Key Developments and Trends in Publishing 2017


Past vs The Future – Part 1

How will 2017 compare to 2016?

In pretty much every sense of the word, the year of 2016 was an extraordinary one. In truth, it was a publisher’s worst nightmare, with ad blockers impacting income, fake news impacting integrity, ad revenue decline, and the world of social media becoming increasingly cut-throat. It’s easy to see why it’s harder than ever to keep subscribers, and even trickier to attract new ones. But last year did also start to provide solutions to these problems, and present potentially revolutionary new paths to take this year.



In 2016, we used our mobiles more than our computers to read our news, rendering an easy-to-use and smooth mobile platform vitally important this year and in the years to come. This means that quick load times and more subtle ways of advertising are essential if publishers want 2017 to be a success.

But how can this be done? Keeping all platforms, including mobile, the same is a good way to start, as many of us use more than one platform to get our news. Publishers will continue to experiment with different ways of monetising on the mobile platform, with the two main routes publishers will go down being either a combination of audience data and content or more personalised, less intrusive advertising. Expect the role of native advertising, which soared in popularity last year, to develop and continue to be upwardly mobile.



The concept behind native advertising is simple. It is basically advertising that is designed to blend in with the style of the host site. Its usage has grown substantially recently as we’re responding to them; they are far more effective at receiving clicks than banner ads.

But 2017 won’t just see the consolidation of native advertising; it will also see a development in them. According to Josh Payne, CEO of StackCommerce, “Native advertising is poised to become an essential component of every publisher’s monetisation toolkit by the end of 2017”.


The increasing use and importance of mobile and video will bring the start of programmatic native advertising (i.e. native advertising that is combined with data of millions of users, or ‘big data’, to come up with the most relevant advert for each individual reader). It’s hard to know where this fairly new trend will go, as there are so many creative possibilities with such an innovative form of advertising, but we can be sure of is that the amount being spent on them will grow, and that we should expect them to be more personalised and more subtle than before. The Telegraph is quadrupling the size of its programmatic ad team.



Don’t be surprised if sponsored content continues to develop in 2017, either. Sponsored content is set to become more impactful by offering something of value to the reader, like a controversial opinion, a fun and entertaining topic or intriguing the viewer with catchy captions or discussing new and exciting technologies. Sponsored content will no longer be some random collection of inane looking articles at the bottom of a page. They will act like an extension to what the reader is currently reading, and won’t really look like advertising at all.



Arguably, one of the biggest problems for digital publishers in 2017 is one that they should have seen coming for some time. It cost them nearly $22 billion in 2015 and $41.4 billion in 2016. Ad blockers are more than a nuisance for publishers now – they are a real worry. At the start of 2015, 145 million people worldwide used some form of ad blocking technology. By the start of last year, that number was 275 million. And whilst there is some debate as to exactly how many mobile users have an ad blocker right now, what is abundantly clear is that it is rising and showing little sign of slowing down.

The message being sent out from this is obvious – people have had enough of having their screens filled with bold and brazen adverts. Publishers will need to come up with a solution if they haven’t done so already, either by:

  • Stopping readers who have ad blockers installed from viewing any content (like the German newspaper Bild). A lot of publishers are building ad block detection technology into their properties in order to safeguard their content.
  • Asking ad blocker users for donations to make up for lost revenue (like The Guardian) or request personal information to build an incremental customer profile and enable advertising or marketing activity. There has to be value exchange both ways.
  • Focusing their attention on high-quality content or targeting a specific audience through engagement and segmentation.


Whatever course of action publishers decide to take to combat this, publishers must come to the realisation this year that big banner ads that cover half of our screens will no longer cut it, and advertising must be done in a way that doesn’t have a detrimental impact on the user experience.


Next week, we will continue to discuss the issues that will trouble the publishing sector in the coming year, as well as look at the new opportunities that 2017 could offer.



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