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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

How to maximize the value of your digital publishing properties

March 13, 2018 | By Tim Bourgeois, Partner—East Coast Catalyst @ChiefDigOfficer

A veritable bonanza of market developments – ranging from pedestrian pricing pressure to international political drama – have conspired to cause the “‘pendulum’ of power in global media to [finally] swing away from Google and Facebook” and “signal that their domination of global media is not guaranteed”. Though by no means a fait accompli, the digital media landscape could very well be undergoing a significant change during this first half of 2018. And the net result could mean that the “duopoly” – Google and Facebook – could be vulnerable to eroding market share for the first time in nearly a decade. Here’s a list of issues that competitors need to attend to in order to take advantage of the opportunity.


The Google algorithm rewards websites that download quickly – on both desktop and mobile devices – with favorable results placements. This is a constant challenge for publishers that try to cram as many advertisements as possible into a finite amount of real estate. Finding the correct balance is more art than science, and requires constant monitoring and tweaking to maintain the proper balance.

Action Items: Ensure your website is housed in a formidable hosting environment, and configured to run as fast and smoothly as possible.


While driving reporters and editors crazy, savvy keyword strategies are the linchpin to healthy inbound traffic volume and exposure to new audiences. Publishers are well-served by building teams that combine data-intensive digital marketing analysts with writers who understand audience needs. This is straightforward in concept, but exceedingly difficult in practice.

Action Items: Formalize a keyword strategy – which could include hundreds of keywords if you’re a midsize or large publication – and make its governance and evolution part of someone’s job description.


By now, we all know the value of “viral” content – i.e., the rare but impactful piece of prose (or image, meme, or video clip) that strikes a chord and makes its way around the internet at warp speed, registering hundreds of thousands or even millions of “shares”. Less celebrated, however, is the regular amplification of content by means of a coordinated effort that transforms a typical content asset into one that has meaningful engagement and marketplace impact.

Action Items: Make sure your publication’s content is easy to share, effectively promoted and re-purposed; and make use of your employees’ digital footprints to promote and disseminate content.

Old School Tactics

Considering the mind-blowing pace at which digital tactics take hold, proliferate, and sometimes fizzle –- remember MySpace, AOL, Ask Jeeves, Tumblr, etc.? – it’s easy to forget about the staying power and effectiveness of some of the *old school* tactics. Using the principle of relativity, remember that tactics involving email newsletters, LinkedIn (especially with B2B), and Bing (a Microsoft property that continues to grow steadily, if not remarkably), are the closest things that resemble sure bets in the digital ecosystem.

Action Items: Audit your properties’ promotional tactics, and make sure they incorporate proven (but admittedly, less sexy) initiatives that target audiences use regularly. Note: this may even include things like direct postal mail; given the massive drop-off in DM efforts, it’s easier to stand out as unique through the channel now as a result.

Relentlessly Cross-Promote

One of the most impactful metrics in digital success is “domain authority”, which is generally understood to be the relative value of what the internet (i.e., Google and Bing) assigns to a specific domain URL. For example, one measurement company rates IBM.com and NYTimes.com as scoring in the 95+ range (on a scale of 1-100), which makes sense, considering the value of the brands, and the level of effort they both put into maintaining successful websites.

Action Items: Multi-property publishing outfits can help their titles maximize domain authority through strategic cross-promotion, since a significant criteria in the algorithm is “inbound links”.

Since the category’s inception two decades ago, the digital advertising marketplace has mostly confounded traditional publishers. Only a handful of organizations have been able to incorporate online channels into their operations without residual upheaval and near-debilitating transformation. Far more organizations failed at managing the evolution, and shuttered. For those that survived, there are signs that new opportunities may soon become apparent, and preparing for a market turn would be prudent.

Tim Bourgeois (@ChiefDigOfficer) is a management consultant at East Coast Catalyst, a Boston-based advisory firm specializing in digital strategy consulting and media audits.

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