UK digital publishing revenues up by 32 per cent, subscriptions up 49 per cent in Q1 2021 – AOP & Deloitte

Digital publishing revenues in the UK increased to GBP£152 million in Q1 2021, up by 31.9 per cent in comparison to Q1 2020, according to the latest quarterly Digital Publishers’ Revenue Index (DPRI) from the Association of Online Publishers (AOP) and Deloitte. 

During Q1 2021, display advertising held its place as the largest category by revenue for digital publishers, with income reaching GBP£53.6 million, an increase of 4.7 per cent against Q1 2020. Revenue from subscriptions also contributed positively, growing by 48.8 per cent compared to Q1 2020.

To see growth of 49 per cent in subscription revenue in the first quarter of 2021 is staggering.

Dan Ison

Both B2B and B2C publishers saw double-digit growth in digital revenues in Q1 2021. B2C publisher revenues grew by 34.2 per cent, relative to Q1 2020, from GBP£104.3 million to GBP£139.2 million, fuelled by large increases in subscriptions (64 per cent). B2B revenue increased by 11.1 per cent, relative to Q1 2020, driven by increases in subscriptions (4.7 per cent) and display advertising (18.7 per cent).

On a 12-month rolling basis ending March 2021, total digital revenue increased by 9.5 per cent to GBP£517.4 million, driven by substantial growth in subscriptions which increased to GBP£123.1 million over the same period. Overall revenues across both B2B and B2C publishers increased, growing one per cent and 10.5 per cent respectively on a 12-month rolling basis.

Categories that did not perform as well in the 12 months ending March 2021 included recruitment, sponsorship, and online video income, which were down by 46.9 per cent, 17.2 per cent and 23.1 per cent respectively since March 2020.

Publisher confidence in the industry remains very strong, mirroring broader economic optimism. Perhaps influenced by the learnings of the pandemic, 78 per cent of AOP’s board members surveyed believe cost reduction will once again be a high priority for their business over the next 12 months, up from 14 per cent since this time last year. 

Dan Ison, Lead Partner for Telecommunications, Media and Entertainment, Deloitte, commented: “To see growth of 49 per cent in subscription revenue in the first quarter of 2021 is staggering – in comparison, we saw a slight four per cent increase in first three months of 2019 – and a clear sign that the industry may be building back stronger following the impact of the pandemic.

“New data from Deloitte’s Digital Consumer Trends research highlights that consumers aged 18-24 are the most likely age group to have access to a paid news-site or magazine subscription. Galvanising loyalty particularly among this age group should continue to be a key priority for publishers in the year ahead, alongside the development of content formats that appeal to new readers and subscribers.”

Richard Reeves, Managing Director, AOP, commented: “The rapid increase in digital revenues across almost all categories is extremely heartening, especially after the lows of last year. While there are clearly still long-term impacts of the pandemic it’s great to see the exceptional value and quality environments digital publishers can deliver is being recognised by the industry, demonstrated by the incredible performance in Q1 2021. With substantial growth in subscriptions, it’s great to see publishers continue to innovate and expand their offerings alongside digital advertising.”


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