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    Digiday+ Research: Publishers are short on ad sale optimism heading into the holiday season

    In the midst of an economic downturn — but don’t call it a recession — publishers are having a hard time walking the line between optimism and pessimism as the holiday season approaches, especially when it comes to advertising revenue.

    Digiday+ Research surveyed 159 publisher professionals between last year and this year, and found a big difference in optimism about ad sales leading up to the holidays.

    Overall, Digiday’s survey found that there is a heavy reliance among publishers on advertising revenue. Ninety-six percent of publisher pros told Digiday this year that they get at least some of their revenue from ad sales, with 87% saying a large portion of their revenue comes from advertising. These results are similar to last year, when 93% of publisher pros told Digiday that at least some of their revenue comes from advertising, and 82% said advertising accounts for a large portion of their revenue.

    The most interesting finding from Digiday’s survey regarding holiday advertising revenue — although maybe not the most surprising — is the extent to which optimism has dropped among publishers between last year and this year.

    Digiday’s survey found that publisher pros are just about split into thirds among those who think their holiday ad sales will increase, decrease or stay the same this year. The survey results don’t exactly indicate that publishers are pessimistic about their advertising revenue heading into the holiday season, but they certainly don’t indicate optimism, either.

    This is a big change from last year, when publishers were very clearly optimistic about their ad revenue leading up to the holidays. In 2021, a full two-thirds of publishers (or twice as many as this year) said they expected holiday ad sales to increase significantly or somewhat, with a quarter saying they expected ad sales to increase significantly. This year, only 2% of respondents said they expect holiday ad sales to increase significantly.

    A similar difference emerged among those publishers who said they expect holiday ad sales to decrease between last year and this year: 31% of respondents to this year’s survey said they expect ad sales to decrease somewhat or significantly this holiday season, compared with only 10% in 2021.

    However, with all things considered, it’s important to recognize it’s not insignificant that more than a third (37%) of publishers said they do expect holiday ad sales to increase significantly or somewhat this year. Thirty-five percent of respondents do fall into the “somewhat” category, as opposed to the “significantly” category, but attitudes could be much worse as the industry faces the economic downturn along with the rest of the world.

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