Findings from the AOP Organisation Census 2012 show 35% launching in new markets this year, 72% looking to partner with fellow publishers, a third on the acquisition trail

While 2011 saw a degree of rationalisation of digital portfolios, the focus for 2012 is now very much on expansion both in core businesses and the launch of new products alongside acquisitions. 79% of publishers expect to expand their portfolios this year with only 3% expecting some rationalisation in the number of digital products. 86% of publishers are expecting to launch new products into their existing markets in the next 12 months, and a healthy 35% are looking to launch into new markets, with tablet and smartphone apps being at the forefront of product diversification. Increasingly 2012 is also likely to become a year of acquisition, with one in three publishers looking at product acquisition in their existing markets.

As product portfolios diversify we can expect to see a growing emphasis on developing paid for access to content, two thirds of publishers (68%) suggesting they are likely to introduce more paid for elements to their portfolios this year compared to 63% in 2011. Those who aren’t very likely to introduce more paid for elements have shrunk year on year from 25% to 14% of publishers. Of those left, there is no commitment to either introduce more paid for elements or rule them out.

On the back of product growth expectations there is an overall optimistic outlook for recruitment, despite the recurring downsizing that has occurred over the last two years. Two thirds of publishers (66%) are expecting growth in digital staffing in 2012 compared to the 55% who actually grew in 2011, a figure which in itself represented the biggest number of publishers increasing staffing levels since 2008.

The roles that publishers are pursuing most vigorously are ad operations and database and data analysis, where one in two publishers are looking to recruit. For both areas, that represents a significant change year on year and an increasing focus on data. The number of publishers looking to recruit advertising operations staff has doubled since 2011, while the number of publishers looking to recruit for database and data analysis roles has grown from 38% to 52%.

With commercial activity still at the forefront, there is also a strong focus on revenue generating staff, led by ad sales where one in two publishers are also looking to recruit, while those looking to expand business development and ecommerce roles have both doubled year-on-year to 32% and 26% respectively.

With the focus for 2012 firmly on developing new products, and particularly apps, the Census also shows that one in two publishers are looking to recruit staff in the areas of apps (52%) and mobile development (48%), a significant increase on 2011 where the corresponding numbers were 41% and 31% respectively

Alongside recruitment, the key skills that publishers are looking to invest in developing are also in apps and mobile development. Both have seen substantial growth as key skills for media businesses in 2012, now recognised as such by more than 60% of publishers who are committed to investment, compared to 31% and 27% respectively in these areas back in 2011.

Ad sales has long been a key area for investment in skills and 56% of publishers expect to invest here in 2012, but alongside sales, the same number of publishers are committed to investing in ad operations, which is a massive increase on the 23% who were prepared to last year.

Product development (39%) and video production skills (36%) are both also increasingly being seen as areas of investment, rising respectively from 33% and 23% in 2011.

Tim Cain Head of Research and Insight at AOP says: “This year’s Organisation Census presents a bullish view of growth by digital publishers in 2012, the opportunity strengthened by the growing adoption of mobile platforms led by tablets. Innovation in technology is a key theme and the view expressed on collaboration by publishers to allow them to move more swiftly and efficiently and ultimately more competitively is a concept that will attract attention. On a staffing and development front, An increasing focus on data is driving publishers to develop new skillsets."
The 2012 Census shows a growing desire for collaboration between publishers when it comes to technology developments. 72% of publishers either currently, or would aim to collaborate or enter partnerships on technology developments with other publishers, for example licensing another publisher's platform.

This is spurred by the perceived advantage of speed to market, cost savings and shared learnings. Collaboration between publishers is also seen as an opportunity to compete at scale online against a growing range of digital-only competitors.

84% of publishers are growing their investments in technology this year, once again an increase on 2011 when the figure was 78%. Almost all publishers are growing their investment in mobile and apps development, and the other main areas of technical investment are led by 73% in both data (up from 63% last year) and video technical development (up from 56% last year).

Partnerships with tech companies are very much at the forefront of publishers’ strategies and set to increase this year, with around 70% likely to increase tablet and mobile app partnerships and around 50% for video and data management.

That said, last year’s Census saw 79% and 83% of publishers increasing tablets and mobile apps partnerships respectively - this drop may be explained by an increase in in-house mobile teams over the past year.

The number of publishers expecting to increase data management partnerships is similar year-on-year, those looking to increase video partnerships has increased significantly from 28% to 49%

On a wider scale, a trend towards publishers outsourcing is slowing, with only 13% expecting to increase outsourcing compared to 21% the previous year.

While the Census presents a bullish outlook for 2012, publishers also recognise that the challenges in growing their businesses are not insignificant and similar to last year. At macro level the economy and external market forces represent a challenge to 53% of publishers with a similar number saying that the main challenge is developing new revenue streams. Developing new products and making best use of data are recognised as challenges by 42% of publishers. The other significant areas affecting business growth are the ongoing challenge of recruiting the right people and skills development, and developing of tablet and mobile apps, all recognised by 36% of publishers.

37 publisher members of AOP took part in the Organisation Census this year, including all Board Members.

AOP members can access the full report via www.ukaop.org.uk/orgcensus2012

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Further information from:
Ron Nussey, Head of Marketing and Communications at AOP: ron.nussey@ukaop.org.uk 020 7400 7532

About AOP
The UK Association of Online Publishers (AOP) is the industry body representing online publishing companies that create original, branded, quality content. AOP champions the interests of companies from newspaper and magazine publishing, TV and radio broadcasting, and pure online media. The AOP raises awareness, and addresses concerns relating to all areas of online publishing to industry and Government; covering topics such as paid-for-content, online subscription models, data protection, copyright, content management, new technologies and audience measurement. AOP publishes original research including the annual Census. It also hosts forums, conferences and events, where members can debate issues, meet peers and network.

The AOP hosts two annual flagship industry events, the AOP Digital Publishing Awards – 19 July 2012, and the AOP Digital Publishing Summit scheduled for 12 October 2012. The Winners from last year’s AOP Awards can be found here.

AOP Members include AN Media, Bauer Consumer Media, BBC, BSkyB, CBS Interactive, Centaur, Channel 4 New Media, Condé Nast Digital, Economist Group, Future Publishing, Global Radio, Guardian Media Group, Haymarket Media Group, Incisive Media, Independent Print Limited, IPC Media, ITV, Hearst Magazines UK, News International Ltd, Reed Business Information, Telegraph Media Group Ltd, Thomson Reuters, Trader Media, Trinity Mirror, TSL Education, UBM www.ukaop.org.uk

Published on: 10:03AM on 26th March 2012