5 Ways Publisher Technology Lags & Hurts Monetization
The publishing space is one of the most rapidly evolving markets across the digital landscape. Unlike the majority of the platforms hosted online, publishers rank on top alongside ecommerce and SaaS when it comes to traffic spikes, fine-tuning ROI opportunities, and constant innovation in a red ocean of ad networks, browser updates, malicious iframes, and ad blockers.
Publishing, as a craft, hasn’t changed significantly in its nature. But technology plays an integral role in the overall success of a publishing company, and is where thousands of publishers fall behind the top players in the space.
In order to monetize their online content publishers need to embrace new technologies that enable faster, more engaging websites, targeted and profitable ad experiences, and immediate data insights. After 300-plus conversations with publishers at conferences and during consulting calls, here are 5 areas where I see publishers' website technology holding them back .
1. Technological Stagnation
Using a bespoke CMS or delaying feature-driven milestones for months leads to a notable gap between your business and larger publishers which invest five or six figures a month on technical advancements. The complexity of any upcoming updates scales exponentially. Regressions are more likely to happen, QA batches take longer, and the risks of misaligning thousands of articles with a single deployment is a legitimate fear.
Custom or less popular content management systems are also harder (and more expensive) to maintain. With WordPress running on 34% of all websites online (and more than half of all publishers), third party vendors and services rush to build integrations for their customer base before planning platforms with a significantly lower adoption.
Even smaller updates and enhancements (such as updating social sharing icons or introducing “related articles”) may take a lot longer or affect other pieces of the puzzle.
If you are stuck with a custom build, make sure you maximize the efficiency of the contract with your vendor. Sign a long-term deal as finding a replacement won’t be easy, or consider a migration if regressions and delays become unbearable.
2. Outdated Content Formats
If you are running the same type of content for years, take a look around. Are publishers in your space experimenting with other layouts or content formats?
- If the answer is yes, it’s about time for you to jump on the bandwagon and test.
- If not, you may be in the right spot to lead the way on innovation.
SmallBizTrends reports that this year, video traffic will account for 80% of all traffic served across the internet for different devices. Using tools like Lumen5 to convert your articles to videos will increase the time spent on your site, create the ability to monetize with video ads, and help your site rank higher organically.
Different traffic sources value other content layouts like infinite scroll, galleries, or even quizzes. Top publishers serve over 500 million monthly views relying entirely on gamification through quizzes, some of which are viral and some educational.
Integrating related content backed by AI platforms will flow additional traffic across other internal pages, boosting pageviews and revenue per session.
3. Inefficient Advertising Integrations
Are you making the most out of your monetization capabilities? Paid online subscriptions may seem contradictory, but some publishers have successfully deployed this to generate recurring revenue.
For those of you who still rely heavily on ads, make sure that you:
- Are leveraging the right ad networks to serve ads.
- Make use of programmatic advertising and header bidding for higher CPMs and improved profit margins.
- Monetize the right devices properly. Mobile traffic is over 90% for some of the largest publishers, and tablets may still make up 2-3% of all devices.
- Implement profitable ad layouts.
Ad layouts are the secret ingredient that most publishers leverage. If you look closely at some of the leading market players, you’ll notice different trends:
- Different ad placements for different devices (and even for traffic sources when readers open an article through Facebook, Yahoo, or a Taboola recommended piece).
- Sticky ad units at the bottom of the screen or in a sidebar for desktop layouts.
- Content formats, like quizzes or long form content, that keep visitors on the page while serving more ads by the end of the session.
- Refreshing ads at different intervals.
- Video players loading ads throughout the session.
Finding the most optimal layouts for different sources is an ad ops science by itself. Fewer ads won’t lead to a consistently profitable piece. Too many ads will impact the user experience and may cause a ban from the ad network (or your traffic source channel).
4. Poor Analytics Use
Google Analytics is great for monthly reports and refining the strategy for the next quarter. But maximizing monetization potential is contingent on moving quickly, experimenting a lot, and not losing a fortune on every single test.
The leading publishers are a lot savvier when it comes to decision making. They run dozens of experiments every week. They launch hundreds of campaigns and look for the winners with the top clickthrough rates to boost revenue (while pausing the low performers). They track stats every 5-15 minutes, which is nearly impossible with Google Analytics because it serves data for the last day (at best).
This means investing in bleeding edge technology that tracks every single bit of data, firing up tons of pixels and intercepting impressions the moment they come in. Publishers must compare ad budgets with ad revenue side-by-side in real-time, with automated rules for boosting campaigns. This automation operates similarly to Forex bots which monitor for statistical patterns on top of stock market charts.
Similar solutions already exist on the market, though they don’t provide everything and anything you can leverage. Some may be owned by large publishers so keep in mind your data privacy before signing up. Custom builds, while being drastically more expensive, are always best for data safety and wrapping around your unique business model.
5. Missing Digital Innovations
Lagging behind on the technical end certainly has its flaws. Moreover, it results in outdated aesthetics if you’re stuck on a 2014 design. This inevitably impacts the user experience of your visitors, causing frictions, less time spent on site, lower clickthrough rates due to the damage caused on the brand.
Hosting limitations may be the culprit of losing on seasonal traffic spikes, too. An outdated virtual private server that can’t scale is no match to the powerful cloud-driven solutions offered by Amazon (AWS), Microsoft (Azure), Google (Google Cloud Platform) and a myriad of hosts building on top of them.
Adopting a cloud-driven infrastructure lets you leverage other aspects of the platform -- such as powerful and scalable content delivery networks, file hosting systems that don’t clutter your own server, image optimization and compressing tools, and a whole lot more.
Take note: Ignoring the rapid evolution of digital publishing technology will be a notable disadvantage as you try to scale and compete with the rest of the world.
Related story: It’s Time for Publishers To Build Trading Desks of Their Own
Mario Peshev is the Founder, CEO and WordPress Architect of DevriX, a technical WordPress agency serving high-traffic publications with 100M+ monthly impressions. Mario's background is in software engineering, and he's been a prominent contributor to the WordPress platform - with platform patches, as an open source advocate, event organizer, and more. Peshev has been an adviser to publishers across North America and Europe and leads the technical team at DevriX that has worked on a continuous basis as the extended department of industry-specific magazines such as SwimSwam, Diginomica, and Smart Meetings, among many others. Follow Mario on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.