2021 has been a defining year for the subscription economy. The businesses which prioritised preparing for trends ahead enjoyed profound success and those that didn’t were left behind. In order to ensure growth in the new year, it is essential for publishers to anticipate changes in the subscription economy.
2020 saw the acceleration of subscription markets as the desire for subscriptions skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the reopening of many territories in 2021, this sentiment towards subscriptions has not waned. At the end of the year, the subscription economy is estimated to be worth $228 billion.
What does this exemplify? The continuation of subscriptions as a defining model in the publishing space.
Below we explore 5 trends digital publishers must prepare for in 2022. Each trend has its distinctive impacts on the subscription economy. Successful digital publishers must respond to these subscription trends early to anticipate their impact on their bottom lines and revenue goals.
The Final Bite for Cookies
A defining digital subscription trend coming to a head in 2022 is the end of third-party data (AKA, cookies). Google, Apple, and Mozilla are all expected to remove automatic tracking of user preferences through cookies in 2022. With growing resentment concerning online privacy, big tech has decided on a drastic response, one which will create a considerable decline in the volume of third-party data available to digital publishers.
Consequently, in 2022, publishers must necessarily implement strategies that not only track first-party data from existing and unknown readers but also capitalise on first-party data that is implementable if reliable conversion strategies are to be maintained. Without the fall-back of third-party data, success will be in the hands of the publishers who effectively capture first-party data and use it to inform their messaging, paywalls, and triggers to each individual reader.
It is also essential for publishers to recognise the roots of this change. The end of cookies is coming due to ever greater calls for more online privacy from consumers. Subscription strategies must hold this desire as paramount with measures in place for identity and security risk management.
The Death of In-App Advertising
The end of cookies also gives rise to a secondary trend: a move away from in-app advertising. Without the guidance of user behaviours and preferences across the web, it is no longer profitable for advertisers to request advertising space which may not land in front of target customer bases. This is a threat to every publisher’s bottom line.
Fundamentally, the move away from traditional digital advertising is forging a reliance on subscription-based models. The subscription industry in the UK alone is worth a mighty £25 billion, and this will only grow as companies capitalise on changing their business model and desire the reliability, community, and loyalty bolstered by subscription pricing. Ensuring a brilliant subscription experience is the key way to drive revenue in this new environment.
The 5G Boom
5G has already begun to be rolled out across the UK, yet only a fraction of devices can make use of it. This coming year will see a surge of 5G use as increasingly more individuals obtain compatible devices. With each customer soon holding a powerful personal computer in their pocket, what impacts will we observe?
Primarily, this is a great catalyst for publishers going digital-first. Fast processing and better reliance creates a robust incentive for digital publishers pushing online content - content which is more convenient for users than traditional print media. Discussions concerning the transition from old to new media have been profound over the last decade, but 2022 will truly establish the blurring of these distinctions as ‘new’ media becomes the new normal.
With 2022 digital trends creating an environment susceptible to subscription market crowding - how will digital publishers ensure their service stands out?
The modern reader is looking for seamless performance. With publishers developing strong digital counterparts, consumers will no longer permit clunky paywalls which are onerous on the user experience - not when better alternatives are available. Here, publishers must keep their readers, and their subscription journey, in central focus. Journeys need to be made effortless through regular adjustment, and this can be achieved by using a best in breed subscription experience management platform.
The popularity of social media also presents a challenge/opportunity here. Readers demand great digital publications. A recommendation or a negative experience is now magnified amongst personal networks so publishers must ensure that they provide positive and personalised experiences to gain both individual custom and long-term growth through recommendation.
Regulation on the Horizon
Simplicity isn’t only to the reader’s benefit; it is also essential for the publisher. Transparent and easy payment, knowledge of what a service entails, and easy subscription package management are desirable for readers, but it’s soon to be required by legislators too.
In July of 2021, the UK’s Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy launched an investigation into the subscription model practice. They found that customers are not always provided with accurate information for what they are purchasing, finding it hard to amend or cancel subscriptions, and not receiving value for money. The governmental recognition of these issues is the first step towards legislating them.
The subscription economy is comparatively new to the digital scene; hence this regulatory move should not come as a surprise. However, it does require publishers to examine how they advertise and manage their subscriptions as well as ensure that their practices are transparent and fair.
This is made easier with a robust set of subscription management tools that allow publishers to implement compliant, easy to navigate, payment systems and clients to amend their subscription packages.
How Publishers can Thrive in 2022
2022 is poised to be an exciting year for subscriptions. With the market increasing in size, publishers must ready both themselves and their content to walk into not only a larger playing field, but also one with more hurdles. The possibility of more regulation and the uncertainty of established systems declining will undoubtedly bring significant change to the industry.
What’s clear is that while 2022 digital trends will create a business space favourable to the subscription model, the way the model is executed is just as important as the choice to implement.
The experts at Zephr are already prepping for the subscription year ahead, get in touch to see how your business can manage privacy, first-party data, and user experience in 2022.