The publishing industry continues its rapid evolution with more content being created and consumed than ever before. In fact, I’d even go as far as to say that we’re living in a “Golden Age of Content” because consumers can learn, discover, and be entertained anywhere, at anytime.
The rate of change is accelerating because of over-investment in capital markets, growth of social platforms, improved mobile hardware, and faster wireless speeds. But while the obvious conclusion here would be that content creators (publishers) would see huge business success as a result of this growth in content and content consumption, this is not the story we’ve seen play out.
The same market forces that have enabled the “Golden Age of Content”have continued to challenge even the most nimble publishers.
The Five Forces of Fragmentation
Publishers have struggled with today’s five forces of fragmentation.
1. Content types (video, text, AMP, PWL)
2. Revenue partners (display, native)
3. Ecosystem partners (viewability, DMPs)
4. Distribution channels (FB, Snapchat, AMP, Apple News, etc.)
5. Internal teams (editorial, BD, product)
As a result, they have created a system of disconnected goals across yield optimisation, business, product, and editorial. These five forces of fragmentation have also led users to spend more time in their social news feed. As a result, users visit homepage less often and employ ad blockers that take explicit actions that undermine the publisher business model.
So, how can publishers survive? How can they harness the opportunity that the “Golden Age of Content” should enable? I believe there are three opportunities for publishers in this challenging landscape. Those that tap into the below will be the ones who don’t just survive — but thrive and win.
1. Use Data To Fuel Audience Insights
In the new world, data will be the glue that connects publishers to their audience, enabling them to serve more personalised content, enhanced user experiences, so they can better compete with social media platforms. Data will flow between publisher Data Management Platforms, discovery network insights, and 3rd party data providers via APIs. This will enable publishers to connect their content with their user and deliver a customised experiences based on content type, device and location.
2. Connect Content and Revenue
Publishers will need to connect content and revenue so that content can be personalised and optimised for yield. Currently there is a lack of understanding about the true value of content. Not in the total value of content, but in the value of any article or video at a single point in time and the ability to take meaningful action from that insight. When content is a publisher’s currency and each click is the trigger for revenue, a publisher must connect what they are selling (advertising) with the content that accompanies it. Today’s publishing world is akin to an airplane taking off and not knowing how much revenue you received on a per-seat basis, you only know how much total revenue you gained.
3. See a Holistic Picture of All Publisher Revenues
Lastly, publishers need to understand revenue from all their revenue sources in a single dashboard, not think of them as individual boxes on the page. Once publishers have access to these insights they can further optimise to the correct partner, referral source, or set of specific pieces of content to maximise additional revenue. Defaulting to more paid links as a way to generate more revenue is sure-fire way to disappoint users, while being counter intuitive to the principles of yield optimisation.
Publisher partners with expansive network insights and paid ecosystems can help publishers meet revenue goals, which is the model that’s played out over the last decade, beginning with display and evolving over time to include native, sponsorship, ecommerce and even off-platform distribution. However, bringing those revenue sources together into a single, manageable view so publishers can take direct actions on a complete view hasn’t happened. In fact, many publishers have stopped asking the question for how they can achieve this.
Connecting content with revenue is the crux that allows publishers to understand how much RPM value their Facebook referral traffic is delivering compared to all their other sources. Yield teams can understand the partner delivering them the most value. Audience Development teams can launch campaigns based on feedback from Ad Operations that shows under-delivering sponsorship campaigns. Executives can see how well they are tracking to revenue goals in real-time, all based on the connection between revenue and content.
Breaking down traditional publisher silos to connect revenue and editorial teams with insights isn’t the only benefit of knowing the value of your content in real-time. What if you could continue to personalise the content experience, while considering the value of each piece content? That’s the question that publishers should be asking.
As you move through the remainder of 2017, it would be smart to consider these three opportunities. The Golden Age of Content is here and while it has certainly challenged publishers, it also brings with it new opportunities for success. Publishers have an opportunity to connect disparate data insights, become smarter about their audiences, and tie content directly to revenue.
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