10 Keys to Digital Success in 2020 (Part 2)
There are 10 key fundamentals that I believe every publisher must execute on this year to take their digital business to the next level. I covered the first five keys in my previous article, 10 Keys to Digital Success in 2020 (Part 1). In this second part, I cover the remaining five – including what I believe is the most important key to digital publishing success above and beyond anything else.
Figure Out Programmatic Advertising
Programmatic advertising is such a blanket term. To really understand what your programmatic strategy should be, you need break it down into three specific applications.
- Programmatic backfill – Many publishers look to programmatic advertising to backfill unsold inventory on their website, with Google AdSense and Taboola being two of the most popular networks. Unless you have millions of unsold impressions on your site, the money you’ll make from programmatic backfill is usually not significant. I’d rather see publishers use excess inventory to give more value to their direct-sold advertisers and keep them loyal. And you don’t want to train your advertisers that they can get on your site through Google, Taboola, or other networks instead of buying directly from you.
- Audience extension advertising – On the other hand, I strongly encourage publishers to sell advertisers the ability to reach your audience as they use Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter, or as they generally browse other websites. In essence, you buy programmatic ad inventory targeting your website visitors, email list, or social media followers from various networks and then resell that to your advertisers. I have seen publishers who execute well on this generate strong six-digit revenue. It also is a great tactic for publishers who are running out of inventory on their own website.
- Audience development – I strongly encourage publishers to use programmatic advertising to drive their own audience development. Market free downloads to your target audience on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn to build your email list. Promote magazine subscriptions and event registration by remarketing to your email list on these same platforms. And use remarketing to drive more webinar or other lead generation programs to reduce the burnout of your email list.
Each of these tactics is worthy of an article of their own, but you should at least be developing your desired objectives and plans for all three applications of programmatic advertising.
Fix Your Email / Audience Platform
I’ve mentioned it before, but if you’re still using Mailchimp or Constant Contact, it’s time for a significant upgrade. It’s not just about email anymore. This is your “audience platform” – email, marketing automation, and tracking audience interaction with your brand.
Your email / marketing automation / audience platform should be able to:
- Send email campaigns
- Send / receive text messages and keep track of it in the customer record
- Integrate website chat with the customer record
- Trigger automated and customized email, text, and website messages
- Track the history of pages they’ve visited on your site
- Track the events, webinars, and downloads they’ve registered for
- Track ecommerce purchases from you
- Know which people are magazine subscribers and when to renew / requalify
- Integrate with Facebook custom audiences for remarketing
With a full-blown audience platform, you can implement better tactics to grow your email list, reduce circulation costs, launch highly profitable subscription campaigns, and build out lead generation conversion funnels for advertisers.
Moving to a good email / audience platform doesn’t have to be complex and isn’t much more expensive than Mailchimp or Constant Contact.
Implement Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) has been around since 2016, but there are still many publishers who haven’t implemented it. Basically, AMP is a lightweight version of your website that allows it to load extremely fast on mobile devices. Because it loads so quickly, Google gives preference to AMP pages in search results on mobile devices.
You’ve likely seen AMP pages when doing a mobile search. They’re the results typically at the top of the screen with the small lightning bolt in the upper-right corner (see example screenshot below).
On average, the publishing companies I work with see approximately 50% of their traffic from mobile, so implementing AMP can have a strong impact on your search engine traffic. In fact, most publishers I work with see 25-33% of their traffic coming from their AMP pages.
If you’re on the WordPress platform, there is an official AMP plugin that is completely free. And some WordPress themes also have built-in AMP support and configuration options that make implementation easy. You can integrate an AMP version of Google Analytics, and most modern ad serving platforms also work with AMP.
Launch an iOS / Android App
According to eMarketer, U.S. consumers spent 2 hours and 55 minutes per day on their smartphones in 2019. Only 10% of that time was spent on mobile web. The rest was spent in native apps. If you don’t have a native iOS / Android app version of your publication, you’re missing a big chunk of your audience potential.
Launching an app doesn’t need to be complicated, especially if you’re on the WordPress platform. If you keep it simple, you can basically replicate your site – complete with paywall / registration wall – for around $7,500. You can also integrate Google Analytics and your most modern ad serving systems into your app.
Prioritize, Focus, and Ignore the Hype
I’ve saved the most important key to digital publishing success for last.
We all have limited time, money, and effort to devote to our business. But we are continually inundated with new ideas, technologies, and opportunities. As a result, we pursue too many initiatives at once, spread our resources too thin, and can’t implement what is most important.
Our challenge is to sort through all the digital hype, shiny objects, and “urgent” issues to focus on the few items that will really make a difference in our business. Is it more critical to build our presence on TikTok or to fix our email deliverability problems?
I encourage all publishers to create a board where you can list all digital initiatives that you could pursue. Prioritize this list, starting with the ones that have the biggest impact through the ones that have the least. Then start tackling them one at a time.
The word “priority” came from Latin and never had a plural form. “Priorities” wasn’t even a word until the mid-20th century. Focus your efforts on your top priority and, only when it’s done, move on to your next priority.
If you get nothing else from this article, please take this away: Simplify what you’re doing, prioritize, focus, and ignore the hype. If you do that, not only your digital efforts, but your entire publishing organization will be more successful.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.