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AOP research reveals publishers are broadly optimistic about preparations for cookie deprecation

Published: 23 Feb 2022

London, UK, 24th February: New survey results from the Association of Online Publishers (AOP) see publishers rate their confidence levels at 6.5 out of 10, when asked how they felt about their plans for the demise of third-party cookies. Furthermore, while advertising remains a significant source of revenue for publishers and underpins the creation of quality content, new revenue streams represent a greater opportunity over the next three years, according to those surveyed.

‘Digital Publishing: Meeting the Future’ was a study conducted by AOP, aiming to understand how digital publishing companies in the UK are responding to current industry challenges. Carried out between 5th January and 9th February 2022, there were a total of 111 respondents, with 83% making up publishers, and 17% from organisations providing solutions to the publishing sector.

When asked specifically about collaboration with other publishers in the wake of the cookie demise, publishers said they are either already collaborating on alternative data initiatives (20%), discussing collaborating (16%), or are open to the possibility of collaboration (40%).

Investment in audience data remains important, with 75% of publishers working to ensure insights from audience data informs every decision across the organisation and investing in tools to help achieve this. However, currently only 17% of publishers say all their teams are aligned internally around audience data.


Survey participants were asked to rank their top five organisational priorities, with developing new revenue streams through product innovation coming in first place. Also high on the list were: data privacy compliance and transparency; recruiting and retaining talent; ensuring a diverse and inclusive workplace; and developing new first-party data strategies.

When analysing the data breakdown between b2b and b2c publishers, there were expected variations on some of these priorities. For example, developing first-party data strategies was less of a priority for b2b publishers, as their business models often have subscribers or logged in users, meaning they may face less challenges around first-party data than some b2c publishers.

Revenue potential

When it comes to revenue opportunities, over half (55%) of publishers see subscriptions as the biggest area for growth in the next three years, while a third (33%) rank lead generation. The creation of new audio opportunities – audio, podcasts, or internet radio – is also high on the agenda, with 31% seeing it as an area for potential growth, the same amount who saw ecommerce as an important revenue driver. Display advertising came in bottom of the list, considered as having the most potential for growth by only 20% of publishers.

Richard Reeves, Managing Director at AOP, said: “We already know that publishers have successfully weaned themselves off a sole reliance on advertising and continue to focus on new and alternative revenue streams, which is mirrored in the findings. The survey also presents a real snapshot into how publishers are feeling in anticipation of the demise of third-party cookies. Confidence levels are broadly optimistic, with publishers realising that the year ahead heralds a new era, where they can begin to truly harness their unique understanding of their audiences. Collaboration is going to be key factor, and we’re already seeing the value of shared testing and learning through our dedicated working groups.”

In response to the survey findings, AOP will facilitate ongoing discussions on the key themes outlined in the report, including subscriptions, ecommerce, and first-party data strategies.



About the ‘Digital Publishing: Meeting the Future’ survey

This research, carried out between 5th January and 9th February 2022, surveyed 111 stakeholders in the publishing industry, 83% of whom were from publishers and 17% from organisations providing solutions to the publishing sector. Its intention was to capture how digital publishing companies in the UK are responding to current industry challenges.

Half of respondents were heads of departments, while a further 17% were at board level. Half of those who responded work for a publishing brand which targets a consumer audience, 25% target B2B and 27% a combination of both.

About Association of Online Publishers

Association of Online Publishers (AOP) is an industry body representing digital publishing companies that create original, branded, quality content. AOP champions the interests of media owners from diverse backgrounds including newspaper and magazine publishing, TV and radio broadcasting, and pure online media. For more information, please visit

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