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AOP Census: UK publishers entering new phase of innovation

The Association of Online Publishers (AOP) launches Content & Trends Census 2010

The UK digital publishing industry is embracing innovation, as emerging technologies are at the heart of business development plans over the next 12 months, according to the latest AOP Content and Trends Census.

Download the Content & Trends Census in full - AOP Members only.

Publishers see mobile devices and in particular the iPad as central to creating world class media businesses, the theme of next month’s AOP Digital Publishing Summit. The Census suggests a period of dynamic growth and diversification lies ahead over the next 12 months as media owners look to seize opportunities from creative technology developments.

AOP Content & Trends Census 2010
RBI, Financial Times, IPC Media & the Economist Board Members of AOP give their views on the major issues raised by AOP's 2010 Content and Trends Census.

The Content & Trends Census is a forward look at the UK publishing industry through responses - this year from 36 Board and Affiliate AOP Members representing over 1500 respected brands and publications over June/July 2010 - about business models, content delivery mechanisms and what publishers feel are the current opportunities, threats and future trends.

New devices are seen as a transformational opportunity, not least around the economies of web publishing, 60% of publishers agree that more local and 'niche' digital content is crucial. People are still key, and recruitment and skills development, an area of focus that came through in the Organisation Census in March this year, are seen as major challenges for the industry.

Mobile & Apps

Half of the AOP members surveyed are currently delivering content, free and monetised, via mobile apps. Hot on the heels of the launch of the iPad this year, 1 in 6 publishers are already providing apps on Apple's tablet device. Interestingly, more publishers are looking at developing free apps with elements of paid features than any other type of charging model over the next 12 months.

This year, 72% of publishers currently have mobile sites within their portfolios, and a further 25% expect to provide mobile sites in the next 12 months. Year on year, 65% of publishers expect to increase their mobile content, whilst content delivered via apps will increase for 91% of publishers.

The growth in apps has been phenomenal: only 12% of publishers had “paid” apps last year, compared to 40% of publishers in 2010; while 37% of publishers had “free” apps last year, compared to 60% of publishers in 2010.

Apps are seen as the most significant route for mobile internet revenue opportunities according to respondents: via subscription services (61%); sponsorship (55%); and in-app ads (46%).


The mobile internet dominates publisher thinking, 9 out of 10 publishers seeing opportunities for their businesses in the next 12 months in this area; this accounted for the top five ranked opportunities. After mobile, other opportunities identified were high speed broadband, community/social networking, eCommerce, paid content and behavioural targeting.


Overall, threats were less of a worry with proportionately lower ratings than last year. The economy, while still seen as a threat by half of the publishers surveyed, has significantly scaled back from last year, when the economy was seen as a threat by 70%. Interestingly, rights and copyright has become a threat for twice as many publishers, accounting for 42% of respondents, possibly attributed to the rise in video content.

The AOP Census is a view of the digital landscape based on responses and data exclusively from its membership of premium publishers reviewing trends and actual activity as well as a forecast of their businesses over the next 12 months.

Lee Baker, Director of AOP, comments, “The AOP Census is the definitive view of the digital publishing landscape. The level of insight we gain about publishers businesses currently, and the direction in which the industry is going, is of incredible value to our members, advertisers, agencies and those companies that service the industry. This year, the Census has shown the diversity of business models used by publishers – they’ve embraced new technologies and platforms to interact with their audience to operate on a global platform. Above all respondents to this year’s survey have shown continued investment in people, innovation and their businesses.”

When identifying opportunities for monetising content by platform, 38% of publishers predominantly see their own website as the main platform for paid content, with an almost equal split view between iPad/eReaders and tablets (19%) and mobile apps from publishers’ own sites and from iTunes and other stores (18%).

Tim Cain, Head of Research and Insight of AOP, added, “When talking about the digital landscape, publishers have generally re-affirmed their belief in the traditional online revenue model with eight out of ten publishers agreeing that Advertising will dominate revenue generation for some time yet, despite the growth of interest and support for paid content opportunities where publishers see emerging platforms as pivotal to their growth over the next 12 months. The second most significant industry viewpoint is that quality recruitment and development of skills are amongst the biggest challenges for the digital publishing industry, which is in line with earlier findings of the Organisation Census from Spring this year”.

The AOP Census has been conducted annually since 2002, it was divided into two separate reports in 2009. The Organisation Census, published in Spring, focuses on business functions, people issues, revenues and investments and key challenges; the Content & Trends Census, published in Autumn, concentrates on content models and platforms, and publishers views on the digital landscape - threats, opportunities and key trends.

The annual, one-day, flagship AOP Digital Publishing Summit with the theme 'Building World Class Digital Media Businesses' will be held at Westminster Bridge Park Plaza on 15 October 2010.

Download the Content & Trends Census in full - AOP Members only.

Read the full release.

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