COMMENT 

Hang in there

James Evelegh's editorial from today's edition of InPubWeekly.

By James Evelegh

Hang in there

Last Friday, I attended the unveiling, by Wessenden’s Jim Bilton, of the Publishing Futures research. The key takeaway? 2017 is a bummer, but … 2018’s going to be a lot better. If you can avoid folding before 31 December, then things will look up.

Quite why 2017 is proving to be quite so dire, wasn’t entirely clear, but judging by the response of the 99 companies that completed the questionnaire: confidence is down, headcount down, turnover likewise. Productivity is up, but even there, there was a question mark over whether this was the result of increased efficiency or over-enthusiastic headcount reductions.

But the good news is that publishers see 2017 as a year of getting their house in order and are generally optimistic for next year; 72% of companies expect turnover to grow next year with the average rate of growth 5%. And 90% of companies expect to be in profit next year, with profit margins averaging 12%.

Some of the trends that stood out: continuing move from ad funded models to end-user (though not as fast as once expected), away from print (similarly, not as fast), international growth, further diversification though coupled with a harder nosed acceptance that “we can’t do everything”. Of the 12 ‘activities’ listed, companies on average were doing 5.3 of them.

Another interesting takeaway, there are some companies who are not embracing digital, not diversifying and who are still making good profits. This ‘print / ad funded’ model, warned Jim, was a scary place to be because the trends are moving the opposite direction. The safest place to be was ‘digital / end-user funded’, hence why B2B is generally doing better than consumer.

So, a year of stress and sorting ourselves out, followed by a year of growth. To what extent, this is wishful thinking, said Jim Bilton, only time will tell.