4 Media Tech Trends That Aren’t Going Away
Many predictions about how technology will shape the media business were made when we hosted the FUSE Media Summit last year. Yet in the eight months since, a handful of these ideas are proving to have sustaining impact on how publishers do business.
Here we revisit a panel discussion featuring three executives from IBM Marketing Cloud, Parse.ly, and BlueConic sharing their ideas on the technology trends that will disrupt and uplift the publishing business. Topping their lists are personalization, artificial intelligence, savvy tech integration, and quality content.
Following are some of the key takeaways from that discussion. Panelists include Per Caroe, global marketing evangelist at IBM Marketing Cloud; Cory Munchbach, VP of marketing at BlueConic; and Sachin Kamdar, CEO and co-founder of Parse.ly.
1. The Future Will Be Personalized
All three panelists agreed personalization will come to dominate publishers’ interactions with readers. Many publishers are already personalizing content recommendations, email marketing, and site layouts based on readers’ past behaviors and interests. But as Caroe pointed out, before publishers can embrace personalization, they first must have a strong grasp of their audience. “You can’t do personalization until you understand who your audience is and what they’re reading,” said Caroe.
Munchbach agreed, saying that publishers need to understand their readers at the individual level. That starts with converting unknown readers through newsletter sign-ups, free downloads, or other products. Once publishers have that individual identifier — typically an email address — they can measure how those users navigate the site and what content interests them, making it easier to personalize the experience and drive positive results. “If you know the individuals that are coming to your website or your mobile app, then you can drive better outcomes virtually across any aspect of the publishing objectives that you hold to be a priority,” said Munchbach.
2. AI Will Enable Publishers Understand & Act on Data at Scale
The accelerating factor behind personalization is artificial intelligence (AI), said Caroe. AI allows publishers to personalize the reading experience at scale. Rather than needing to hire several data scientists to manually analyze audience data and target content to readers, publishers can implement AI to perform these tasks more quickly and efficiently, said Caroe.
Parse.ly’s Kamdar said AI will help publishers make their data more manageable. “You have to recognize that publishers are some of the biggest exhausts of data out there,” said Kamdar. “That’s only going to go up as you have more places to distribute your content and more formats.” The promise of AI is for machines to ingest this massive amount of data and convert it into actionable insights for publishers. “The more that you can use data to get closer to the audience, the better chance you have of creating the best content for them,” said Kamdar.
3. Strategic Tech Integration Is Imperative
One of the biggest challenges publishers face in the near future is technology integration. The panelists said that far too often publishing professionals purchase new technology for different divisions within the business, without considering how those technologies may need to work together down the road. As a result, publisher tech stacks have become unwieldy and inefficient.
“The reason that [publishers] have these ‘Frankenstacks’ is that there’s 15 different people in an organization buying technology that meets their needs and is going to help them measure the things they’re accountable for measuring,” explained Munchbach. And technology vendors will not necessarily solve the tech stack issue, she added. Rather, technology integration strategy needs to come from the leadership within a publishing company. Executives must create a road map for technology acquisition, empowering them to communicate with vendors their integration requirements, and set deadlines for when these requirements must be met.
4. Quality Content Is More Important Than Ever
Panel moderator and FUSE conference chair Jeff Litvack asked panelists how publishers can compete with platforms like Facebook and Google, which together now earn over half of all online advertising revenue. Kamdar agreed that publishers’ competition is not among one another, as it was in the past, but with platforms. He said quality, trustworthy content is a key differentiator and publishers must use that to their advantage. “Facebook and Google might dominate in terms of their ability to get as much audience as anybody else…but here’s the thing: what they don’t have is content,” said Kamdar.
Added Caroe: “Good content is always going to win the day.”
Given the exodus of advertisers from YouTube and Google due to ads being adjacent to extremist, terrorist content, and advertisers more urgent calls for brand safe environments, publishers have an opportunity to demonstrate the quality of their content and engagement of their audiences. Advertisers are beginning to recognize the value of quality audience over the reach that platforms like Google and Facebook promise.