Future of Media: Same Goals, New Tech
When we hosted FUSE: The Convergence of Technology & Media a few weeks ago and I soaked in the latest innovations in artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and mobile content, I was struck with the realization that the industry hasn’t changed all that much. Don’t get me wrong: there has been change. The business has transformed with the rise of the internet and the glut of content available at consumers’ fingertips, but the aim of publishing remains the same. Publishers must still deliver meaningful content to their readers and connect those readers with the right advertisers.
While technology has completely disrupted the market, it also enables publishers to gather richer audience data, deliver highly-personalized content to reader interests, and drive greater engagement. With more granular user insight, publishers can deliver more qualified audiences to their advertisers.
The imperative to create valuable and focused content is greater than ever. FUSE conference chair Jeffrey Litvack made that abundantly clear in his opening keynote. He observed that publishers are increasingly competing with Google and Facebook for digital advertising revenue, and are losing the battle. Publishers can’t beat these tech giants on scale or reach, but they can compete on engagement and rich first-party data. That level of engagement has value to advertisers. Litvack cited a recent comScore study, which reported that ads on publishers’ sites are 51% more effective at driving consumer actions than ads on non-publishers sites. Advertisers benefit from being adjacent to valuable, relevant content.
Publishers at FUSE tackled the issue of creating value for readers and advertisers in a number of ways. Forbes Media, for example, focused on personalization. Forbes CTO Michael Dugan told attendees how the publisher partnered with an artificial intelligence solutions provider to recommend stories to readers based on their past behavior. Dugan said that he wants to move past recommending the most popular content, which isn’t always the most valuable to readers or advertisers. Forbes’ recommendation algorithm takes into account readers’ preferences for headlines, images, video, along with the content’s subject matter. The algorithm also pulls in Forbes BrandVoice content and drives readers toward sponsored content that aligns with their interests.
Another way publishers are adding greater value to their content is focusing on timeliness. Horse racing enthusiast brand Daily Racing Form offered a powerful case study. Chief digital officer and chief marketing officer Todd Unger explained that Daily Racing Form readers wanted more data that would inform their horse race betting and increase their winnings. That led the site to publish real-time updates prior to horse races, using a new CMS that allowed reporters at the racetrack to post updates in a matter of minutes. The content, though not entirely different from what the Daily Racing Form offered previously online, had more value because it was delivered at the right time for readers to improve their bets.
Time Inc. is upping the value of its advertising inventory by investing in technology that gives the publishers a holistic view of its reader data and using that information to deliver more targeted ad campaigns. This year Time Inc. acquired the ad tech company Viant, which owns Myspace and its database of several million registered users. That database provides Time Inc. with invaluable first-party data that, when combined with its own subscription database, allows the publisher to track reader activity across its brands and platforms. Viant’s programmatic technology also empowers Time Inc. to deliver ads to its registered users even when they visit non-Time Inc. properties. EVP of business development Erik Moreno said that using Viant’s technology has empowered Time Inc. to show an advertiser exactly who has viewed and clicked their ad and what those readers did after seeing that ad. In some cases, Time Inc. can track reader activity up to the point of purchase and directly tie the campaign to ROI. That’s how Time Inc. is providing value to its advertisers and justifying higher CPMs.
What is possible in today’s publishing world is astonishing and in many ways daunting. There’s still a long way for publishers to go and a lot to learn. I heard plenty of publishers at FUSE say, “I don’t have the answers, but this is what we’ve tried.” A willingness to experiment was the jumping off point of many of the success stories shared at FUSE. But guiding that willingness to experiment was a singular goal: to create great content that serves a unique and highly-engaged audience.
Check out some of the highlights from FUSE in the video below.