The publishing world has been struggling over the last few years. Newspaper ad revenue suffered a 4% decline year-over-year — making the industry worth less than half of what it was a decade ago. Magazines have been on the decline as well, although some reports say 2015 could show a slight uptick of 0.2% due to digital growth.
With print sales down and digital sales fighting to keep up, publishers — especially newspapers and magazines — need to come up with creative ideas to stay afloat. In the digital age, technology innovation and features offer new revenue opportunities that publishers hope will help make up the difference from stalling subscriptions and traditional ad sales. To combat the decline, publishers seem to be focusing their efforts on a few innovative avenues:
Native ads represent a bright spot in the digital publishing world. Advertisers love them because they avoid the "banner blindness" that accompanies traditional display ads. Publishers favor the native option because it provides an opportunity to sell more premium inventory to combat the lower prices of digital content.
Certain publishers have taken the idea of premium native ad content and stretched it. The New York Times has set a standard for multimedia, long-form native ads. Its native ads for Netflix’s "Orange is the New Black" and Cole Haan mirrored some of its best editorial journalism, like the critically acclaimed "Snow Fall." The ads included photos, video, and a long-form style of storytelling unusual for ads. The Times reported a 16.5% increase in digital ads sales for Q3 last year, which it attributes to native ad sales.
The success of the native ad New York Time’s Brand Studio built for “Orange is the New Black” inspired Netflix to pursue more premium native ad content opportunities. The subscription service worked with Wired to create "TV Got Better" — a multimedia, digital spread about how TV is changing. The piece in Wired drew comparisons to "Snow Fall" as well, and had the industry buzzing about high quality native content.
Virtual reality technology has made tremendous strides in recent years and is starting to become widely adopted by brands and publishers. The sale of virtual reality headsets like Facebook-owned Oculus Rift is expected to hit $1.08 billion by 2018, and companies are paying attention. Brands like Coca-Cola, Nissan, HBO, Patrón, Marriott, and more have experimented with creating content made for the virtual reality platform.
As more brands develop marketing and advertising for the new VR technology, publishers are realizing there is an opportunity. The New York Times — once again, seemingly always on the forefront of innovative revenue stream — has reportedly been working with an unnamed advertiser to develop a virtual reality campaign for its publication. To help maximize the impact of any VR ads, the Times has also been exploring more cost-effective options to deliver VR content, like for Google’s Cardboard — a low-cost cardboard smartphone mount that can be used to experience virtual reality.
Lifestyle and fashion publisher Conde Naste is using Google Cardboard to deliver a VR experience as well. At last week’s NewFronts, Conde Naste handed out Cardboard devices to attendees in tandem with its announcement of two virtual reality series launching later this year. The narrative series will be a collaborative effort between Conde Nast’s TV division and virtual reality company Jaunt. The series has potential to spark serious interest from advertisers.