brand safety and the credibility of their metrics.

News Corp CEO Michael Miller predicts that an ACCC inquiry into Google and Facebook's impact on the traditional media industry will be one to watch next year.

Distrust around digital media is a contributing factor to the digital media bubble finally bursting this year.

Last year, top execs predicted consolidation would be rife this year, which came to fruition in the last quarter as HuffPost scaled back its Australian operations, Snackable TV closed its Sydney office and redundancies were made at Mashable. This will be a trend that continues to play out next year.

HuffPost, Snackable TV and Mashable offered up all their content for free, relying on ad revenue - a model that News Corp, Fairfax and other publishers have recognised is unsustainable. Increasing subscriptions across print and digital is a big focus for publishers and one that has been positively impact by brand safety issues this year. Expect to see more marketing campaigns from publishers that push a subscription model, like The Australian offering a free Google Home with a subscription purchase.

Another trend in 2017 was the launch of digital women's networks. Nine launched 9Honey, News Corp launched Whimn, Bauer reorganised its titles in a network play and Yahoo7 launched Yahoo Be into a market previously dominated by Mamamia. Will they all survive as they chase the same ad dollars with similar content? Time will tell.

Pacific Magazines CEO Gereurd Roberts:

The personalisation piece is not just about saving time and being more efficient. We now operate in a ‘borderless world’ and people are genuinely part of a global community, connected and engaged across continents like never before. But being one in billions has also left people feeling like they want to be ‘someone’, a need to have their own face, place and identity amongst the many. The feeling of personalisation, as much as the efficiency of it, provides that and so it will only continue to grow – across content personalisation, personalised brands and brand experiences, and also in smart home, AI, connected devices and services. Data will drive it, but people will turn again to the brands they trust and know, and those who know them.

Bauer CEO Paul Dykzeul:

2018 will be an unpredictable year fuelled by a shaky government, the fall out of the citizenship debacle, a cautious consumer (who are already tired of politics, housing affordability and stagnant wage growth) and nervous retailers. Advertisers will re-emphasise high quality exposure – as they reappraise the value of premium content and the influence of strong brands in building and reinforcing brand messaging. Audiences will become even more switched on to switching off ads and platforms that interfere or interrupt their experience. They will continue to rediscover the real and tangible – whether that’s connecting with friends at events, unplugging or turning to the written page. In 2017, the number of women who have had the courage to reveal the sexual harassment and misconduct in the arts and outside the arts has been profound. We hope the momentum around this will continue and women will see real change in 2018.

Junkee Media CEO Neil Ackland:

Next year will be a battle for eyeballs to video. Across Netflix, Amazon and Apple there’s been $20bn invested in content in 2018.  That content needs to find an audience. According to a recent PwC research report 62% of consumers struggle to find something to watch. There is a big role to play for filters and curators. We plan to invest further in this space to target binge watchers by bringing back the Video Junkee festival and doubling down on video content which makes up 40% of our traffic.  Another trend is the rise of appointment viewing on social. We noticed this with Punkee’s Bachelor recaps where the audience were waiting at 830am daily for the next episode. The behaviour was a ‘water cooler moment’ as people arrived at work to gather around and watch. 2018 will be the year where advertisers realise the power of mobile and out-of-home when stitched together. The ability to target audiences by location across mobile and out-of-home using data and content is huge and exciting.

News Corp CEO Michael Miller:

In 2018, the audience and advertiser demand for trusted and credible brands, delivering the unique and valued content that consumers will pay for, and within environments advertisers require, will become even stronger. ​​The value of trusted content plus audiences at "smart scale" with data that is reliable and true will become a greater consideration for advertisers in 2018. Scale is no longer about just buying anything. The effectiveness of scale in the future will be measured on how publishers make best use of the right assets, the appropriate mix of revenue streams and the correct business structure to deliver best outcomes for commercial partners. Scrutiny of the role and behaviours of the digital duopoly in the advertising eco-system and the economy at large is increasing globally. The upcoming ACCC inquiry into the impact of the digital platforms on the media and advertising markets will be one to watch.

Mamamia founder Mia Freedman:

In 2018 Mamamia are predicting a dramatic rise in the demand from women to connect with other like-minded women in real-life experiences, bridging the gap between online and offline worlds. Trusted digital platforms will need to complement their content strategies with experiential ones to meet the demand of Australia’s most powerful consumers. Successful brands will not only need to master online engagement and loyal audiences but translate that engagement into real-life activations to keep her attention. Mamamia are backing in their prediction but kicking off an extensive live podcast tour next year and a detailed schedule of events of Mamamia’s multi-million strong community of women.

Nine digital content director Helen McCabe:

I think the focus will be firmly on short and long form video. A business like Nine which knows video will be well placed but everyone will be thinking about the various forms of video, how it is distributed and how it intersects with our client responses and needs. And predictably I think the focus on women will again be strong especially as we are launching Future Women a premium subscription business.

News Corp Australia chief digital officer Nicole Sheffield:

2018 will see the continual improvement of the customer experience. It’s exciting because the whole point of the customer experience is that it’s seamless and effortless and AI plays a big part in how we are continually evolving that. Consumers are looking for personalised and contextual experiences and the best in machine learning is transforming that. People want trust and comfort so as we get more automated and bot assisted we’re going to need to be more human in our delivery for true experience.

Yahoo7 CEO Ed Harrison:

Video is no longer experimental; it generates meaningful revenue and the economics are well understood. 2018 will be the year in which publishers optimise the user experience. This will happen in the areas of video duration, quality and user retention. There is clearly no single answer to the optimal video length, but the trend to ‘shorter’ will continue. I'm sure Yahoo7 is not alone in seeing streams increase as lengths have been reduced. Better audience insights, combined with the fact that advertisers becoming more discerning, will see publishers focus less on volume and more on quality. As video consumption on mobile accelerates, publishers will be looking to prevent user 'bounce in, bounce out'. To retain users and deliver multiple video streams, publishers will need to invest in the data required to provide effective recommendations.

Pedestrian TV co-founder Chris Wirasinha:

My prediction for 2018 is an influx of trend pieces about the death of publishing. Meanwhile the media companies that will survive and continue to thrive are those that focus on a simple strategy. Content that their audience actually want in 2018 not just a rehash of what worked ten years ago. It needs to be channel specific and world class with a strong local voice. Those that execute this successfully will reap the rewards as the audience for entertainment has never been larger and most of the platforms that have created this opportunity aren't in the business of making content. 

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