8 Trends & Takeaways From the FUSE Media Summit Keynote
At the inaugural FUSE Media technology summit in September 2016, publishing executives and tech providers came together to discuss ways in which technology was helping to resuscitate a publishing industry in flux. Attendees were treated to a prescient forecasting of media trends from FUSE Media conference chair Jeffrey Litvack, who at the time was interim COO of Robb Report.
For the second year in a row, Litvack, who is now CEO of Adweek, wore his media futurist hat while giving the second annual summit's keynote address last week. Litvack covered roughly a dozen key trends with the intention of focusing publishers' strategies in the year ahead. Those trends ranged from off-brand media consumption and the rising wave of programmatic advertising to personalization, the growth of video, and media companies' diversification into products and services. Here are eight takeaways from the vast territory Litvack covered.
1. First, Two Key Happenings
Before looking "Back to the Future," as his keynote address was titled, Litvack briefly touched on two key happenings from the preceding 12 months that had perhaps affected the media landscape more than any others: digital advertising overtaking TV ad spend and the so-called Trump Effect.
For the first time, digital advertising surpassed TV ad sales in the U.S. in 2016, bringing in $70 billion. National and local TV advertising, meanwhile, brought in $67 billion in 2016. While the eclipse of TV advertising by digital was somewhat of an inevitability, the occurrence served as an eye opener to the power digital wields in reaching consumers.
As for the Trump Effect, one surprising result of the presidency is that “for many sites, we've actually seen a lift in more readership,” said Litvack. "There's also the light that's now being shined on the role reporters play in our society," as Litvack pointed out. "Always remember that aside from the fact that we're in this to make money, there's a huge public good that we do in bringing the truth forward."
2. The Consequences of Mobile Continue to Grow
If one were to describe Litvack's take on the publishing, media, and content consumption landscape over the past year with just three words, it would probably sound something like this: mobile, mobile, and mobile.
Smartphone penetration, as he pointed out, is now nearly 90% in the United States. Meanwhile, the majority of emails are opened on a mobile device. And for the first time ever, more than 50% of all households are cell phone-only, while 71% of millennials’ households are cell phone-only.
Smartphone-based ecommerce was another mobile-specific trend Litvack pointed out. 53% of consumers who made an online purchase in 2017 did so with a smartphone, while 58% used a desktop. "I suspect that by next year, there will be more purchasing done on smartphones than on [desktops]," he suggested. "And more than 50% of all revenue from the advertising sector is being done on mobile right now, today."
3. Millennials & Mobile
When it comes to the millennial demographic, a group that many B2C media companies in particular are keen to attract, paying particularly close attention to smartphone penetration is a must, Litvack suggested. He drove his point home by sharing two especially telling statistics: Not only do 96% of millennials get their news on mobile devices, but 36% of them get their news solely on mobile devices.
4. Mobile Trends to Keep an Eye On
Regarding mobile specifics to keep an eye on as we enter 2018, Litvack suggested paying close attention to Google AMP. As Litvack puts it, “If you're not AMPing, you're missing out!” That’s because 7% of internet traffic for U.S. Publishers comes from AMP pages according to a February 2017 Adobe report. Also to keep an eye on are the: still-mysterious changes coming to Google Chrome, which will likely affect the way readers will see (or won't see) ads on publishers' sites.
5. Distributed Content Busts…
Litvack briefly touched on what appears to be the disappointment of the distributed content promise. Major players who've decided to pull out of Facebook's Instant Articles platform, for instance, include the New York Times, Hearst, Forbes, and Condé Nast. Furthermore, while a clear majority of the industry claims to see an opportunity in distributed content, only 27% of publishers have a distributed content plan of any sort in place.
6. … While Newsletters Boom
Furthering his prediction from 2016, Litvack said newsletters continue their role as an important product for publishers. He pointed specifically to the Huffington Post, which now thinks the next big opportunity is to have a direct relationship with its readers, in their inbox.
With its newsletter-only content, HuffPo hopes to specifically target Gen Z readers—a demographic that spends its time on 1-to-1 communication apps like SMS, Snapchat, and Facebook Messenger. Other publishers, though – including The New York Times, which maintains 50 newsletters --are using the in-box to drive subscriptions. The Times, Litvack said, “has [discovered] that if you get people to sign up for a newsletter, they convert to becoming long-term paying subscribers. So this has become an important product for all of us.”
Litvack also pointed out the importance of A/B testing where newsletters are concerned, and with having the right audience development manager -- as opposed to a circ manager -- on staff. "A company like Mic is constantly fiddling with their newsletter," he said. “They're changing colors. They're moving pictures around. They're trying new things. In the same way that we used to think about the homepage, you [now] need to think about the newsletter.”
7. Programmatic Selling Remains on the Rise
"Nearly 80% of all dollars spent on display ads are now flowing through programmatic,” Litvack said. “And that's expected to rise to about 85% in a couple more years.” Still, only 17% of the average publisher's revenue is coming from programmatic today. The rest of the display spending is captured by the big platform players, like Facebook and Google.
According to Litvack, publishers’ programmatic revenue should grow, but that growth isn't coming from the open exchange area—it's coming from the PMPs, or private marketplaces. "That's where we're really seeing the advertisers, the agencies, trying to leverage technology to their benefit and buy more efficiently," Litvack said. "So everyone really needs to be prepared for that change."
8. What's Next?
Litvack's info-packed keynote also touched on trends including personalization, video, and the value of first party data (which we’ll report on in future coverage). Litvack also made a few predictions about technological advancements that may move the industry forward in the years ahead.
Litvack is especially bullish on artificial intelligence ("Just because AI is overhyped doesn't mean it won't transform the world faster than you can handle," he said) and the Internet of Things, especially voice assistants like Amazon's Alexa, which now reaches 12% of all U.S. households.
Other predictions? Both telematics (think GPS) and autonomous vehicles will soon work their way into the media business, as will virtual reality, he suggested.
"So that's it," Litvack said, before leaving the stage. "Thank you, and welcome to the future."
Dan Eldridge is a journalist and guidebook author based in Philadelphia's historic Old City district, where he and his partner own and operate Kaya Aerial Yoga, the city's only aerial yoga studio. A longtime cultural reporter, Eldridge also writes about small business and entrepreneurship, travel, and the publishing industry. Follow him on Twitter at @YoungPioneers.