4 Ways to Thrive in a Changing Publishing Ecosystem
Last year saw what seemed like endless consolidation, layoffs, and closures in the publishing space, and this year is poised to be no different. 2019 ended with Family Circle issuing its last edition and, while 2020 has brought some magazine launches, we’ve also seen McClatchy's file for bankruptcy and the layoff of the entire Men’s Journal editorial staff. And it’s only March.
Clearly, publishers are struggling to survive in today’s complex ecosystem, and given the dramatic and consistent changes, it's understandable. Here are four strategies that can help publishers thrive and drive revenue in the face of this adversity:
1. Lean into Consumer Privacy
With the roll-out of CCPA, Google imposing limits on cross-site tracking in Chrome, and future plans for Apple’s ITP in Safari, 2020 is proving to continue the industry focus on privacy. Offering readers control over how their data is used is a must, and it requires mechanisms that respect a reader's preferences in a consistent manner across every instance of their digital identity.
Especially now with third-party cookies going away, it’s vital for publishers to use an identity solution that can enhance first-party data, help monetize inventory, and build tailor-made data solutions that comply with readers’ privacy preferences.
2. Explore New Traffic Sources
According to a Digiday survey, more than 80% of publishers post content to Facebook News Feed and Instagram, while nearly 70% post to Google AMP. The problem with the amount of content pushed to these platforms is that publications have to cut through a lot of noise in order to earn website visits. Thus, unsurprisingly, the study also revealed that only 33% and 38% of publishers are satisfied with the traffic from Facebook News Feed and Google AMP, respectively.
The solution? By diversifying the platforms where they post, publishers can reach new audiences and avoid relying too much on just one platform. Publishers must make it a priority to establish enough reliable traffic sources that if competition gets stiff on one platform, other options continue to get their content in front of interested readers.
News publishers have seen great success in partnering with mobile aggregators like Flipboard, TopBuzz, and SmartNews. Publishers should consider leveraging these platforms to catch on-the-go readers.
3. Think Outside the Ad Box
Although advertising is a sizable portion of publisher revenue, they must remember that advertisers aren’t their only customers! The most successful publishers focus on creating experiences that their users want to explore and brands want to support.
One solution is hosting an owned event. Industry events provide a space for peers to learn and share stories, including insights into challenges being overcome. Hosting an owned event also gives publishers the chance to proudly display their innovations. Publishers should consider curating members-only events to create a scarcity that doesn’t exist in the world wide web of infinite landing pages.
Another avenue that we’ve seen several publishers explore is testing niche solutions as viable, stable revenue streams. The New York Times offers crosswords, Vogue offers click-to-purchase experiences tied to their digital content, and Good Housekeeping has sold housewares in pop-up shops. All of these endeavors began with an effort to create communities among their readers.
4. Find New Audiences
Without an audience, there is no monetization. Finding new and creative ways to scale audience is key to publishing survival.
Email is an effective tool. If someone has already subscribed to an email newsletter, they’re more likely to become a paid subscriber. In fact, 65% of publisher executives named email as their most effective tactic for driving subscriptions and customer acquisition. Publishers must leverage the email channel to drive people to sign up for a subscription and create awareness for custom products or member-exclusive events.
Additionally, publishers should consider offering a tiered membership model. While a subscription paywall offers access to content, membership experiences build deeper relationships between the customer and the publication. Consider offering memberships that come with the added benefits of personalized web/app experiences, curated content, and exclusive access to unique “gets” like a hosted event.
As mentioned before, 2020 has already seen publishers continue to struggle with revenue — but that trend doesn’t need to continue. I hope some of the publishing strategies I’ve outlined inspire ideas that can help the industry pick itself up and begin to thrive again.
Kerel is the Senior Vice President of Global Marketing at LiveIntent. He currently leads the marketing team and works closely with sales, product, engineering and customer success to create awareness and generate leads for key products and features. Kerel has 20 years of digital media experience building and leading Advertising Operations, Account Management, Partnerships & Product Marketing teams. Prior to LiveIntent, Kerel Cooper held positions at Advance Digital as the Senior Director Ad Platform Strategies and JupiterMedia as Director of Advertising Operations. Kerel has his Bachelor’s degree in Management Science/Marketing from Kean University and a MBA from Regis University.