To say that 2022 was an eventful year for digital media and publishing is an understatement. This year, we’ve seen parts of the industry upended in important ways, forcing publishers to reconsider their strategies for growth.
But, of course, not all stories are created equal. Here are five noteworthy stories for publishers.
Meta Stops Paying Publishers for Content in News Tab
In October 2019, Meta introduced Facebook News in order to give users “more control over the stories they see, and the ability to explore a wider range of their news interests,” among other stated goals.
Created to counteract the Newsfeed algorithms’ tendency to promote high-engagement content no matter its tenor or accuracy, the News Tab aggregated top stories from credible, partnered sources, selected by a team of journalists. To be included in the News Tab, publications had to adhere to basic journalist standards, including fact-checking their stories.
For publishers in the News Tab, it was an opportunity to get paid for their content shared on the platform. Over the past three years, Meta paid $105 million to select news publishers, and another $90 million for news videos.
But in July of this year, Axios reported that Meta had decided to end the experiment. Why the switch? “Most people do not come to Facebook for news, and as a business it doesn’t make sense to over-invest in areas that don’t align with user preferences,” a Facebook spokesperson told Axios. Additionally, Meta has decided that it has resolved the ‘issues’ with its Newsfeed algorithm, and will rely on AI to present relevant news stories to Facebook and Instagram users going forward. We’ll have to wait and see if this promise bares out.
Bloomberg Media Shuts the Door on Open-Market Programmatic
In October, Bloomberg Media announced it will no longer allow third parties to sell ads to its audience, effectively blocking open-market exchanges and SSPs from accessing its inventory. CEO Scott Havens explains that the move is an essential part of its “audience first mentality.”
Audiences don’t like being bombarded with sub-par ads, or ads that are not relevant to their current experience, Havens contends. Bloomberg Media is confident that any short-term loss of advertising revenue will be countered by better user stats: more time spent on site, more frequent visits, more referrals—all the things that lead to better monetization.
The company is also expecting improvements in the overall user experience. “Reducing the volume of ads, and the number of ‘ad calls,’ will allow for easier consumption of content, and speed up our platforms,” Havens told Talking Business News.
Havens also said that the company wants to create “a more mutually beneficial relationship by partnering with brands directly.” To that end, AdExchanger reported that Bloomberg Media will launch a proprietary first-party data advertising platform, which it calls Audience Accelerator.
“The more marketers see the value of going direct to publisher for the types of insights and solutions that we as publishers have, that’s overall better for journalism and the media industry,” explained Chief Digital Officer Julia Beizer. While this story made waves, we don’t think it spells trouble for programmatic on the whole—but if Bloomberg sees the successes they anticipate, other large publishers seeking more control could follow suit.
The Publishing Industry Braces for Layoffs & Other Cost-Cutting Measures
As fears of recession grip advertisers, publishers are seeing the ad revenues decline, leading to a wave of layoffs, hiring freezes, and other cost cutting measures. According to The Observer, thousands of people in the news, social media, streaming, and entertainment sectors have received pink slips.
The layoffs are hitting a wide swath of companies, including Meta, Amazon, Twitter, Gannett, Roku, and many others—and more are expected into 2023 as growth in advertising budgets is anticipated to decline.
Some publishers are experimenting with cost-cutting measures. For instance, Gannett is offering its employees a voluntary severance plan, announced a pause in its 401(k) matching, and eliminated five days of unpaid leave for most employees.
Google Postpones Third-Party Cookie Deprecation… Again
Since 2019, Google has said it will soon cease support for third-party tracking cookies in Chrome, giving users the same level of privacy as those who use Firefox or Safari. But time and time again, Google announced it would postpone cookie deprecation just as the cut-off date came into view.
In July 2022, Google’s Vice President of Privacy Sandbox, Anthony Chavez, announced another delay. This time, the company says the deprecation will occur sometime in 2024.
Why the delay? Developers, it seems, need more time to prepare. “The most consistent feedback we’ve received is the need for more time to evaluate and test the new Privacy Sandbox technologies before deprecating third-party cookies in Chrome,” Chavez explained in a blog post.
Google’s Privacy Sandbox has had more than a few bumps in the road since its initial announcement. When it announced FLoC, regulators in the UK cried foul, saying it was anti-competitive, and the company didn’t reach an agreement until earlier this year. FLoC is now off the table.
Per TechCrunch, “Google now expects Privacy Sandbox APIs to be launched and generally available in Chrome by the third quarter of 2023.” That should give developers a chance to adapt by the cut-off date.
The Rise of News Avoidance—And Decline of Media Trust
While trust in media has been in decline for a long time, it really felt like we found new lows in 2022. In June, Reuters Institute and University of Oxford released its annual Digital News Report, a survey that measures people’s news consumption habits and sentiment. This year the survey covered 46 markets, representing half of the world’s population.
High level takeaways: Public trust in media outlets is falling, as well as losing interest in the news. Or, put another way, we may be seeing a rise in news avoidance.
Per the survey, only four in ten respondents say they trust the news most of the time (in the US, a mere 26% say they do). Consumption of news media has declined, and interest in news “has fallen sharply across markets, from 63% in 2017 to 51% in 2022.”
More concerning, the number of consumers who say they actively avoid the news has also risen sharply, particularly in the UK and Brazil. The report also warns that “A significant proportion of younger and less educated people say they avoid news because it can be hard to follow or understand—suggesting that the news media could do much more to simplify language and better explain or contextualize complex stories.” We’ll be tracking how this develops in 2023 and beyond.
It’s still too early to see what 2023 holds for us, but we’ll be keeping an ear to the ground. In fact, you can subscribe to The Topic Tracker, our bi-weekly newsletter bringing media professionals highlights from the worlds of audience, publishing, community, safety, and more.