Digital publishing revenue declined 2.3% year over year against Q1 2019, according to the latest quarterly Digital Publishers Revenue Index (DPRI) from the Association of Online Publishers (AOP) and Deloitte. During the first three months of the year, income from subscriptions experienced strong growth of almost 20%. However, display and recruiting advertising both suffered significant declines, falling by 22.5% and 12.8% respectively in Q1 2020.
Publisher revenue diversification efforts helped offset the ongoing decline in digital ad revenue for publishers, as the duopoly continues to account for the vast majority of growth in this sector. This decline was, of course, intensified by the pandemic.
On a 12-month rolling basis, subscriptions and miscellaneous revenues performed strongly, growing by 18.8% and 25.9% respectively. Online video revenue grew by 10.7% and sponsorship experienced a slight increase of 3.2%. Growth in these areas however failed to offset the substantial reduction in revenue from display advertising formats — down by 17.1% year-over-year. Overall, digital revenue fell by 4.0% on a 12-month rolling basis.
Despite downturns across multiple revenue areas, the B2B sector was able to maintain revenue by growing sponsorship (10.9%), online video (10.6%) and subscription (2.3%) income.
A growing number of AOP board members reported prioritizing non-advertising revenue growth and cost reduction strategies. According to the DPRI, almost 90% of publishers cited non-advertising revenue growth as a high priority for the next 12 months, up from 78% who said the same in Q2 2019. Meanwhile, 78% of publishers identified cost reduction as a high priority for the next 12 months, up from 44% who were focusing on this area in Q2 2019. None of the publishers surveyed reported seeing expansion by acquisition as a strategic priority over the next 12 months, reflecting their need to focus on existing business operations.
As Richard Reeves, Managing Director, AOP, commented, “Ten years ago, display advertising made up 58% of digital publisher revenue and subscriptions only 7%. Subscriptions now account for 22% of total revenue; with display advertising having shrunk to 42%. As income from display continues to decline, the shift towards subscriptions and other diverse revenue sources is only set to grow, accelerated in part by the pandemic. The publishers that adapt to this change will be the ones that have the most to gain when the storm passes.”
It’s a familiar scenario. One of the big ad tech players announces a change and we are all left to interpret what exactly it means. The only certainty is that it will take some effort to understand the full picture, the driving force behind it, and a plan of action.
As the big players quickly and quietly expanded their walled garden ecosystems, many publishers found themselves left without a key. We all know these big players own most of the market share and also dominate most of the growth as well. By the end of 2020, it’s predicted that nearly 70% of US digital ad dollars will be spent with Amazon, Facebook or Google.
However, publishers do have options for regaining control, especially when it comes to new growth areas like connected TV (CTV). Even before Covid-19 drove consumers to CTV and streaming in record numbers, 2019 saw a 330% rise in programmatic OTT/CTV ad transactions with CTV market advertising spend in the US valued at $6.94B last year. As you begin to build out your CTV strategy, it’s important to learn from the lessons of the past to avoid making the same mistakes.
Own your audience relationships
Distribution and tech partnerships often begin with great promise. When Apple introduced their Newsstand offering, it was positioned as a lucrative way to expand subscriber reach on iOS devices. Once Apple announced they would only allow single issue sales and began acting as an intermediary by keeping the subscriber data collected on their platform, the need for a business model more balanced with publisher needs became evident.
Nothing is more important than your audience and the ability to maintain control over the close audience relationships you cultivate. Effectively identifying these loyal audience segments and estimating user lifetime value is the foundation of a successful strategy. If you’re not working with an independent tech provider, it’s important to consider the potential implications and potential risks of partnering with a competitor or potential competitor and what impact that might have on your audience relationships.
Control and leverage your data
Your data is a key asset in your private garden. Controlling who gets in and what goes out is especially important as GDPR, TCF, and CCPA come into full effect. These changes have immediate impact on your revenue, but also secondary costs from the business model adjustments needed when third-party cookies are disabled.
Niche targeting, personalization, and frequency capping all depend on transparency and insights derived from data. Controlling and fully understanding your data makes it possible to hone your monetization strategy and create innovative opportunities for advertisers. When others have control over your data, it becomes more challenging.
For example, concerns have been raised around Google’s proposed TURTLEDOVE solution and its less frequent reporting structure. This poses a big challenge around leveraging data to fully optimize and capture revenue. As publisher first-party data becomes increasingly valuable and offers more monetization opportunities, it’s important to consider whether your provider is data neutral or more interested in harvesting your data.
Control your infrastructure
Make sure you are the one in charge of all the tech decisions in your private garden. In a technologically nuanced space like CTV look for partners that provide the expertise and infrastructure needed to ensure data protections, but also allow you to maintain control. Be wary of partnering with players who are also competing for your audience’s attention. And ensure that you will have enough flexibility in customization and business rules.
When Google first acquired DoubleClick back in 2008, they promised it would offer publishers more tools, enhanced productivity and additional revenue while freeing up resources to allow publishers to focus more on building and maintaining a web presence. In reality, it was one of the first deals that helped Google establish dominance and affect changes in customization and control that continue to ripple through the entire industry. Again, be very careful with who you let into your private garden.
Diversify your revenue
The end of third-party cookies means short-term revenue losses are likely. Many publishers have already begun exploring ways to diversify their revenue streams. Meredith is a great example of strategically embracing data management and ownership. The launch of their Data Studio and e-commerce sites connected back to their brands has helped optimize revenue streams.
Engaging loyal audience segments through registrations and subscriptions is another strategy that many of you have begun to embrace. Build upon existing successes like The New York Times has done with the introduction of their stand alone NY Times Crosswords and NY Times Cooking offerings. This is another avenue for strengthening audience relationships while building more robust first-party data.
This industry shift towards CTV offers another consideration for diversification. It also provides a prime opportunity to take back control and build your own private garden. Learn from the past in order to make careful choices around who you partner with and how you protect your investments from the start. This will give you the key to your own private garden and bring success in expanding into new growth areas.
Many media companies have turned to virtual events as a way to engage audiences on a personal level during the pandemic. From webinars to virtual festivals, teams have worked to evolve their offerings as the long-term outlook for physical events remains uncertain.
The Financial Times, The Atlantic, and Bloomberg, are among media companies that produce events as one of their diversified revenue streams. They are also among those that have had to evolve their revenue strategy as their teams hit their stride with virtual events.
Maturing virtual events strategies
In March, FT Live went from being completely focused on physical events to virtual in just days. As a test, they launched The Global Economic Emergency webinar. And with just three days of promotion, they racked up over 7,000 attendees who logged in to watch.
“We had these huge numbers, and it was a bit of a lightbulb moment for us,” explained Orson Francescone, the Managing Director of FT Live. “We quickly realized that we could do something bigger and bolder.”
Weeks later, the company launched The Global Boardroom. The three-day event featured 110 remote speakers and boasted 52,000 registrations. The event focused on the impact of coronavirus on policy, business, and finance. And it was so popular that a second edition is scheduled for November.
The Atlantic has seen similar success with online registrants, with over 20,000 attendees attending their 28 virtual events. “It’s a larger audience than we would have been able to convene in person,” said Aretae Wyler, COO of The Atlantic. “It’s more international, and we’re seeing the same caliber of attendees.”
Bloomberg faced a different challenge with virtual events, as they already had an established Bloomberg TV offering. For them, it wasn’t a matter of a pivot to video. Rather, it was creating a distinct experience and value proposition for a new offering. This meant the focus for its virtual events had to be on the level of interaction attendees could have, and what the value would be for sponsors.
“Once we got crisp on these elements…what we needed from a platform, resource, and process perspective became self-evident,” Bloomberg Live’s Global Head Patrick Garrigan explained. “Not only are our audiences tuning in, they’re staying with us and engaging.”
The value for sponsors
For Bloomberg Live, attracting sponsors came down to the basics of why clients support events in-person. “We distil it down to three core attributes: thought leadership, brand awareness, and content creation and amplification,” said Garrigan. “Similar to in-person, it then becomes a matter of identifying how our platform can deliver on these metrics.”
Bloomberg delivers this by creating sponsor “moments” throughout its virtual programs, as well as allowing sponsors to share the perspectives of their senior leaders. They then share segments from the events widely across Bloomberg channels.
For the FT, it is their technology stack – as well as their access to large global audiences – that has been a key selling point for sponsors. Early on, the team focused on ensuring they had a strong analytics functionality in place.
“We can analyze who is attending, what stage of the event, how they are engaging, and serve this intelligence to our sponsors,” Francescone outlined. “Sponsors really enjoy our platform because it’s giving them, from an ROI point of view, much bigger and more detailed numbers than in a physical environment.”
Big numbers are also a draw for The Atlantic’s sponsors. The publisher is gearing up for The Atlantic Festival in September which will be entirely virtual, and free to attend. Whereas they would normally have 3,000 in-person attendees, the team is targeting between one and 2 million registrants for the virtual version.
Sponsor interest has grown as The Atlantic’s confidence in their model and ability to pull in high-caliber attendees. “Most of the sponsors that we have worked with in-person have been interested in trying this model with us,” said Wyler. “Part of that is the belief they have in our power to convene and engage audiences. We’ve maintained a 75% average watch time for our audience, which is pretty incredible.”
Reader revenue and data
When it comes to audience revenue, the FT is now charging delegates for all its events from autumn onwards. But for the second edition of its Global Boardroom event in November, FT Live is taking a freemium approach.
The event has three tiers of ticketing. First, they’ll offer a free pass which gives live access to talks, Q&As and polls. A $65 pass provides on-demand access to all talks and summary reports. The professional pass, at $385, adds 1-1 networking, exclusive access to extra sessions, and a business community area.
Beyond ticket sales, the FT sees long-term opportunities for the newly engaged data. “Of the 52,000 people we had attending The Global Boardroom, about 75% were completely new to us,” said Francescone. These attendees can be monetized not just through the event, but as part of the FT’s core subscription strategy.
The Atlantic also sees opportunity in bringing in new subscribers. “We are constantly thinking about how this can be a driver of subscription growth,” Wyler emphasized. “The benefit of virtual events is that it’s an opportunity to convene both the superfans, but also to introduce The Atlantic to new audiences.”
In previous years, tickets to the in-person Atlantic Festival have ranged from $50 to $975. However, registration to the virtual Festival in September this year is free. That said, there will be subscriber-only benefits like exclusive sessions and Q&A opportunities to bring value to existing subscribers and entice new joiners.
Bloomberg has historically not charged for its events. However, the exception is their Bloomberg Breakaway CEO membership community, where virtual events have been leveraged as part of the membership package.
“We’ve created content that is exclusively for members. It gives them the tools, best practices, and essential feedback to grapple with the issues that are impacting business,” said Garrigan, highlighting the opportunity to provide another touchpoint to members through virtual events.
The future of virtual business events
Garrigan sees virtual events being a part of Bloomberg Live’s programming for the foreseeable future. “Given Bloomberg Media’s global footprint, virtual events are such a natural fit,” he said. “While we are incredibly eager to get back to in-person events as soon as it’s safe to do so…[virtual events] serve as a way to connect broad geographies in real-time that may not be able to join us in-room.”
For FT Live, their early success gave the team the confidence to run events for the rest of the year in a digital form. But for 2021, they are being cautious. Francescone suspects that they will iterate towards a hybrid event model. However, details (such as access and pricing) are still to be determined.
“We’ve set up a small internal task force within FT Live which is examining what the future is going to look like,” he explained. “What people’s preferences might be today might not be the same not only in five years’ time, but in months or even weeks.”
These publishers may have the scale that makes it easier to convince top-tier sponsors to get on board, but there are lessons for publishers of all sizes. Virtual events offer a wider audience and higher engagement than in-person events, whether that be hundreds or thousands of attendees.
As for reader revenue, features like on-demand viewing or virtual networking can be sold as an add-on, or as a subscriber-only benefit. The key is being flexible in your offerings and understanding what your audience will respond to as the situation evolves.
Travel industry intelligence site Skift has become the latest publisher to put membership at the forefront of their business. CEO and founder Rafat Ali announced the launch of Skift Pro on Twitter, saying that “Skift is now officially a Subscription-First business information company.”
Skift joins a growing number of publishers turning to reader revenue as a way to diversify revenue streams and mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on other aspects of the business like events and advertising.
We spoke to Skift co-founder and Chief Product Officer Jason Clampet about the details of the launch, how it sits alongside its other products, and why this is such an important shift for the niche travel publisher.
Laying the foundations
Skift Pro has been in the works for over a year. The publisher already has two existing subscription products: Skift Research, which does deep-dive reports, data and analysis on travel industry trends, and Skift Airline Weekly, a subscription product dedicated to aviation news and analysis. The two products were faring well. However, Skift had een eyeing examples from other B2B companies like Digiday and Business of Fashion, which made subscription models a more central part of their strategy to build business resilience.
The first task the team had to tackle before adding another subscription product into the mix was to bring everything into one payment platform. “We built our own database to store users and details about the payment process so that everything was seamlessly tied together,” Clampet explained. This meant that subscribers to multiple products would be able to manage their subscriptions in one place.
In the last week of February 2020, Clampet held a big team meeting where he walked everyone through Skift Pro. In particular, he told the team how excited they were to be launching it on March 16th. But March 11th would be Skift’s last day in the office.
“We decided not to launch Skift Pro at that point,” said Clampet, aware of the potential scale of lockdown disruption to the travel industry. “Instead, we did a Guardian-style contribution model. We said, “Hey, we’d love direct reader support. You can make a one time gift or a recurring gift.””
Spurred by the success of the contribution model, Skift then introduced a ‘Pay what you want’ model to their new online events and webinars, using the payment system they had built to support subscriptions the previous year. As the initial shockwaves of the pandemic settled, Skift Pro’s launch moved to the top of the agenda.
Despite the initial delay, Skift’s decision to launch a membership product marks an important shift in the publisher’s relationship with its readers. Rather than simply adding another revenue stream into the mix, Skift Pro will help build business resilience and audience engagement, as well as strengthening their editorial work.
“It’s become a centerpiece of how we think about our readers and customers,” said Clampet. “Hopefully it’ll be a much more significant part of our revenue, but it’ll also allow us to tie things together better.”
Clampet believes that Skift Pro members will be more deeply engaged with the brand, from attending events to reading its analysis and reporting. In turn hopes that he and the team will be able to learn more about them. “It’s a way for us to have a better insight into who our users are, and then serve them better,” he explained.
This plays a key part in the presentation of Skift Pro as a membership product rather than a straightforward subscription. Skift Pro goes beyond just access to stories online. It includes additional content and events, as well as a custom newsletter which will start up in August, for $365 a year, or $1 a day.
“We want it to be more than just a newsletter in your mailbox every day. It’s about being actively engaged with other things beyond just reading,” Clampet said.
Launching in a pandemic
Following the delay, deciding when was a good time to finally launch Skift Pro was a subject of much internal discussion. Skift’s other major revenue streams are from its content studio, which works with travel brands to develop bespoke content for them, and its events. Both have suffered as a result of coronavirus, making reader revenue a more urgent consideration. But the travel industry as a whole is also under immense pressure, with many furloughed or laid off.
“It’s hard to know what is a good time right now for anything,” Clampet explained. “The reality of business is that direct from consumer revenue is vital to just about any media business.”
“We also know that the people who are still at companies in Europe and Asia, which is waking up again. They need actual information to do their jobs better and make smarter decisions. We’re still here providing that, so in that sense, it is a good time [to launch].”
A new route
Skift Pro may be live, but the team aren’t resting on their laurels. Clampet’s main goal for the membership is that people are really happy about their decision after signing up, and that is going to require some changes to the product as time goes on.
“The launch is just the very first phase for us. We need to be constantly evolving the product experience,” he emphasised. “What it is right now is going to be very different from what it is a year from now, and hopefully we’ll have made a lot of smart decisions.”
This is a very important lesson that other publishers with subscription or membership products can learn from. For Skift, the launch is not the end of the road. It’s the starting point of a product which will change and grow as they focus on the reader response, and how they can best serve those needs.
Subscription models have increased in popularity among growing numbers of publishers who are shifting their focus away from ad sales – and this trend has gained even more ground over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Companies like BuzzFeed News and The Daily Beast have seen huge upticks in membership as a result, according to Digiday. In addition, publishers such as Gannett, The Washington Post, Time Magazine, and The Philadelphia Inquirer have amassed large coronavirus newsletter audiences—in some cases, twice the size of their regular lists.
“We’ve proven to ourselves that we can be far more agile with this product line,” Kim Fox, a product director at the Philadelphia Inquirer, told Digiday.
Subscription models have been wildly successful across a broad range of sectors. Publishers who pair this powerful strategy with their advertising revenue strategies will be most likely to weather the next wave of uncertainty to hit the media industry.
The future of media: advertising and paid subscriptions
The subscription model has already prompted publishers to think outside the box of traditional advertising and explore partnerships like reward programs with brands. For example, U.K. publisher The Times runs a program called Times+ that features exclusive arts, culture, entertainment, and travel rewards from various corporate partners.
Subscriptions offer a win-win for publishers and their audiences because they give consumers the ability to choose the content they pay for, whether their interest is in current affairs, arts and culture, sports, or entertainment.
A longstanding tradition: selling content and ads
The business model of selling content as well as advertising isn’t new to the media industry. Newspapers have always charged newsstand prices, although they looked drastically different more than 100 years ago. In 1851, The New York Times’ first year of existence, a copy of the newspaper sold for 1 cent. It took nearly a century for the price to reach 5 cents in 1950, and by 1974, the price had increased to 20 cents.
Decades later, when the internet rocked the media industry and gave readers unprecedented access to news, there was great debate about whether it signaled the death of print media. Many news organizations didn’t survive the disruption. However, now that the industry has wrapped its head around the paywall system, publishers have been able to reinforce the monetary value of high-quality journalism.
Media companies are seeing the benefits of charging for content once again. For example, in 2019, News Corp Australia’s publications reached 500,000 paid digital subscribers. In the U.S., The New York Times reached 3.5 million paid digital subscribers that year.
“It shows more and more people are willing to pay more for our trusted, quality journalism,” Michael Miller, News Corp Australia’s executive chairman for Australasia, told NewsMediaWorks. “Premium content that resonates with our expanding audiences…is what will drive our long-term success.”
Although it’s a delicate balance, publishers can successfully sell both content and advertising by putting two important measures in place. First, publishers must ensure that ad placements don’t become too unwieldy, as to not alienate paid subscribers. They must also keep the cost of subscriptions reasonable to maintain substantial audience numbers worthy of attracting advertisers.
Subscriptions provide publishers with rich first-party audience data. That becomes an attractive selling point for advertisers seeking to maximize their investment in a contextually relevant and brand safe environment.
“Publishers need to focus on what they do really well, which is produce content. They can do native [advertising] and commercialize contextual targeting,” Bedir Aydemir of News UK said at Lineup Systems’ user conference last fall.
“What often you can’t find in the world of digital advertising is the adjacency…that makes your advertising important in context,” Forman told Digiday. “And at this time where local is the success story of the emergence, McClatchy and others are doing everything we can to partner with local brands to show them that the trusted environment of local news is where they need to be.”
“This particular display product utilizes the real-time messaging of a brand’s social posts and targets them to an audience in the right context. With a news environment that is changing so quickly, this allows brands to be more relevant with their voice,” chief revenue officer Joy Robins told The Drum.
As media organizations continue to innovate, combined revenue models that blend advertising and subscriptions will undoubtedly become even more powerful.
Digital publishers see rays of hope as they continue to monetize premium content, transform business strategies, maximize technology investments, and increase revenue diversification. Just over two-thirds (69%) of digital publishers expect to see an overall revenue growth in 2020 according to a new report, Publishers Bullish on Talent, Tech and Growth in 2020, from Folio. Of those publishers expecting revenue growth, a quarter anticipate double digits. Only 4% of participants expect revenues to decline. This research is based on 182 surveyed industry professionals accompanied by eight in-depth executive interviews.
Respondents report the top three categories for revenue
growth are digital advertising including branded content (58%), live events
(43%), and marketing services (38%). In addition to revenue growth, audience
growth is also expected in 2020. Twenty-eight percent of publishers expect a
10% growth in audience while more than one-third (36%) expect single-digit
Audience development is more than just chasing clicks on digital platforms. It’s about learning your business ecosystem and how the pieces work together. Executives cite email (54%), social media (53%), and events (44%) as the strongest performers for audience development.
Publishers recognize the need to invest in the video side (35%) of their business as well as back end technology and operation systems (34%) for content management and advertising businesses. Publishers, especially traditional magazine businesses, see video as a very lucrative way to reinvent their content strategy and distribution model with attractive advertising packages at high CPMs.
Catherine Levene, President, Chief Digital Officer of Meredith Corporation, participated in Folio’s executive interviews. Meredith charted its course in preparation for 2020. Levene said Meredith is keenly focused is on innovation. This includes technology investments, including a new content management system and a first-party data and insights platform.
She also mentioned Meredith’s investments in video
production and distribution and new content-to-commerce capabilities. Levene sees
a win-win for their audience and advertisers, “We are creating content and
experiences that drive engagement and are offering predictive advertising that
achieves results for our marketing partners.”
Erin O’Mara, President of The Nation, also participated in the executive interviews. O’Mara described the digital business as more than just a website, it’s about super-serving the audience. A new initiative, “The Nation Classroom,” uses their archives to create robust teaching modules for high school student. The goal for this project is to be profitable as well as to make available to schools that cannot afford it. O’Mara see this initiative as an important step to extend a brand experience through community outreach.
As Folio’s research suggests, there is no time digital media
brands to standstill. It’s essential for media companies to take the steps to identify
the key business and audience strategies and investment in them.
the dawn of the new decade of 2020, DCN members gathered at the Mandarin
Oriental Miami January 16 and 17 to network, discuss victories and challenges
as media companies evolve, and explore industry predictions.
new decade calls for a perfect ‘20/20’ vision, said Jason Kint, CEO, Digital
Content Next as he kicked off the closed-door, off-the-record gathering. That
encompasses continued focus on audience desires, pushback against the myth that
all content has to be free, and the elevation of trust and transparency in an
era marked by ‘fake news’.
Union’s recently enacted copyright law is a win for the industry, with similar
discussions expected this year in the U.S, noted Kint. Federal and state
investigations as well as emerging regulations are all good signals toward protecting
consumer privacy, regulating data use and anti-trust concerns, notes Kint.
can also expect a steady rise in content investments. UBS estimates that in
2020, a combined 16 media firms will spend $100 billion to produce content.
More than $35 billion will allocated on streaming video content, as new players
such as Disney Plus and NBC’s Peacock emerge.
feeling really good this year about where things are headed,” said Kint.
Jim Bankoff, CEO, Vox Media said he valued being at the DCN Summit. He described it as a place where premium publishers come together to “find ways to partner and to check our healthy, competitive impulses … and figure out ways to work together” in the wake of ceding ground to third party big tech platform and ad network “that have proven time and again not to have our best interests in mind.”
journalist Carole Cadwalladr, who freelances for the Guardian and Observer,
captivated the audience by recounting her experiences unearthing the activities
of Cambridge Analytica and Facebook. She was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for
her work, which sparked international investigations as well as inspiring the
Netflix documentary, ‘The Great Hack’.
was my introduction to this world of creepy disinformation, but also complete
reluctance from the platforms to even acknowledge the problem, let alone deal
with it,” she noted. She was instead subjected to legal pushback from Google
and Facebook as well as online bullying.
also called for media companies to not compete against each other. Instead, she
encouraged those in the room to join together to “compete against lies and
falsehoods. We’ve seen it in Britain and you’re next,” said Cadwalladr.
Galloway, professor, NYU Stern School of Business, said
he believes that the big tech companies on the antitrust radar should be
broken up. Monopolies kill economic growth and are a “key step to tyranny,” he
contended, adding a co-opted government can’t serve as a dominating force for
pointed out that efforts to regulate the behavior of big tech fines have been
largely ineffectual. To date, the fines haven’t been punitive enough to
dissuade the big tech companies to modify behavior, he said. He also criticized
the federal government for being slow to act.
Monetization and concerns about subscription fatigue were recurring themes at the summit. Yet DCN research shows that younger audiences in particular appreciate the value of a subscription and finds that there is still consumer appetite for subscription products.
Peretti, founder and CEO, Buzzfeed noted that over the course of a few short
years, the company has begun to generate significant revenue from Facebook,
Google, Amazon, and Netflix from licensing.
don’t think Facebook or Google wants to buy news companies,” said Peretti. Of
the platforms movement toward paying for content, he said that “They get the
benefit of sharing some of the costs of the production of that content. News is
a great way to direct repeat visitors and to build trust in the platform to
avoid some of the problems of misinformation.”
Turpin II, president, National Journal, noted his longstanding publication adapted
to the changing media landscape by transforming itself from a media company to government
research and consulting services company for which subscribers are willing to
pay premium prices.
VandeHei, co-founder and CEO, Axios; Executive Producer, AXIOS on HBO said, “you
have to deliver content in a way that I would deliver in a conversation with
you over a drink, like what is new.” However, to create value, “Tell me why it
matters. Give me some context. Give me the power to go deeper.”
Complex, the path to success hasn’t been simple. Rich Antoniello, CEO and founder,
Complex Networks said, “we call ourselves a brand that happens to monetize
through media.” He said his company shifted from an ad-dependent model in 2016,
ahead of the curve.
example is the wild success of its “Hot Ones” program. It features10 questions
of its celebrity guests that get progressively more personal along with the consumption
of hot sauce that gets progressively hotter. And the business model is based
not on advertising, but on the sales of high-margin hot sauce.
also outlined the success of ComplexCon, the company’s flagship event, which connects
cultural icons with fans who spend $100 to $700 for VIP tickets, with hundreds
of thousands sold. Fans also snap up merchandise from Complex and its app-based
vendors such as Nike and Adidas.
power of fandom arose again when Howard Mittman, CEO, Bleacher Report spoke of
how his company’s app and successful franchises attract sports fans. He
described how individual athletes hold more sway in their fandom habits than sports
10 million fans have signed up for alerts and the app accounts for half of the
company’s user engagement. Bleacher Report’s focus is not on breaking sports
news, but creating engagement on its own platforms, according to Mittman.
continues to go through cultural shifts toward diversity both in company
staffing and in targeting readership such as women. “Women are generally not
seeing themselves in media and advertising to the extent that they should be,”
said Catherine Levene, president, chief digital officer, Meredith National
have been the first to support #SeeHer, a national organization committed to
accurate representation of women in media and advertising,” she said. She added
that’s not only good for supporting women, but also for the bottom line. Women
who see themselves in media and advertising are 45% more likely to recommend a product
to a friend and purchase it, said Levene.
the controversy it has attracted by those who question the veracity of its
science, Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop brand is growing, noted Elise Loehnen, chief
content officer. The platform embraces several media forms and covers topics
from relationships to health, including alternative therapies. She said that
the controversy has been good for keeping the brand at the forefront of popular
tired of being talked down to,” said Loehnen. “We’re a strong female brand
undisturbed by the chaos.”
Tobaccowala, chief growth officer, Publicis Group,noted that the only
way to get ahead as a legacy company is to “kill your core. You have to rethink
your entire business.”
Levene from Meredith believes that the mobile world and 5G will create an even greater market for video. And, with 50% of searches conducted on the more than 200 million voice-enabled devices in U.S. homes, opportunities and challenges will arise.
action to purge third-party cookies against the backdrop of GDPR and CCPA will
impact the entire digital ecosystem, Levene noted.
is going to be the currency of the future. Those who have it at scale and the
ability to drive a lot of insights from it are going to win,” she added.
In a social media environment that is being blamed for everything from decreasing personal contact to radicalizing disaffected youth and intensifying suicide rates among girls, Tatyana Mamut, head of product, Nextdoor, made the case that her platform is creating connections on a micro-level in a neighborhood at a time when people hardly know their neighbors
believe that kindness is the next big thing in tech,” she added.
Alto journalism educator Esther Wojcicki made the case that helicopter
parenting has impacted the workforce and its ability to embrace risk and
innovation. She calls for parenting – and management – to embrace trust,
respect, independence, collaboration and kindness. She also promotes the idea
that every student should take a journalism course to build media literacy skills.
future will be fraught with change. And as Tobaccowala pointed out, “human
beings know how difficult change is.” But to survive, media companies must
continue to evolve.
have the power to shape minds and hearts, to fill the world with laughter and
tears to inform the truth,” said Kint. “Here’s to 2020 bringing the roar of the
crowd as we focus on what matters most: the audiences we serve.”
Mobile and social media received a lot of attention this last decade. Major media trends included fragmented attention, intermediated media, and growing distrust in journalism. So, what will the next 10 years present? The Reuters Institute once again looks at our past and evaluates emerging trends to forecast what’s ahead in media in its report, Journalism, Media, and Technology Trends and Predictions 2020. Overarching themes for digital media in the next decade center on internet regulation, the re-establishment of trust in journalism, and creating a closer connection with the audience.
In addition, the report includes key trends and predictions for 2020 (see full report for the entire list).
1. The media business looks good; journalism less so.
The media business has a positive outlook but not so for journalism itself. While media executives feel confident or very confident about their company’s prospects in 2020, they feel less so about journalism in general. Their confidence for the media business centers on reader revenue and paid content, stable and growing income while advertising remains unstable. Further, the media business looks strong while consolidation is expected to continue. The latest in consolidation is a focus on keeping the editorial voice of the brands acquired while integrating back-end tech and data systems.
leaders have mixed reviews for platforms.
Those surveyed are more positive about Google and Twitter than Apple, Facebook, Snapchat, and Amazon when it comes to initiatives to support journalism. Sixty percent of respondents rated Google as average or better while the other platforms were less favorable (it’s important to note that many publishers surveyed are currently or past recipients of Google innovation funds).
The overall sentiment from publishers regarding platforms is they want a level playing field where they can compete fairly and get proper compensation for their content and its value. Publishers in the EU are trying new intervention tactics to address these companies dominance. One example is the EU’s new copyright directive, aka the link tax. This policy requires platforms to pay for unlicensed content that appears in aggregated news services. France is the first member state to carry out the directive. Google reacted with displaying less content rather than pay. Courts will be deciding the next actions.
3. Reader revenue is a major focus for the new decade.
Executives believe reader revenue offers stable and growing income for news publishers. Half of those surveyed report that reader revenue is the most important revenue stream going forward. Subscriptions and memberships help publishers access reader information. In fact, many publishers rely on consumers login to their services for first party data. With new data tracking regulation in play and opt out ad-tracking browsers, publishers need to entice readers to register and login.
4. Audience growth, better
measurement and ease of access will continue the growth of podcasts.
By 2021, US podcasting revenue is projected to grow by approximately 30% a year to reach over $1 billion. New formats are being explored from the recognized interview and chat format to new documentary formats.
Bigger audiences, better measurement, and easier access have combined to change the economics of podcasting. This is encouraging publishers to invest in creating more quality content and platforms to invest in better distribution and monetization.
Overall, the report finds that digital publishers seek to diversify
revenue and strengthen user engagement with multiple touchpoints and products
in the decade ahead. Newsroom have the added challenge of modernizing their
presentation without compromising quality and trust and receiving proper
compensation from the intermediates. While many industry challenges continue,
publishers are well positioned to tackle these issues.
When you’ve been in the publishing business since 1857, you can rightfully say that you’ve learned a thing or two about longevity and how to make a product continually appealing to ever-changing consumers. The key to maintaining that allure today, apparently, is to make things look simple without losing your sophistication. For The Atlantic, that means taking an A-to-Z approach, beginning – literally – with a capital “A” and ending with a close eye on Gen Z, your future readers.
To better compete for eyeballs in an
increasingly digital world, the publication recently undertook a significant
redesign of its magazine, website, and iOS app and rolled out a new digital
subscription service. To support these initiatives, the brand made several
prominent new hires, including creative director Peter Mendelsund, senior art
director Oliver Munday, and director of photography Luise Stauss. And over the
past year, the product, engineering, and growth teams were doubled.
The results so far have been promising. September
and October both drew record numbers of subscribers—more than double the number
of subscriptions and revenue originally forecast. The website now tallies 30 million
unique visits monthly and the magazine boasts a paid circulation of 500,000.
And in the five days following the redesign rollout, The Atlantic had twice the
number of subscribers daily, on average, as there were in the same period
before the redesign.
New look, same savvy
Readers who visit the website or use the
app today will likely take instant note of the streamlined design and sparse
template at work. A bold red “A” logo has replaced the title’s previous iconic
emblem. The words stand out consistently in a clean new custom typeface. Clustered
or crowded content is a thing of the past thanks to a generous infusion of
white space. And the top navigation bar is a simplified element better served
by a hamburger menu icon in the upper left corner.
But what hasn’t changed, insists Adrienne
LaFrance, executive editor of The Atlantic, is the quality writing, diversity
of content, and journalistic integrity. “The way we will continue to stay
competitive is by showing people how we are different than other publications—reminding
them of our extraordinary writing, unmatched narrative journalism, beautiful
design, and photography,” she says.
“Were lucky because we have a really
differentiated and highly valuable product that people already love and have
loved for a long time. But it was time for a redesign, with a focus on giving
people the best possible user experience and helping them get to the best of
our work even more easily.”
First introduced in 2011, the improved iOS app (plans are afoot
to launch an Android version) is designed to function as a compact version of
the print magazine while retaining the cleanly legible look and unconstrained
feel of the website. A dedicated editorial team exclusively manages the app,
which has more carefully curated and diverse offerings for subscribers, thanks
in large part to its Today feed.
“The Today feed walks the reader through
what’s happening but gives them deeper context behind the news – stitching
together the larger patterns so people can derive meaning from the day’s
events. There’s a narrative arc there, not just a list of bullet points or
headlines. There’s definite value for people who want to come away with a complete
and rich sense of what’s going on in the world and why it matters,” LaFrance
explains. “You can choose how deeply you want to delve into the feed, whether
you want to read every single story or browse through it. The app and entire
feed are free. Where you encounter the need to subscribe is when you click
through to a particular article.”
LaFrance notes that the app and website
are two distinctly different products. The mobile experience is focused on
making it simple to brush up on the news of the day and discover articles of
interest to on-the-go users.
“We want to respect people’s time and
intelligence, and we understand that there are so many different options for
getting information and reading. We know people come to The Atlantic for
extraordinary journalism. And we want to make it easy and delightful for them
to experience our stories,” she adds.
While she couldn’t yet disclose numbers
post-revamp, LaFrance says that, historically, The Atlantic’s mobile app
audience was a fraction of its overall digital audience. Previously, “in any given
week, about three-quarters of subscribers who used our existing app came
three-plus times per week,” she notes.
New routes to
Simplifying the subscription model was
another priority. Now, readers can opt from three tiers:
annually, which includes unlimited access to TheAtlantic.com, the iOS app,
digital issues, and a subscriber-only newsletter);
Print and digital
($60 a year, which comes with the aforementioned plus delivery of 10 print
annually, for all of the above goodies plus exclusive access to podcasts,
ad-free web browsing, a complimentary digital gift subscription, Atlantic
product discounts, and priority access to exclusive events).
Subscriptions and print advertising serve as complementary pieces of the monetization pie (comprising approximately 20% of revenue). However, the lion’s share comes from digital advertising (45%). The remainder is derived from various sources, including live events (like The Atlantic Festival, Future of Work seminar, and Aspen Ideas Festival 2020).
“It’s actually a wonderful time to be a publisher because the incentives for the highest-quality journalism and what journalists want to make are aligned with what readers are willing to pay for. So, we can be incredibly ambitious knowing that the highest quality product is what people will want to subscribe to,” LaFrance says. “I think one of the reasons The Atlantic has remained so urgent and relevant for 162 years is that we’ve been really aggressive about diversifying revenue and one of the first media companies to demonstrate extraordinary skill in the live event space.”
That’s not to say the waters won’t be
“This is an intensely competitive
environment. That’s not just among publications and magazines but in the way
people spend their time nowadays – from Netflix to TikTok to Instagram to news
organizations. There is no other publication out there like The Atlantic, and
that’s why we’re having so much success with our subscriptions,” she continues.
“But the key for us going forward is making people understand what makes us
Eye on the horizon
LaFrance, who joined the company in 2014
and served as its website editor for years, lives by an important credo:
Nothing is guaranteed, especially in the world of digital publishing.
“No publication has a right to survive.
You have to really serve your readers. That means doing the best quality work
and finding the places where your readers are so that they can connect with
your journalism, fall in love with it, and keep coming back.”
While mum on the details, LaFrance hinted
that other exciting changes are coming soon to The Atlantic’s digital
offerings. Right now, her team is focused on further perfecting the digital
user’s experience and gauging reaction to the redesigns.
“We’ve done a lot of audience research and
looked closer at how people are finding our stories, what they like, and what
they are excited about on our site. All of that has been factored into our
editorial thinking process. So far, the feedback has been overwhelmingly
positive, almost to the point where we’re waiting to learn what we can do
While advertising and subscription revenues are core to publishers’ bottom line, developing alternative revenue streams is critical in today’s competitive environment. One diversification approach, ecommerce, has evolved well beyond affiliate links and branded content. A new report from Whatsnewinpublishing.com, The Publisher’s Guide to eCommerce, written by Damien Radcliffe, explores emerging ecommerce opportunities and lessons learned from publishers. The report details 10 ecommerce examples from publishers. Some used third parties to implement their ecommerce initiative, while others are developing inhouse teams.
The right recipe
As the report points out, eCommerce is not easy work for a
publisher. They need to be thoughtful in identifying the benefits of brand
extensions and messaging this to the consumer. Importantly, product relevance
and quality must exist to build customer loyalty for any brand extension.
Tasty, BuzzFeed’s food brand, provides a great example of a
healthy brand extension that organically fits its brand with snack-size recipes
and videos. It successfully broadens the brand’s reach beyond its core site and
social media channels. Tasty products include cookbooks and kitchenware, and
even a partnership with McCormick Spices.
The report suggests that publishers stick close to their
wheelhouse. For example, there might be a lucrative business living within their
articles and photographs archives. The Denver Post and the The Seattle Times lead
strong ecommerce channels selling special events and news coverage clippings for
memorabilia, wall art, and keepsakes. Third parties are often used for the
fulfillment, creation and distribution of these products, which reduces some of
the publishers’ risks.
Social commerce is another interesting avenue for publishers
to keep in mind. GlobalWebIndex research finds that nearly 3 in 10 online
consumers say that researching and finding products online is one of the main
reasons they use social. These platforms offer an opportunity for publishers to
reach new and wider audiences.
As such, media analysts thought that social platforms would
provide an optimal environment for a publisher ecommerce marketplace. Unfortunately,
it hasn’t panned out just yet. However, Snap appears to offer a strong potential
for experimenting in ecommerce. The research emphasizes that it is critical
that publishers working to offer purchase opportunities on social strive for a
Regardless of the approach, the report reminds publishers
not to underestimate the cost and complexity of running an ecommerce division.
It’s like building a startup business: Technology investments will be required
(acquisition and fulfillment software) as well as those for merchandise and warehousing.
Challenges and rewards
First-party insights are important for a successful
ecommerce initiative. This is particularly critical in establishing a
correlation between the content the user engages into the product searches and
products the user buys. Creating this type of first- party relationship between
content and product will allow publishers to offer predictive analytics.
There are a multitude of ecommerce ideas for publishers to
experiment, from affiliate relationships to developing and selling proprietary
products. Importantly, each ecommerce opportunity must be evaluated carefully to
meet the necessary criteria to compliment the publisher’s brand. And publishers
must recognize the level of investment required to undertake a successful
People used to be loyal to a single publisher. They paid for the content then and there (or were longstanding subscribers). And they didn’t even notice stories from other publications. It’s frustrating that online content consumption hasn’t work in the same way. But the same system that brought about the democratization of online content also broke publisher loyalty.
Suddenly, consumers had access to numerous content platforms. The barriers to entry lowered and smaller, niche publications could reach a global audience, adding multiple views to the same angles. This meant people got used to judging by the story rather than by the publication.
Paywalls should work as a logical solution to monetizing online content. And paywalls do function as a way to pay for content. However, they don’t account for the way the majority of online users actually consume content. They can be an inflexible solution in an environment that changes daily.
That’s why publishers need to consider paywalls as one element of a wider monetization strategy.
Paywalls turn away 98% of users
The formula for consuming content used to be: Seek out a source of content you trust or enjoy—such as a newspaper. Now online content producers have to find, and fight for, audiences. Through media aggregation and search platforms, news competes with other versions of the same story for reader attention. Now users don’t have to choose just one publication and stick with it. Information is everywhere. This has led to to consumers having a distributed, fragmented web of content sources.
For hard paywalls to work as a primary monetization system, publishers must possess (or build) a formidable audience based upon a strong, trusted brand. Many readers will only pay for content they know they can’t get anywhere else. Major media brands have the resources to offer this. But even then, the many readers are going to look elsewhere for content, particularly if they hit a paywall and feel they can find good enough information for free.
Speaking at a publisher conference, Marfeel CEO, Xavi Beumala described the problem of scaling a paywall model. “Even in the US market of 330 million, the total amount of business you have for a subscription model is always capped. You can’t scale it ad infinitum.”
The generations that are loyal to a single media source are dying out. Subscriptions may work for the New York Times. However, the New York Times is using the fuel of the reputation it took 100 years to build (not to mention a significant investment in its technology and delivery). Without new readers experiencing the quality of their output, some question whether this model continue to sustain the brand for another 100 years.
Other media groups, such as The Guardian, have bucked the trend with a voluntary subscription basis that doesn’t wall-in content. This model relies on readers wanting to support the business and see it continue to operate. Again, brand strength and reader trust and value are big factors here.
Netflix for news
Content aggregation platforms represent a further hurdle for publishers that want to paywall their content. Several big tech companies have announced plans to deliver news and entertainment from multiple sources in their own subscription platforms.
While publishers will be able to negotiate payment rates that allow their paywall-segregated content to appear in aggregated content platforms, these deals will always favor the major tech companies over the publisher. It’s not hard to imagine these companies also downgrading search results or newsfeed positions for any content that has a paywall—that they don’t operate. Facebook, Apple, and Google don’t want to direct users to content or a search query only to have that user bounce back from a hard paywall.
The arrival of these news platforms also offers further competition to the paywall model, one that has a real chance to further disrupt publisher loyalty. Consumers may hedge their bets, possibly choosing to pay more to see content from multiple sources than tethering themselves to a single subscription.
Easy to get into, hard to get out
Google’s latest Chrome update was an example of how the ecosystem is built around a handful of major technology providers, and small changes can cause major disruption. The update in question prevented publishers from detecting if users are browsing in incognito mode.
Intended or unintended, the consequence of closing this loophole meant that many publishers’ metered paywalls were no longer effective. When readers hit their article limit they can switch to incognito mode and instantly reset their meter of free articles.
Publishers suddenly found that their paywall solution was ineffective, in one single stroke from Google.
A lack of resources to build technology means that some publishers bet all of their chips on a single strategy. And, for some publishers, paywalls represent a functional option with a guaranteed level of revenue.
But paywalls can be a blunt and imprecise tool. They cut off the majority and work for a minority. With a paywall, you often close the doors to new readers and rely on a core of hyper-engaged users. These readers are effectively paying for the loss in traffic that the paywall creates. It also insulates content in a world where sharing and exposure are the oxygen of publications.
Using different sources of technology, publishers are now able to deliver a layered monetization strategy that meets the needs of different readers, different content, and different stages of the engagement journey. Technology that implements programmatic, direct, paywall, subscription, micropayments and more will empower readers to build tailored packages. Like GDPR, readers will be able to select their preferences based on their needs.
A small percentage of readers will want (and pay for) a dedicated, personalized, ad-free experience. For these readers, a hard paywall with a personalized experience is the perfect solution. A far larger subsection of the audience will accept advertising in return for content that is free at the point of purchase.
Broad multitudes within this grey-area will sometimes pay, sometimes won’t. They won’t accept recurring transactions or fees and will need the process to be frictionless. For the first time, mid-size publishers will be able to out-pace major media groups that are forced to develop bespoke solutions, banking on only the most profitable.
More technology and monetization platforms are being democratized and made available to mid-sized publishers. With a sliding scale of monetization options, they will finally have the ability to reflect readers’ stage in the process, capture new traffic, and give readers options that will build a longer-lasting connection with their brand.
I recently connected with Christa Carone, who joined Group Nine Media as president in 2017, at the Collision Conference in Toronto, Canada. Carone, who came to the media side of the industry after leadership roles on the marketing and agency side, oversees Group Nine’s sales and marketing teams as well as its data insights group. Group Nine is a digital media holding company comprised of four popular digitally-native media brands Thrillist, The Dodo, Seeker, and NowThis. Carone and I discussed revenue and distribution diversification, content strategy, and building a business based on brand equity.
Here are some highlights from our conversation:
Michelle Manafy: Tell me a little bit about your content
distribution strategy and why you are all-in on social.
Christa Carone: Well, I’d say we’re all-in on omni
channel—and that includes social. Right now, we’re distributing content on over
20 different platforms. That includes Amazon Prime, Pluto, Roku, and distribution
deals with networks literally around the world. So, our approach to being
completely agnostic on distribution is that we want to bring our content to all
of the different places where people are spending their time. And we want that
to be a pretty frictionless experience. Instead of spending a ton of money to
get you to come to my website, I want to bring our storytelling to the place
where you are already hanging out.
Michelle Manafy: Truly connecting with audiences at
scale almost sounds like almost an oxymoron to me. What do you think?
Christa Carone: You can debate that content is king
and distribution is queen and whether they have an equal seat at the table. But
that’s really kind of how I look at it. When both are working together extremely
well, you are able to build successful brands like The Dodo, NowThis, Thrillist,
and Seeker. It’s like really honing-in on higher value content. We’re building
lifetime value of the content, what’s going to keep an audience interested, and
remain totally agnostic on the distribution strategy.
Michelle Manafy: The trick, of course, is the
monetization. The other side of a distributed model is fragmentation. So, talk
to me a little bit about how managing all of those channels ties into an overarching
Christa Carone: The beauty of our strategy is
diversification. I often say that if Facebook sneezes, we don’t want to catch a
cold. Just like in any industry, you don’t want to be overly dependent on one
particular revenue stream. It’s business 101. Media is no different than any
other type of business. So, that’s why we’ve been so focused on building
audiences across a number of different channels. We’re building audience on TikTok
right now. The monetization strategy there is nascent. But it’s going to come. IGTV
is another great example. We produce great content for IGTV and put it on IGTV
pre-revenue. But I have no doubt at all that Facebook is going to open up
monetization opportunities there. And I want to have established an audience when
Michelle Manafy: You mentioned diversification and that
every company should be focused on diversified revenue. I take it that Group
Nine that’s been baked in from the start.
Christa Carone: Keep in mind that we’re two years old. So, we’ve had the benefit of learning from a lot of traditional companies. And I often say: We’re not pivoting to anything. Some of our brands were born into video so there wasn’t a pivot to video. And the business model was already established. Some of our brands were social first. NowThis, in particular, was born as a social-first distributed brand. We didn’t pivot our business model from taking audience from owned and operated to distributing through external platforms.
Thrillist is the oldest of our brands and it has such a
loyal audience. So, we are looking at diversification around where we can take
the Thrillist brand and make it more of a whole-lifestyle brand.
Overall, our focus is on lifetime value for the content. So,
if we’re bringing in revenue with licensing, great. Bringing in revenue from
the syndication model, great. If we’re bringing in revenue by production deals
with OTT content providers, like a Netflix, that’s perfect. And if we are continuing
to bring in a healthy amount of revenue from advertising, wonderful. And increasingly
we’re thinking about how we can tap into other revenue streams like commerce and
Michelle Manafy: Could you tell me a little bit about
your commerce strategy?
Christa Carone: Our approach to commerce is really looking at brands like The Dodo and Thrillist and saying there’s intellectual property here. There’s a maniacally loyal fanbase. Can we be licensing The Dodo into product? The Dodo clearly has enough brand equity to be producing large scale consumer and canine events. Thrillist has been a friend to people for a long time. It is your recommendation action for food and beverage and travel. So, our ability to take that brand equity and bring it into commerce is already built in. And stay tuned: We will definitely be doing some more on that later this year and we just hired a head of ecommerce.
Michelle Manafy: So, you mentioned that maniacal
audience, that loyal audience. What’s the Group Nine secret? Because, as
publishers, that audience relationship is what differentiates us from the
Christa Carone: It’s such a credit to our editorial
teams. They know how weave a great narrative and tell an amazing story. It
sounds simple but I’m always amazed … A great example is from NowThis. Many
people are familiar with the NowThis video about Beto O’Rourke that went viral.
The raw footage of that video was already posted on Twitter. It already lived
on the Internet someplace. The NowThis team found it and was able to put it
through their storytelling lens. They said how can we construct it in such a
way that viewers are compelled to watch the entire piece? There is an art to
it. There is a narrative that was built in through the use of text on the
screen, through the use of effective editing so that we as the viewer were
compelled to watch it from start to finish. That is the secret sauce that
really exists within our editorial teams and applies to how we produce content
across all of our brands.
I would say the other massive factor for us is that scale
matters. We have such amazing insights that we’re able to glean from the
consumption of our videos that informs how we produce content. Based on our scale,
our data team is looking at 115,000 views of our content every minute. Every minute. We’ve built a very sophisticated
data engine that is able to pull in insights for things like the right color
for the text on the screen, the right size of font, the number of words that
should be on your screen, the fact that videos about dogs have three times
longer watch time than videos around cats. So, the editorial team can say maybe
that dog video should be three and a half minutes but maybe that cat videos
should just be two or something along those lines. You’re able to really start
to use these signals to inform your storytelling.
Michelle Manafy: So,
what’s your growth plan?
Christa Carone: Our business is really becoming much
more analogous to a TV buy. What I mean by that is that we have access to sell
all of the pre-roll against all of Group Nine content across all of the major
platforms. So, you have a television commercial and you are in, say, an auto
company and the pet owner is really interesting to you. You can come to us and
have 100 percent share of voice across all Dodo content on Facebook, on
Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat. You can buy our pre-roll on our channels and
transact that directly through Group Nine instead of the platforms. Brands are
responsive to it because of the importance of brand safety. When you have the
brand safety conversation with a marketer, you need to be able to say here’s
the right audience and it is against premium, brand safe content. It’s
fascinating to me that we’re having more conversations with TV buyers who are
shifting that investment from linear to wherever they can get eyeballs.
Michelle Manafy: I’m finding the distinction between television and all digital video is increasingly blurred, particularly for buyers.
Christa Carone: Completely. I think we have to redefine
what TV means. So, TV is not a device anymore. When the linear players, the
cable players start talking about TV everywhere, we’re in that boat. It
includes YouTube, it can arguably be IGTV, it could be lean-back viewing on
Facebook… It can be TikTok. How define TV going forward is going to be interesting.
Michelle Manafy: Talk to me about how you’re
innovating and how the industry needs to innovate.
Christa Carone: Maybe for some media companies,
diversification is innovative. It’s different at Group Nine because we were
born that way. We’ve learned so much from how past companies have run that we
know what we need to do as a media company. I feel like innovation is really
coming through how companies are able to scale intellectual property.
Christa Carone: I mean that’s been such an advantage
coming into a company like Group Nine. What I’m able to tap into is the
perspective of a marketer and think of everything we’re doing from the
perspective of the client. Will an advertiser really buy into this? I come from
companies with significant brand equity so I’m a massive believer in
intellectual property and that’s what appeals to me about Group Nine. these
aren’t four media companies. These are four brands. So: How can we look at
building brand equity that isn’t just about one particular revenue stream? That
has been super helpful to me to bring more of an innovative marketing approach
to building brands.