2019 Digital Publishing Trends That Publishers Care About

2018 was a year filled with a lot of surprises for digital publishers. We saw digital ad rates hit an all-time high and industry regulation gain steam in the form of GDPR and Ads.txt. Recently, we surveyed a large number of digital publishers of all shapes and sizes to learn about what trends they were expecting and concerned about in 2019.

Below, we’ll look at the things digital publishers expect to see in 2019, what they are concerned about, and what new innovations they are keeping their eyes on.

I’ll share the survey results and contextualize some of the information to provide some insights into how you can dive deeper into each subject.

The survey includes responses from over 120 digital publishers of all shapes and sizes. It includes submissions from multiple job roles and features publishers in segments from across different publishing verticals.

What are the highest priorities for publishers in 2019?

In 2018, publishers saw the rise of new innovations, regulations, and platform opportunities. Heading into 2019, there was one clear are of major interest.

So what is the highest priority heading into 2019?

publishing trends

Traffic, but more specifically, quality visitors.

Over 50% of the respondents selected “SEO” or “Audience growth and marketing”. This highlights how important publishers see the ability to grow their audience.

The barrier to entry in many publishing verticals is low, so publishers must continually find ways to build and engage their audiences. SEO is obviously important for many publishers because search engines provide a reliable and consistent form of traffic.

While nearly 1/4 of publishers saw SEO as the highest priority, even more publishers were thinking more broadly about the idea of building a quality audience. Many saw the idea of marketing and growing a sustainable audience as something that extended beyond just SEO.

I recently wrote about where to share content and discussed several methods of marketing content. I think we will see this continue to grow in popularity among publishers as they look to reduce reliance on exterior platforms for the majority of their traffic.

What were publisher’s biggest challenges in 2018?

In the same way that publishers are prioritizing traffic and audience growth in 2019, many saw growing their audiences as the most difficult challenge in 2018.

website trends 2019

The challenges were predictable for publishers in 2018. Building an audience is the core of any publishing business. Once an audience exists, the publisher can monetize traffic and find ways to grow their revenue.

For this reason, we see traffic as the overwhelming favorite followed by “Growing Revenue”.

What is slightly interesting is where “website speed and infrastructure” fall on this list. Coming in at #3, it is a bit surprising to see such a high percentage of publishers list this as the biggest challenge of 2018.

We did several articles on website speed (read the Manifesto here) last year; including this article on how to speed up a WordPress site that was very popular.

What emerging trends are most interesting to publishers in 2019?

There is no shortage of emerging technologies and innovations for publishers to explore in 2019. However, most publishers know that investing resources in flushing out new strategies can be costly. So, it’s no surprise that we see a lot of variability among our diverse audience in this category.

website trends 2019

Every publisher is different and must find ways to adapt to their audience. Different verticals and different audiences will respond to the innovations above differently. This means the value of things like AMP, PWAs, Schema, and other emerging trends are different to every publisher.

I do think we will see more publishers explore PWAs in 2019.

Publishers focusing on SEO will obviously see more value in things like Schema markup. Meanwhile, publishers looking to find additional ways to grow and engage audiences may be looking to explore things like video content or podcasting.

What influences publisher opinions?

There are a lot of places for digital publishers to get news and information. However, some obviously have become more trustworthy than others.

publisher trends

While there is no clear consensus on where to get news and information, it does appear that the majority of publishers prefer to get their information from official communication sources or from what they directly observe other publishers doing.

What’s interesting about this is that most publishers that emerge at the top of their verticals are the ones innovating and thinking differently. Publishers getting the majority of their information from official sources and from observing other publishers may want to seek to diversify where they pull new ideas and strategies from.

What will be the biggest challenge for publishers in 2019?

While we discussed what many publishers will be focusing on already, it is also important to look at what challenges they perceive on the horizon.

what will change for websites in 2019

2018 brought about regulatory challenges like Ads.txt and GDPR. In 2019, publishers clearly perceive their traffic sources as major areas of concern alongside evolving regulatory standards. Additionally, diversifying revenue streams is something on the minds of a large number of digital publishers heading into 2019.

What publications do publishers read to stay on top of industry news?

While many publishers look around the web for answers to their most pressing questions, the vast majority look to blogs like this one for helpful news and information.

publishing survey and trends data

The only publication outside of blogs that stood out in the data was DIGIDAY.

Which platform do publishers trust the least?

While publishers have always had a tenuous relationship with major platforms, one stood out among the rest.

publishing platform trends

While the presence of SEO at the top of many survey results above may lead us to believe that publishers generally are wary of Google, it appears they are far less trusting of Facebook.

In fact, far more than 50% of publisher saw Facebook as the least trustworthy major platform.

Facebook has earned their tough reputation with publishers. Non-transparent changes in the newsfeed and the reduction of reach for publisher pages has earned Facebook a tarnished image with publishers.

Facebook does seem to bounce back and forth with publishers. They often offer lifelines with new things like Facebook Watch, but then wipe away all goodwill with major changes to things like the way publishers reach their followers on Facebook’s platform.

What type of content will publishers produce more of in 2019?

There is a clear area that our publishers that were surveyed plan to spend their time in 2019.

content trends 2019

Long-form written content was far and away the most popular choice; however, a large number of publishers do seem poised to explore more video content as they head into 2019.

What new trends are publishers most unsure of heading into 2019?

Heading into 2019 there are a lot of unanswered questions for digital publishers.

publishing innovations

There is no real clear favorite. Innovations that publishers are concerned about in 2019 are all over the map. This is likely indicative of how all of these trends affect different kinds of publishers in different ways.

The emergence of regulatory changes in 2018 may be influencing more publishers to look at the regulatory horizon in 2019. As we can see, among all the concepts listed, industry regulatory trends is the top performing entry.

We dig in deeper in this episode of Inside The Publisher Lab

How to stay ahead of the pack…

With so many things to pay attention to, publishers will need to keep their eyes wide open in 2019.

What do you think publishers should be paying attention to this year? Leave your thoughts below in the comments.