Hiring levels at UK publishers are at their highest peak in 12 years, and those with skills related to programmatic advertising are expected to be in huge demand.

New insights from the Association of Online Publishers (AOP), the web publishing industry’s main port of call in Britain, shows that nearly three in four (71%) sites are expecting to take on more workers in 2015. 

Such optimism over hiring hasn’t been seen since 2003, way before the onset of the recession and the dawn of a key driver in revenue: programmatic trading. 

AOP’s ‘Organisation Census’ shows that making strides with programmatic, or automated ad selling, will represent a key challenge for publishers as they look to build off a successful year. 

Part of their newfound optimism has been attributed to the influx of smartphone and tablet visitors, as publishers envisage a third of their ad revenue from this year coming via mobile.

Publishers await boost in revenue 

The AOP outlines that on average, publishers are expecting to see a 19% boost in their revenue from advertising this year. It seems many have plans for the extra cash, with 94% committing to investments in technology and 96% plotting a purchase of data. 

Publishers also have an eye on improving their visitor experience, as 85% are looking to invest in creating responsive pages – up from 76% last year.  

Tim Cain, managing director of the AOP, said: “The 2015 Organisation Census paints a positive picture for the online publishing industry in terms of investment, recruitment, and revenue growth. 

“Challenges around advertising stem primarily from technology, and we will continue to work alongside other industry bodies to support the position of premium publishers in the UK.”

A changing landscape

Along with mastering programmatic, one of the big challenges for publishers in 2015 will be to seize on the opportunity offered by native advertising. 

Two thirds of the 1,700 digital media brands surveyed by the AOP said developing a native strategy would be high in their list of priorities for 2015 – their decision possibly influenced by early success from the likes of The Guardian and BuzzFeed. 

The AOP also insists it is doing plenty to help publishers embrace some of the big changes from technology in recent years, including the shift to programmatic buying from advertisers. 

One of its latest commitments to the cause was present in support for a new private ad marketplace, created by AOP members in Telegraph Media and Time Inc. among others, which offers programmatic buying in “brand-safe” environments.