10 Keys to Digital Success in 2020 (Part 1)
It’s a new year and 2020 prognostication is in full swing. Experts are talking about digital trends, emerging tech, and other shiny objects that publishers should pursue.
For most publishers, however, digital success in 2020 won’t be about new trends or technology. Instead it will be about focus, prioritization, and finally executing properly on digital media fundamentals.
There are 10 fundamentals that I believe every publisher must execute on this year. This article covers the first five, and I’ll cover second five in my next article.
1. Simplify Your Ad Sales Program
Whenever I work with a publisher, the first thing we do is simplify their ad sales program to better package and sell what they already have.
Most publishers have too many options for advertisers. Sales reps can’t quickly and easily explain the options, and then advertisers are overwhelmed by too much choice. Step back and take a fresh look at all of your web, email, lead gen, and other advertising options.
Eliminate products that don’t sell. Reduce clutter. Get rid of ‘value add’ and build more value into fewer options. Use the power of supply and demand by limiting inventory, and price appropriately based on metrics. Focus on scalable, replicable models that deliver real value.
I typically see publishers increase digital revenue 50-200% just by simplifying their ad sales program.
2. Simplify Your Website
Want to increase website traffic, improve search engine optimization, drive more subscriptions, and deliver more value for your advertisers? Simplify your website.
Publishers still try to cram too much on a single web page. We try to highlight everything and as a result, nothing is highlighted. A hundred items clamor for attention on every page.
Home pages are messes of tiny fonts, dozens of widgets and promotions, and too many ad positions. Article pages are cluttered with sidebars and footers that nobody looks at or clicks on. Navigation is a mess with multiple nav bars, social media links, and buttons that confuse, frustrate, and distract visitors.
Back up and take a look at each page of your website as if you knew absolutely nothing about your publication. Do you know exactly where you are and what you’re looking at? Is it easy to digest the information presented to you? Is it clear what you’re supposed to do next? Is the layout simple and does the page load almost immediately?
When you simplify your website and fix your design issues, you will solve many of your digital audience and revenue issues.
3. Fix Your Subscription Process
Whether paid or controlled circulation, most publishers still struggle with the fundamentals of selling subscriptions online. Take an honest look at your website on both desktop and mobile. Again, pretend that you know nothing about your publication and ask these questions:
- Is it clear that there is premium content available only to subscribers?
- Is there a prominent and clear call-to-action for subscription on every page?
- Is the subscription page quick, simple, and mobile friendly?
- Is auto-renew built-in and non-optional (for paid circulation)?
- Are subscription sources being tracked and analyzed through source codes, Google Analytics, and Facebook/Google ad conversion tracking?
- Is subscriber information integrated into your email/marketing automation system and being used to drive more subscriptions and renewals via automated processes?
- Do we have a systematic way to get web visitors and social media followers into our email program and to turn email subscribers into magazine subscribers?
If the answer to any of these questions is no, then you have a lot of room to acquire and retain more subscribers in 2020.
4. Fix Your Tagging and Analytics
2020 is also the time to finally get your website, subscription, event registration, and all other web pages tagged properly for the right analytics:
- Get Google Tag Manager setup and installed on every web page. Set up Google Analytics, Google Ads, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other tags properly. And install the website activity tracking tag from your email/marketing automation system as well.
- Configure Google Analytics goals and ecommerce tracking for email registration, subscription, ecommerce sales, event registration, and lead generation.
- Use Google UTM parameters to track the sources of your audience development, marketing, and lead generation efforts within Google Analytics.
Then make it part of your publishing culture to actually look at your analytics. Most publishers have more data than they know. Take an hour each month to have each department report on website, audience development, email, advertising, and programmatic KPIs.
But don’t stop with just the KPIs. Have each team analyze what the data means and what, if any changes, the data is indicating you should make.
5. Get Your Privacy Compliance in Order
By the time you read this, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) will already be in effect. CCPA will apply to most publishers. The privacy compliance company, Iubenda, has an excellent guide on CCPA and has created a simple tool to determine if CCPA applies to you.
The European Union’s GDPR and ePrivacy Directive (“cookie law”) went into effect May 25, 2018 and affects many companies – even outside of the EU. Hopefully you have already addressed these, but if not, Iubenda has excellent guides to both GDPR and ePrivacy as well.
Of course, the United States CANSPAM and Children’s Online Protection and Privacy Act (COPPA) are both still in effect as are the Canadian Anti-Spam Law (CASL) and the California Online Privacy and Protection Act (CalOPPA).
The risk of a small publisher actually being prosecuted for non-compliance with one of these laws may not be high. But it only takes one lawsuit or regulatory action to significantly hurt your business.
Bottom line: Consumer privacy is taking center stage in 2020 and every publishing company needs to take compliance seriously.
In my next article for Publishing Executive, we’ll address other key issues that publishers must tackle this year. But for now, focus on these first five. Work with your team to see where you’re at with these issues right now and make a plan to address them all before the end of the year.
If you focus on successful execution of just these fundamentals, 2020 will be one of your best years ever.
Eric Shanfelt is the founding partner of Nearview Media, a consulting firm that helps publishers with their digital revenue, audience and platform development. Eric is a 25-year digital media veteran and has been the Chief Digital Officer for several large publishing companies. You can reach Eric at email@example.com.