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That’s a wrap: Eight tips from 2021 to continue industry collaboration in 2022

Published: 02 Dec 2021
Author: Richard Reeves

Over the last year I’ve seen that the more industry players come together, the clearer

their similarities become. Time and time again, shared conversations have highlighted how closely publishers, advertisers, agencies, and vendors are connected: not just by intertwined roles in the overall ecosystem, but as forces often working from the same page on key issues.

I’m also extremely proud of the part we have played in driving these discussions. Forming a vital bridge between premium publishers and the wider digital space, the AOP has long aimed to strengthen our own multi-faceted ties — aligning with trade bodies such as the IAB, ISBA and UKOM — and provide opportunities for others to share their varied perspectives at an array of events; including CRUNCH webinars, the annual Digital Publishing Awards, and recently launched Tech Talks.

With the end of 2021 now fast approaching, this is the perfect time to gather insights gained from open collaboration and determine which lessons we should be carrying forward. Here are eight of my personal picks for continuing to build a better collective future through 2022:

1. Journalism must take responsibility to restore trust

Amid rising issues with declining audience trust, CRUNCH 4.1 showed embracing change can help journalism win back confidence. Featuring editorial leaders, analysts and academics, discussion recognised adapting to escalated news cycles, polarised opinion and social media echo chambers won’t be easy — but it is possible with higher self-reflection and governance. Instead of relying on regulation alone, journalists must raise their standards: offering clarity that enables readers to make informed choices and ensuring every story includes diverse viewpoints.

2. Enhancing programmatic ethics calls for strategic unity

Translating enthusiasm about ethical programmatic practices into action calls for more than just consistent determination. As underscored by data, agency, and publishing experts at CRUNCH 4.2, the best path lies with a coordinated approach across each complex layer. Much of the onus will fall on buyers — especially when it comes to targeting ads based on suitability, instead of blunt brand safety blocklists. From the publishing standpoint however, it’s just as crucial to boost our focus on adopting the tools needed to make ethical trading workable.

3. Audience insight should be the driver of sustainable success

Although most publishers appreciate the importance of knowing who audiences are, obtaining a more precise picture of what interests them is essential for future-proof success. During CRUNCH 4.3, major media players championed the growing requirement to set deep insight as the guiding light for content and revenue generation. This not only involves using engagement metrics to steer production and create tailored paths to conversion, but also framing business models around the monetisation methods that best suit audience habits and preferences.

4. Misinformation and disinformation are everyone’s problem

Despite heavy impact on ad revenue, CRUNCH 4.4 pointed out that the effects of contentious and unreliable media aren’t purely limited to publishing. Faith advocacy groups, industry bodies and prominent outlets alike have watched misinformation and disinformation tactics becoming increasingly smart — and leading to real-world harm and conflict. To curb spread and influence, multi-pronged efforts are crucial. In addition to adopting initiatives such as harmful content categories from the Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM), keeping cross-community conversations going is paramount to uncover lasting solutions and maintain representation.

5. Spending needs to level up its purpose game

With putting purpose ahead of profit firmly on the industry radar, the next phase is applying these expectations to spending. For buy and sell-side innovators in CRUNCH 4.5, there was near-total agreement that the moment has arrived for brands to start using conscious investment to support trustworthy publishers, as well as implementing tougher benchmarks. While preserving free speech will mean being careful not to restrict editorial policy, momentum is fixed on tapping combined power for greater good.

6. Talent pools should welcome a richer mix

Opportunities for cultivating inclusive working environments are stronger than ever following the mass shift to remote and hybrid working. Yet speakers participating in CRUNCH 4.6 wisely advised that more can be done to attract and retain employees from a broader array of backgrounds. To populate workforces with richly versatile talent, all businesses will have to craft their recruitment and management for broad appeal and accessibility, including publishers and advertisers.

7. Technology can be your ally

The inaugural AOP Publishing Tech Talk event demonstrated how publishers can turn smart tools to their advantage with the right know-how. Alongside identifying how publishers can bolster yield for premium content, sophisticated analytics have the capacity to fuel long-term priorities, such as finding the optimal blend of subscriptions, ads, and e-commerce for well-balanced monetisation.

8. Nothing beats shared motivation and inspiration

A few months ago, I gave my perception of what made the recent AOP Publishing Awards so special. While enjoying first-class comedy was an integral element of course, by far the most exhilarating factor came from the inspiring entries we received during an unprecedent time, proving once again that disruption breeds innovation. Equally, being able to celebrate together – both in-person and online – was incredibly motivating and rewarding.

The industry has more than proved what it can do when individuals players unite to fix their sights on tackling imbalance and inefficiencies, even in the face of persistent challenges and turbulence. My main ambition for the year ahead is to not only take heart from combined activity, but also retain the impetus it creates. Wherever they take place, communal discussions must continue linking the many different threads of progress to drive powerful change.