Association of online publishers Helping media owners build better digital business

AOP content & trends census 2009

The results of the AOP Content & Trends Census shows that nearly 70% of respondents will continue to, or plan to, charge for content – with only 30% of respondents saying they have no plans to charge for content.

The balance of view has shifted from two years ago, when the same question in 2007 showed 54% of respondents said they had “no plans to charge for content”.

Key trends for publishers in 2009

AOP Members talk about the topics raised by the Census

The Survey now in its seventh year, conducted by the AOP, between 15 June and 17 July 2009, during the full effects of the current economic downturn is a unique snapshot of the mood and views of the UK digital publishing industry.

AOP members represent the broad range of newspaper and magazine publishing, TV and radio broadcasting and pure online media in the UK: producers of original, branded, premium and quality content.

In this year’s Census Content and Trends, AOP Members were asked about the Digital Landscape: opportunities, threats and trends - and specifically about paid and free content; user-generated content (UGC); social media; content delivery mechanisms; mobile sites and mobile applications.

The biggest opportunities identified by AOP Members in 2009 are Mobile Web (85%), UGC (75%), High speed broadband (75%), Community/social networking (73%) and behavioural targeting (73%). While the biggest threats identified in the survey this year are the Economy (70%), Competitors (53%), BBC (50%), Google (38%) and Government and legal restrictions (35%).

Paid Content is likely to be a mixture of areas around specialist services, respondents have said the micropayments model will be adopted by one in the three of those charging in the next 12 months.

Members who have indicated that they “plan to charge” for content have highlighted Special Reports (26%); Downloadable Apps (26%); Archives (16%); and Specific Mobile Content (16%) as the top areas.


Members indicated that mobile internet development was the biggest trend expected in the next 12 months, with 86% of respondents saying they already provide, expect to provide mobile sites, or optimised mobile sites. While 83% of AOP members said that the iPhone has transformed the opportunity for mobile internet.

In answer to the question, “what distribution channel will become more important in the next 12 months?” 69% of respondents said Mobile; and 67% of respondents said Mobile Apps, the two highest responses to this question.

AOP Members were asked how much content they expected to create for mobile sites over next 12 months, 60% expected to make either “some increase” or make a “major increase” in this area; while 64% expected to make “some increase” or make a “major increase” in the creation of applications for mobile sites. 56% of respondents expected to develop ‘paid for’ downloadable apps.

Social media

Almost all publishers agreed they are keen to embrace social media (95%). More than half now publish content through Twitter (57%), just under half through Facebook (48%) and YouTube (45%). Traffic generated is the most likely measure of ROI through social media.

This year’s survey shows RSS feeds are still ubiquitous, with 93% of members confirming they use this format, and while mobile and mobile apps have risen to the top of the survey this year; podcasts, vodcasts and IPTV are identified as being less prominent this year.

User-generated content (UGC)

UGC is expected to account for a growing proportion of online content by 60% of respondents, with 10% believing the balance of content will become more professional and 31% saying it will stay the same. The majority of AOP Members already provide a good mix of UGC methods on their sites, with the top three categories as comment areas; allowing users to link/tag content to UGC facilities provided by members on their sites; and reviews/recommendations.

Lee Baker, Director of AOP, said, “We’ve all been talking about a tough year for industry and particularly for publishers, but again our Members show their ability to adapt and take on new challenges in the form of exploiting new formats. A strong vote for Mobile and Mobile Apps is encouraging for the industry as a whole; and use of Twitter is a particularly interesting development in terms of use of new mechanisms to publish content.”

Tim Cain, Head of Research and Insight of AOP, added, “By conducting two separate census surveys this year, we’ve been able to cover more key areas in greater detail to give us a better insight into the businesses of AOP Members, and ultimately a more comprehensive picture of online publishing in the UK”. Findings from the report will be presented at the AOP Digital Publishing Summit on 7 October, 2009 at Business Design Centre, Islington.

In a change in format in 2009, the AOP Census has been split into two parts and was conducted in-house under the supervision of Tim Cain, AOP’s Head of Research and Insight, appointed in January 2009. The initial Organisation Census (revenue and future plans) report published in March 2009 provided an overview of the online publishing industry and future planning: including business achievement and revenue. The second part of the Census (content and trends) survey, published today covers content, content delivery, trends, opinions, threats and opportunities.

Homepage image created with wordle

Join the AOP group on LinkedIn - open for all Members to join
Subscribe to AOP's e-newsletter.