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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

In 2019, these 4 shifts offer opportunities for trusted media brands

November 29, 2018 | By Jason Kint, CEO – DCN @jason_kint

 

Successful media companies have always relied upon having a direct, trusted relationship with consumers and advertisers. Consumers want to know the brand and the experiences they’ll get from them. And advertisers that want to build this same level of customer relationship directly seek out these trusted media brands or tune advertising algorithms their way.  

The teams at trusted content brands wake up every day and create content people love, products that serve them well, and safe and valuable advertising environments—all while maintaining the high level of ethics and professional standards that benefit viewers, readers, listeners, and a healthy marketplace. And we’re here to support you.  

What makes our members unique is also what makes DCN unique. By focusing at the brand level across the entire media strategy, we’re able to advocate and work to advance the future of trusted news and entertainment and partner to develop all sources of revenues. We can also do it without needing to curry favor or meet the needs of a few large tech platforms with out-sized influence who are required partners for any modern publisher. 

As we turn toward 2019, it is a good time to reflect on the top-of-mind trends for media companies. Here are four important shifts happening in digital media right now—all of which play into the strengths of trusted media brands:  

1. Revenue, direct from audience.

With our quarterly and annual members-only benchmark report, DCN has unique access to market research specific to premium publishers. Importantly, our research isn’t skewed with numbers from Google and Facebook. (This is a very common issue in industry research. Always look “under the hood.”) Our research is based solely upon our members. One of the things our benchmarks tell us is that approximately 80% of members’ digital revenue comes from advertising. However, we’re finally seeing growth in direct revenue from audiences whether it comes in the form of membership, subscription, or donation.  

Trusted publishers are uniquely positioned for this shift because they offer exactly what people want: high quality news and entertainment – that’s worth paying for. It remains to be seen how the market evolves in order for this revenue segment to grow as it must, but we’re thrilled to see our members playing a proactive role in shaping the opportunities.  

2. Distributed platforms, going over the top

The list of platforms is endless and evolving: YouTube, Facebook, Snap, Twitter, Apple News, Flipboard. While publisher revenues on these distributed platforms have been promising at times (YouTube), they’ve often been disappointing (Apple News, Facebook Watch). But right now, quality content creators are seeing the fastest movement in the video space, particularly long-form and over the top (OTT).

Our best practice research on OTT earlier this year showed how our members are taking aim at these opportunities. However, new gatekeepers are surfacing in the OTT space like Amazon and Roku. And while Google and Facebook don’t like being called “walled gardens,” every new platform will no doubt be planting their own seeds to maximize their profits off your content. Experimentation is essential. But protecting your IP and deal terms early on is critical.  

3. Ad targeting, rebirth of context 

In the EU, the impact of GDPR has just started. There are new claims calling into question the entire way Google has collected consent for its ad supply, how real-time bidding operates, not to mention endless class-action suits mostly focused on Google and Facebook. DCN has distributed research on Google’s unique and unavoidable ability to mine behavioral and location data significantly beyond user expectations as you browse the web and walk the streets . We’ve argued towards raising the bar on companies who collect data across most of the web while recognizing the inherent trust in choosing to visit your environments, brands and context.  

Global leaders are asking more questions than ever. Looming large over the discussion is a new law in California which will impact the very companies that are now (albeit, ironically) advocating for federal laws to save them through preemption. It’s been a wild year when Google, Facebook and its trade group, IAB, are now finally pushing for a federal privacy law thereby admitting their existing frameworks may be failing consumers. Quality publishers have a unique role in shaping any solutions as consumers seek more controls and alignment with their expectations. Consumers don’t know the hundreds of ad tech companies mucking up their web experiences, but they do know you and your brands. And, of course, this value then transfers to ads in this environment.  

4. Advertising, direct to consumer

Research from the IAB, as well as industry discussions, has driven a DTC (“direct to consumer”) movement as the next big thing. Here is the great news about this conversation: It’s no longer focused on the plumbing, data, ad tech, and vendors. It’s focused on how brands have value and can connect directly with audiences and consumers, bypassing gatekeepers and intermediaries. This is the sweet spot for quality content companies. In fact, I’d say if anyone wants to better understand how to go direct to consumers, they should start with the members of DCN.

But here’s the rub: Many players in the market won’t ever really be able to go “direct to consumer” without relying on the brand equity of trusted media. In order to find scale, they’ll first need to build demand, be willing to bundle, and find quality brands to associate with and carry their flag. They’ll want to be near those with purpose and value recognized by the public.  

I’m sure each of these movements will surprise us in ways we can’t predict. They may develop more slowly than anticipated or accelerate at light speed like the privacy regulation has with GDPR and Facebook’s mishaps hitting in the same quarter. But either way, premium publishers should be ready as, with the right proactive strategy, there are opportunities in all. 

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