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Just published: Publishing Futures 2015

Publishers of consumer magazine and business information brands have put mobile optimisation at the top of their priority list as they continue to meet growing demand for their content on smartphones and tablets.

The finding comes from the PPA’s latest Publishing Futures report, an annual bellwether survey of trends across the business and magazine media sector. The full and final report is published today.

Respondents to this year’s survey put the improvement of their existing digital products and services at the top of a list of critical business action areas with a score of 6.9 out of 10. This compares with a score of 5.7 for the launch of new digital products and services. Print ranked further down the priority list, with a score of 5.5 for developing existing products and 3.5 for launching new products.

Second on the list of critical action areas is improving the efficiency of internal processes and practices across the business (6.5), while investment in technology (5.8) and skills (5.6) also ranked highly.

Looking exclusively at digital priorities for the forthcoming year, mobile optimisation was the top of the list for both consumer and business publishers at an average score of 7.9, with Apple’s iPad and iPhone the most important devices and platforms.

For consumer publishers, the next digital priority is display advertising revenues (6.6), followed closely by building audience data (6.5) and then native advertising (6.4). For business publishers, building audience data was in clear second place (7.4) after mobile optimisation (8.2) while display advertising revenues and email newsletters registered joint third place with a score of 6.8.

Among the 86 survey respondents, 69% of companies recorded turnover growth, slightly up on the previous year (67%) but with the figure predicted to rise to 78% by the end of 2015. In terms of profitability, 82% of respondents are in profit currently, edging up from 80% the previous year and with the figure forecast to hit 87% by the year end.

Barry McIlheney, CEO of the PPA, said: “Publishing Futures is a valuable annual stake in the ground for our members. This year’s survey again underlines the sector’s continuing improvement and renewed confidence after a challenging period, with the vital metrics of turnover, profitability and headcount all strong and growing.

“Overall there is clearly much greater confidence in the sector, and that is manifesting itself in more assured decisions about the technology, skills and investments that are needed to drive topline growth.”

Jim Bilton, Managing Director of Wessenden Marketing and author of the report, said: “This year’s Publishing Futures survey shows that publishers are continuing the remodelling process of the past few years, but there appears to be more visibility of the available options. That means a greater focus on internal issues - resources, IT, staff, company culture and structure. The emphasis now is much more on how to make the changes rather than being perplexed by what the changes should be. The external landscape is still changing fast, but the industry is feeling a little more in control of its own destiny, which is based on quality - leveraging its core assets of content, community, knowledge and skills - and a real commitment to the long game."