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What will drive success for online publishers in 2017

Posted by Anmol Arora 18-May-2017

This year has been all about brand safety, transparency and finding the money in distributed publishing. Facebook and Google are now attracting almost 85% of the new digital ad spends with platforms like Snapchat becoming media outlets on their own. For publishers, the focus is to strike a balance between publishing on platforms in a sustainable, profitable way and to keep a direct relationship with their audiences. The transition to digital advertising with 65% of total budgets still locked on traditional media indicates there is hope on the horizon.

A few weeks ago, some of digital publishing's biggest brands and industry thought leaders got together to discuss the future of advertising at the Digiday Publishing Summit in Vail, CO . Here are the key takeaways from several discussions we had with brands and publishers:

1. Think beyond ads

While ad dollars will continue to dominate share of revenue in the near future, publishers are well aware how traffic and revenue are plateauing. Brands are increasing their investments in social media with a lot of marketing campaigns often driven on social media, by social media influencers, instead of conventional advertisements that were run on capital intensive channels. Given this shift, publishers are exploring ways to decrease dependence on ad revenues and establish long term sustainable digital strategies. One approach that stands out from others is monetization of existing and new editorial content, especially visual content. Publishers are keen on exploring ways to transform content relatability into content engagement and shopability for their core audiences. For example: publishers who cater to a fashion savvy audience, want to provide the ability to buy items shown in images and videos on their website, effectively bridging product discovery-inspiration- action while delivering a modern user experience. Here’s how Singapore Press Holdings has introduced a subtle yet effective shopping experience on AsiaOne.

2. Be obsessed with differentiation

Brands seek ways to differentiate themselves in the crowded marketplace, and they do so through their advertising campaigns as well. This is an opportunity for publishers to go beyond their conventional offerings, and provide custom solutions to advertisers. It’s time to move upstream in supporting brands when it comes to solutions, insights and custom content. Publishers are required to truly partner with advertisers to provide a platform for campaigns that  have rich, unique, innovative and immersive experiences. You’ll notice that some of the award winning digital campaigns from last year could have only been made possible because of such partnerships.

3. Content is still king but remember that context is as important

Quality content trumps everything else. Although the definition of quality content itself may differ from publisher to publisher, all publishers agree that investments in design, SEO, social media are futile if at the end of the food chain, a reader is unhappy with the content itself. In addition to content, publishers who will succeed are the ones with a laser focus on context. Here are just a few broad questions that will help you assess how are you managing context:

  • Is your content appealing to your demographic?
  • Is your content tweaked to appeal a global audience?
  • Are you aware of how your users interact with you - mobile, web, app, device?
  • Is the advertising consistently relevant to your content and target demographics?
  • Is there a differentiated strategy in place for social media?

4. You need data, lots of data, to tackle the context problem

Understanding your audience and what they’re looking for is easier said than done. But if done right, the payback makes the entire effort well worth it. Publishers understand that in order to please their advertisers, and in order to generate more revenue, they need to first please their audiences. So data about demographics, user behaviour, site performance that was often limited to business and tech teams, is increasingly becoming the foundation of editorial strategy as well. In addition, ensure that insights are available to advertisers to create highly targeted campaigns.

5. Video, Video, Video

The adoption of large screen smartphones and other internet connected devices is pushing digital video consumption rates through the roof. Video has the ability to foster strong audience engagement that leaves a lasting impression; just three seconds of ad exposure can drive 47% uplift in brand recall. It’s no secret that both engagement and conversion rates also have a positive impact with video content. 90% of online shoppers said they find retailer videos helpful in making shopping and buying decisions. Retailers that use online video to show off their products report that products with videos sell a lot more than products with no videos.If you’re already focussed on video content then great, if not, then here are 31 statistics on video marketing that might make you question your approach. Make sure you’re creating videos that users can engage with, this means that if users want to know more about products shown in a video, they should be able to do so. Shoppable videos are on the tipping point of transforming how we consume online content, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. In addition, start exploring how new formats and mediums like VR and AR fit into your three year strategy.

6. Optimize content for different situations

There are two parts to optimizing content for needs and situations. First, make sure your content is packaged in ways that caters to different situations, a great example of this would be the fact that more and more videos today are with embedded subtitles, given an increasing number of people watch videos during their train or bus ride, without turning on the audio. The second part of optimization is the user experience. Ensure your content performs well on all devices and during fluctuations in network strength, and explore ways for users to contribute content and engage with your online properties.

7. Be on the leading edge of technology adoption

This can’t be emphasized enough. We know that the publishing industry was hit hard when internet became mainstream. Technology will continue to influence how online audiences consume and create content, and they will be quick to disengage with platforms that fail to evolve. Publishers that will thrive in the future are ones that continue to experiment with emerging technology such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality etc. and help marketers communicate with their audiences more effectively.

8. Be nimble and Agile

Last but not the least, ensure that there’s room for improvisation and iteration. To navigate the ever-shifting digital landscape and fluctuating content consumption trends, publishers need to ensure they are flexible and adaptive. For example, here’s a thought provoking piece by David Sable, global CEO at Y&R, on how micro targeting doesn’t work the way you think. Becoming an agile, digitally-driven organization doesn’t happen overnight. It requires commitment to change throughout the organization, ensuring a business that is customer-led, fast-to-market and ready for the future!

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