There is no question the business model of traditional media companies has been disrupted over the past 10 years. Companies that aren’t experimenting with new, unique premium content experiences risk, at best, being left behind their competitors and, at worse, failing. Diversification is key to building a sustainable business model. But survival is not enough. So, here are three things for media companies to consider as they try not only to survive but to disrupt.
1. Embrace the change
The ad supported business model will never again be the sole salvation of the media business. Digital advertising has become dominated by Google and Facebook. These two tech giants pull in over 60% of all digital advertising spend and over 85% of all new digital advertising revenues. Those are 2019 statistics, so their slice of the pie is undoubtedly even larger today.
Innovative media companies are diversifying and building new revenue streams. They have shifted to creating premium content experiences that drive customer revenue through subscriptions and memberships. Media companies are also leveraging events and ecommerce as a new way of engaging their audience and to increasing revenue streams. With the death of the cookie they have no choice.
Fortune Media is a good example of this new product mindset. Historically, Fortune’s primary consumer product was their magazine. They’ve moved to digital subscriptions and diversified interactive content to grow subscriber revenue such as Fortune Connect, introduced in 2020. Fortune Connect is a combination of self-guided learning, best-in-class journalism and weekly networking events for business leaders. It’s an example of using data to discern customer preferences and create a new and different type of brand experience.
2. New players = new competitors for eyeballs and loyalty
There is a no-holds-barred competition going on for the attention and loyalty of digital customers. There are new and disruptive channels emerging competing for hearts and minds from companies creating unique and interactive experiences to drive subscriptions and brand value.
Take Peloton. They certainly don’t fit the traditional definition of a media company. But don’t let the bike fool you. Their business is subscription-based fitness content, which includes spinning, yoga, bootcamps, and meditation. They spent a reported $103 million on content development in 2019 designed to bind their customers to their platform.
It may not matter whether Peloton considers itself a fitness company, a hardware company, or a media company. However, it should matter a great deal to media companies. There are a finite set of eyeballs connected to humans. And they’ve got a dwindling amount of expendable time in their day to consume content.
It is all the more urgent that media companies find ways to deliver value that differentiates and builds loyalty.
3. Be nimble and fail fast
The ethos of many technology companies is to accept failure as a consequence of experimentation. Media companies can even celebrate failure (well, practically) – as long it is a part of the journey to success, of course. Digital media publishers should continually explore new monetization strategies to be competitive, even if some efforts don’t work out. If and when companies fail, it’s critical to do so quickly and understand why so that they can try another approach.
I’m a proponent of “failing smart.” Make a data-driven decision, do your customer research, validate product market fit and understand how your product satisfies a customer need. Identify and remediate issues and unforeseen challenges to drive a successful product. Don’t over-analyze and paralyze. Take calculated risks, listen to your customers and react quickly. Embrace the bold but be smart.
Quibi is a high-profile example of a failure I suspect wasn’t data-driven. On paper, the company seemed to have everything required for success. They had proven executive talent, almost $2 billion in funding, blue-chip media company investors, and A-list creative talent. Yet only 500,000 subscribers had signed up by October of 2020, though it’s reported the company had projected 7,000,000 by that date. Clearly the founders vastly overestimated consumer demand and willingness to pay for premium, short-form content.
To avoid these kinds of mistakes — both market fit and product fit — media companies should invest in product market fit research to validate customer needs, as well as invest in data platforming and cloud architecture to continually improve customer experience and build loyalty through deep learning and truly understanding customer preferences. Media companies can create value and new revenue streams by integrating customer-specific data and insights to power differentiated services.
Take action now
I suspect the definition of a media company in 2025 will be substantially different from the media company of 2021. The disruption by non-traditional media companies has already taken root, forcing traditional media companies to adjust quickly. The pandemic has only accelerated the need for change and innovation. How healthy traditional media companies will be in 2025 depends on actions they take right now.
The rate of change in ad tech is intense. It’s being driven by demand for improved performance, trust, transparency and privacy. Many solutions to these problems target buy-side players. So, publisher technology has often been reactive, adding in-house or one-off solutions to solve specific problems.
The most successful publisher organizations are able to synthesize vast amounts of data to make optimized decisions. Unfortunately, the tools that enable this process have a tendency to make operations more disparate and isolated over time. Increasing numbers of advertising partners, technologies, and tools make it difficult to see the forest through the trees. In an ad tech world – where complexity is the norm – striving for simplicity has become a lost art.
From silos to synergy
While most organizations can see the pitfalls of an overly complex tech stack, many of these technologies are unavoidable. Each part of the stack serves a purpose and may meet the needs of a specific department. However, that doesn’t always lead to scalable outcomes that benefit the entire organization. For executives trying to improve cross-team collaboration and transparency in order to find new growth opportunities, the tech stack must be constantly scrutinized.
Time spent maintaining disjointed point solutions can be a full-time job. In addition, each department in your organization has increasingly complex goals and responsibilities that threaten to add more technology to the stack:
Each team often maintains legacy systems that may not be ideal for the changing scale of the entire business. There is an opportunity for media companies to undertake top-down initiatives that align team goals and processes at a higher level through unified data and technology. Many publisher tech stacks include most, if not all, of the solutions below. By unifying data between these tools and making data visible to more teams, decision making is improved and business goals are more easily achieved.
Economies of scale: playing the long game
Over time, tech solutions and workflows solidify. This makes it difficult to know how much time is spent maintaining these systems versus focusing on company goals. Reducing dependence on in-house or one-off solutions will have massive cost benefits as publishers scale.
With a unified data foundation and goal alignment, data silos created by disparate software are eliminated. Workflows are cleaned up. And holistic views of performance allow for additional optimization opportunities and more time is spent on growing revenue. The costs of the required technology solutions are also reduced. Instead, they are replaced by tools that can bring data together for multiple departments and use cases.
How to know when it’s time to consolidate
In smaller teams, individual operators may add specific tools that help one person do the work of many. But as an organization grows, you will reach a plateau that limits scale unless data, results, and opportunities can be easily shared. Increasing collaboration between departments presents exciting revenue opportunities, but only if those teams speak the same language. A simplified tech stack becomes a way to increase transparency and reduce the barriers for collaboration.
Questions to ask when evaluating your tech stack:
What are the high-level business goals that each piece of technology supports? Technology should be added only after goals and supporting processes are clearly defined.
How do department needs differ? Where do they overlap? Identifying areas where technology can meet more than one need for the company can help simplify operations.
How much time is spent maintaining in-house or point solutions? In many cases, dedicated roles are required to keep solutions up and running.
Do your systems talk to each other? How difficult is it to create a single view of performance? With the volumes of data that businesses rely on, it’s common to struggle to bring it all together in meaningful ways.
What is the short-term investment needed to simplify your tech stack vs long-term benefits? This can mean looking at specific technologies, how they’ve been configured, or overall costs. It can be painful to think about rebuilding tech implementations for a cleaner, more effective foundation, but in the long run, you might be better off.
Tech stack consolidation allows your team to improve interdepartmental cooperation and transparency in order to capture new revenue. Less time and money will be spent maintaining and translating KPIs from various point solutions. The sooner your organization begins scaling its tech stack for the future, the sooner you can begin accomplishing top-down organizational goals with less overhead.
DCN represents hundreds of media brands, that reach nearly 100% of the U.S. population and countless readers worldwide. We are pleased to share some of the incredible work our members have done to recognize Juneteenth – a newly-official Federal holiday – and its cultural significance in the American experience.
I will never forget back in 2006, when former Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) infamously referred tothe internet as a “series of tubes.” The cringe-worthy statement has gone down in the annals of unintentionally hilarious politician-speak. In defense of Senator Stevens, however, it merely belied a massive lack of understanding throughout the U.S. Congress about the then-burgeoning tech industry.
There are many reasons for this knowledge gap, not the least of which is that politicians aren’t technologists. In addition, most members aren’t “digital natives.” Meanwhile, the internet has grown ever more complex — as have tracking, monetization, and devices. And let’s not forget that Congress has responsibilities for governing on a wide swath of other complex public policy issues, which often leaves members and their staff stretched a mile wide and an inch deep.
Even in 2018, there were still examples of monumental ignorance about tech. But they are becoming fewer and farther between. In part, that’s because Congress has held numerous hearings over the years on tech issues, which has forced the members to become smarter. One tangible piece of evidence is that you can see a huge improvement in the questions asked by Members of Congress to tech executives over the last few years.
Europe first out of the gate
European policymakers have long outpaced their U.S. counterparts in digital savvy, even if the results have been less than groundbreaking. The ePrivacy Directive was an early attempt to provide more transparency for consumers about the mechanisms for online data collection and tracking. The ensuing “cookie banners” were not so great. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was the first major consumer privacy framework against which nearly every new privacy law is compared. Yet we’ve been waiting for more than three years for significant enforcement. This year might be the year… maybe.
Then, in late 2020, Europe rolled out the Digital Markets Act (DMA) and Digital Services Act (DSA). The DMA is intended to rein in the anticompetitive behavior of “gatekeeper platforms” while the DSA is focused on providing protection and transparency for consumers and on addressing harmful content that flows across the web. These proposals represent a more thoughtful and aggressive approach than we have seen in the past from European policymakers who clearly understand how big tech companies have cemented their dominant positions.
[Side note: If you are a DCN member, I highly encourage you and a member of your policy or legal team to attend an event we’re hosting on June 22, "Digital Markets Act: What Is It and Why Should Publishers Care?" We will provide an overview of the DMA followed by a panel of DCN members discussing the pros and cons of the DMA and the parallel proposals in the U.S.]
Congress steps up to the plate
Fast forward to last week, when a bipartisan collection of members of the House Judiciary Committee announced five bills to rebalance competition in the tech marketplace. These bills are an outgrowth of multiple committee hearings held over the last several years. The outcome of those hearings was a comprehensive blueprint for action released by the Committee last October.
The five bills are intended to:
give greater authority to US regulators to break up dominant platforms which unfairly use their dominance to promote their own services;
require platforms to offer data portability and interoperability to consumers;
prohibit platforms from “self-preferencing” and/or discriminating against competitors;
raise the bar for platforms seeking to acquire potential rivals; and
increase filing fees for companies proposing mergers.
Action across party lines
While Washington D.C. is still deeply divided along partisan lines, it is striking to note that a number of Republicans co-sponsored all of these bills. And they did this just days prior to the confirmation of Lina Khan (69-28) in a largely bipartisan vote as she was appointed as the new Chair of the Federal Trade Commission.
Earlier this year, Representative David Cicilline (D-CT), Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, re-introduced the Journalism Competition and Protection Act (JCPA) with bipartisan support, including from Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO), the top Republican on the Antitrust Subcommittee. Our understanding is that they are working together on ways to strengthen the JCPA in light of the lessons learned from the European Copyright Directive and Australia’s News Media Bargaining Code.
Meanwhile on the other side of the Capitol, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced a comprehensive proposal for reforming antitrust law. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), her Republican counterpart on the Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee, recently introduced his own anti-trust reform bill. However, it isn’t likely to garner any support from Democrats.
While they offered starkly different solutions, the two lawmakers have a long history of working together to highlight the harmful conduct of big tech platforms. With the news that Senator Klobuchar is reportedly working on counterpart legislation to the House bills, it will be interesting to see whether a similar bipartisan dynamic plays out on the Senate side.
Taken together, there is a distinct shift in the posture of Congress. They have moved from hearings and investigations to remedies and solutions.
If Vegas bookies offered odds on whether Congress will pass any significant legislation in the next 18 months, it would be considered a long shot. It’s not easy to get a majority of 435 members in the House to sing off the same choir sheet. It’s even harder to find agreement between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and 60 of their colleagues (most of whom have their own fiefdoms and presidential ambitions). But you have to start somewhere. And, right now, both parties appear to be clamoring for legislative action to rein in big tech platforms.
There will be a lot of debate in the coming months about the specifics of the House bills, the companion bills which are reportedly coming from the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the DMA and DSA in Europe. And you can be sure that the big tech platforms, which are the unquestioned targets of this scrutiny, will be spending copious time and money trying to muddy the waters and blunt these proposals.
But this much is clear: Policymakers have a come long way in better understanding the tech industry since the “series of tubes” analogy. We have reached the point where they are poised to write rules for the road that reflect how the modern world operates.
Apple’s June iOS 15 announcement was the latest in a series of initiatives from large tech companies focused on consumer privacy. For a long time, consumer trust has eroded due to data leaks and murky practices by bad actors. However, the demise of the third-party cookie will impact all businesses across the digital advertising spectrum. Unfortunately, premium publishers will be hugely affected by these policy changes. At the same time, they have minimal control over what the changes are and when they’ll come into effect.
We recently surveyed our publisher partners, of which 419 participated from all over the world. The results offer a fascinating look at where we stand on the cookieless future, halfway through 2021. Significantly, more than 50% said they were unclear as to how new cookieless identity solutions would impact their business models.
A good deal of weight and attention has been placed behind unique ID solutions, namely Unified ID 2.0 spearheaded by The Trade Desk and Liveramp’s Identity Link. Thus, it’s no surprise that they are seen as potential ways forward to solve the issue. In our survey, almost half (47%) of those considering adopting logins indicated their intent to work with one of these two solutions.
But, given the high volume of interest given to first-party data solutions, it’s more surprising that 65.3% of respondents said they were not planning on increasing usage of logins to specifically combat deprecation of third-party cookies. This is predominantly due to the potential disruption of user experience for readers. Logins could negatively impact site traffic.
Not flocking to FLoC
Google’s Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) claims to give advertisers the ability to target groups of users without giving away identity information. It does this by placing users within cohorts according to their interests. However, this will only be available within Google’s Chrome browser. It has a significant market share but is by no means comprehensive. Publishers are also still uncertain how it will work in practice.
At least Google has started work on the technical details of its Privacy Sandbox model. However, other key browsers such as Safari and Firefox have yet to announce their plans. When it comes to these Privacy Sandbox solutions, the approach for publishers and advertisers should be the same. A cookieless tool to be included in the mix rather than treated as the basis for a whole strategy.
Technical details and dominance
The devil will be in the details with FLoC. But the key concern is that such an update will be limited to the open web and give Google further competitive advantages in market. Publishers haven’t had the easiest ride in monetizing premium editorial content. So, it’s critical they are supported in ensuring precise targeting isn’t only possible within walled gardens.
Unfortunately, many publishers are choosing to play a waiting game to see what further privacy protocols will be introduced and, therefore, which targeting options remain and are viable solutions for advertisers. This leaves the industry heavily reliant on – and beholden to – updates from the tech giants. Our survey results reflect the lack of clarity that publishers already face when it comes to these potential new solutions. Just 23.7% say that they fully understand the implications of the various industry initiatives.
With such uncertainty and lack of transparency, how can publishers get ready for the cookie-less future that is fast approaching?
Change your targeting perspective
While criticism can be levelled at the lack of transparency for these updates, we must remember that a privacy-focused internet is what users, and government regulators, are asking for. So, relying on a single, one-size-fits-all solution isn’t a good long-term strategy for anyone in digital.
The credibility and feasibility of multiple approaches will need to be understood, tested, and combined to maintain the same levels of ad effectiveness. Publishers will need to stay aligned to various industry initiatives as they evolve, which takes deep technical knowledge and resources. Most of the cookie-based replacements are unavailable to all, and worse than that, are not testable yet, and time is running out.
Consider critical context
Whatever happens though, there is no doubt that publishers need answers to be fully ready for 2022 when third-party cookies will take their final bow. Publishers will need support from monetization partners and advertisers alike to find the right balance. It is essential to run concreate tests with partners that offer actionable – and not theoretical – cookieless monetization capabilities. This is critical in order develop reliable revenue streams. It’s not enough just to be ready for the death of the cookie. Publishers need to be positioned to profit within a privacy-first ecosystem for many years to come.
For many publishers, it’s no secret that a few large, usually corporate accounts are responsible for the bulk of advertising revenue. This has long been the law of traditional advertising. So, it makes sense to focus efforts on managing and maintaining these accounts at the expense of smaller customers. When the value of each deal is lower, the cost to serve remains relatively static. The result is a diminishing ROI for publishers as their profits are quickly eaten up by costs.
However, neglecting long-tail ad buyers – SMEs – also has an opportunity cost.
Aggregated small deals = massive revenues
When thinking about SMEs, consider that a “small” business can have up to 500 employees. In other words, not every SME is your local corner shop or florist. Some SMEs are born-global scaleups with decent-sized marketing budgets, backed by venture capital, and motivated by high-growth strategies.
The U.S. Small Business Administration, for instance, recommends that businesses with revenues below $5 million allocate 8% of their revenues to marketing. And that suggestion is on the conservative side. Depending on the industry, level of competition, and strategy of the owners, the marketing and advertising budget could easily reach up to 20% of revenue.
To see the value of small deals aggregated, look no further than Facebook, one of the world’s biggest advertising platforms. Most of Facebook’s substantial ad revenue ($69.7 billion in 2019) comes from SMEs, rather than large corporate clients. Facebook boasts more than 8 million advertisers. However, the highest-spending 100 brands account for only about 6% of the platform’s ad revenue. In other words, SMEs are the driving force behind Facebook’s massive advertising business. So why aren’t other publishers cashing in?
Automation and streamlining are key
Small deals need to be aggregated efficiently to generate maximum returns. Think of it like a commercial fisherman using a trawler, rather than angling for individual herring. That means fewer touchpoints, faster turnaround times, and more flexibility.
There is a technical solution to the problem: self-serve advertising platforms. Much like Facebook and Google’s demand-side ad markets, self-serve platforms shift the workload from the publisher to the ad buyer. They also reduce turnaround time and lower the barriers to entry for potential advertisers. If anything, automation and streamlining free up more time for sales to focus on the big fish. Meanwhile, small deals are diligently collected en-masse by the self-serve platform, empowered by sales and marketing.
A point worth considering is that the SME segment doesn’t necessarily plan and create their campaigns during regular office hours when the publishers’ sales teams are available. Self-serve enables the publisher to offer 24/7 service and support.
Of course, adopting a self-serve platform doesn’t mean you should stop catering to key corporate accounts. How do you decide which deals to process manually and which can be handled by self-serve? One way to do this is to set a budget threshold. This way, you can split ad deals into managed accounts (anything over $10,000, for instance) and self-serve deals (any deals below that range).
Brand safety and editorial oversight
It’s undeniable that Facebook, Google, and Amazon are essential tools for most modern businesses, and a reasonable choice for SME advertising. However, Big Tech platforms present certain problems that are leading many marketers to look for alternative solutions.
A growing issue is brand safety – the need to protect the advertiser’s image and reputation from negative associations. In recent years, Big Tech platforms have been subject to increased scrutiny, including the infamous “Adpocalypse” of 2017 where major brands pulled their ads from YouTube as a reaction to content deemed contextually toxic.
YouTube has experienced at least three similar major incidents since then. And Facebook has received similar flak, in part for a perceived slowness to remove offensive or illegal content. In June 2020, more than 1000 companies boycotted Facebook as part of a campaign organized by activists, #StopHateForProfit.
Digital publishers are able to offer a more reliable standard of brand safety with more editorial oversight of their platforms. This can be important for SMEs as for corporations. In an age in which brand missteps can be instantly captured, curated, and communicated across the internet and social media, companies of all sizes are becoming more cognizant of the risks of where and how they advertise.
Self-serve advertising is a commercially effective model for platforms like YouTube and Facebook. However, the fact that they are built on user generated content makes it a sort of Wild West for advertisers. By contrast, publishers with control over the content they put out are able to leverage the scale benefits of self-serve without posing the same risks to brand safety. For publishers tired of blacklisting advertisers (a common issue with programmatic), self-serve offers ease of mind. That’s because ads are manually approved by the publisher, which is actually the only hands-on step of the process for publishers.
SME = big opportunity
Self-serve advertising is undoubtedly on the rise. Brands that have adopted the technology include traditional publishers like Hearst Magazines (Vanity Fair, Elle, GQ), respected newspapers (Bloomberg Media Group, The Atlantic), travel publishers (Tripadvisor, eDreams ODIGEO) and streaming platforms (Roku).
Some publishers may balk at the idea of automating their main source of revenue, and no wonder. But the most common approach is to start by funneling small and medium deals through self-serve, rather than all deals from day one. In other words, it’s far from an either-or choice. Once fully incorporated within the business model, the threshold can be significantly increased.
Still, self-serve advertising is a fundamental game changer for digital marketing and it will take time for publishers to adjust to the new paradigm. With that said, SMEs have demonstrated both a willingness to spend and a desire to use self-serve to place their ads. As traditional publishing is being turned on its head, publishers can’t afford not to serve SMEs.
In the immortal words of Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross: “they’re just sitting there, waiting to give you their money. Are you gonna take it?”
Audiences are spending more time than ever consuming content. Still, even an explosion in digital subscriptions couldn’t prevent massive job cuts across the nation’s newsrooms. Any argument that closures hit companies that churned out poor quality journalism or fake news falls flat when looking at the data. Of the 10 newspapers that have earned Pulitzer Prizes for local reporting in the past decade, all but one were impacted by cuts in the last year.
Why is online news in a crisis? There are lots of theories. Many point to the impact of the Google/Facebook duopoly. The two behemoth companies gobble the bulk of ad revenue, leaving scraps for news organizations. Others suggest that the digital media industry itself is to blame. Ethan Zuckerman points to the “original sin” of building the entire Internet around advertising, putting algorithms, not audiences, in control.
New research confirms that media organizations need to do a critical rethink, but not just of the business model. It appears that media organizations are relying on a faulty content-creation and evaluation formula. The good news is that there’s plenty they can do to rethink storytelling to better engage and monetize audiences.
The findings, part of the Clwstwr Policy Brief project, reveal that audiences prefer “inclusive and reflective” storytelling models that help them understand and navigate their world. This, the research says, “challenges the perceived – and long-established journalistic principle – that the inverted pyramid model of news storytelling is the most efficient way to deliver news.”
The traditional approach for news — arranging facts in descending order of importance — lacks creativity and flexibility. What’s more, the research says this style alienates younger audiences that crave a “more thoughtful, considered and purposeful approach” to online news. They want it to reflect the reality of their lives, rather than industry norms.
Media organizations have an opportunity to rethink the way that they report the news. And, with new formats, they can encourage consumers to engage more actively with content.
Continuing with our series of video interviews, I talk to the lead author of the report, Shirish Kulkarni, an award-winning journalist and researcher. He makes a case for a complete rethink of news storytelling models. He shares the “seven building blocks” that successful news stories have in common. These include a linear narrative, personal context, and transparency about where the information comes from in the first place.
Kulkarni also walks us through the “narrative accordion,” a prototype model that gets high ranks from readers because it allows them to sort and skim through the key elements of a story on their terms. Finally, he discusses how news organizations can drive meaningful engagement and revenues by harnessing AI to “individualize” content at scale.
WATCH OR LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW
Peggy Anne Salz, Founder and Lead Analyst of Mobile Groove interviews Shirish Kulkarni, a researcher focused on identifying and prototyping innovative forms of news storytelling.
Peggy Anne Salz: Mainstream journalism is in crisis. Now we may think it’s due to a lack of trust or a lack of interest, but new research suggests people aren’t consuming news because the wrong stories are being told in the wrong way, by the wrong people. Now, new storytelling models, provocative prototypes, new building blocks.
They may offer the answer and we get the inside track on this and more today on Digital Content Next. I’m your host as always Peggy Anne Salz, mobile analyst, content marketing consultant, and frequent contributor to DCN. My guest today is an award-winning journalist and researcher, who’s going to share eye-opening results of his latest research project that goes to the core of what is broken in online journalism and how to fix it. Shirish Kulkarni welcome to Digital Content Next. It’s great to have you.
Shirish Kulkarni: Thank you very much. It’s great to be here.
Salz: Now you’ve got our attention with these results, the wrong people, doing the wrong thing, in the wrong way. That is something pretty provocative. You spent the last two years asking these fundamental questions about journalism, and now you’ve come up with a construct for a model of what you call reflective journalism. Now it’s not just, you. It’s had global impact. You’ve presented it at Reuters Institute, World Association of News Publishers, and many more. Tell us what is reflective journalism.
Kulkarni: Yeah. So I think we have…well, I have two reasons really, for calling it reflective journalism. Firstly, I think it’s important that we, as journalists, reflect on what journalism is for, right? What the needs of audience is rather than our organizations. Because that’s something that’s really been missing a lot in journalism. And we need to take the time. We’re in a crisis, as you said, and we need to take the time to stop and think, what are we doing wrong? What could we do better?
The second reason is that it also is super important that our industry is much more genuinely reflective of society. So, largely, if we’re talking about Western Europe or the U.S., this is a very homogeneous industry. And frankly, it’s driven largely by white, middle class, Metropolitan men, for the most part. And actually, when you think about it, that is a really small proportion of the population. And they don’t reflect, or frankly, understand the experiences, the day to day lives of most people in society. And as journalists, I think it’s our job to reflect what’s going on in society. And I don’t think as an industry, we’re actually structurally prepared to do that. So, two reasons for calling it reflective journalism, because we need to reflect both on the industry and also reflect society.
Salz: And it’s interesting Shirish because you’re making this point that. We need to reflect, and we’ve done that in a way you could even say we’ve been forced to reflect. Let’s put it that way. So we do know what is broken in principle at the core you’re stating it’s all about new forms of narrative. We need new forms of narrative. This is actually very good news because we know what is broken. We know how to fix it. And this is where your policy brief, your news storytelling, storytelling research hits upon the answer. You propose linear narratives. Now, how does this differ from what we’ve been doing? Because what we’ve been doing is the inverted pyramid style. So what makes linear better?
Kulkarni: It helps to start by thinking, why do we do the inverted pyramid, right? And actually, the kind of prosaic reason for that is because of the telegraph, the original news wire. But actually, the telegraph, when it was used widely, was expensive and unreliable. So people thought, let’s put all the important stuff right at the top, because then it’s cheaper. And if it drops out, then we haven’t lost too much of the important stuff, we’ve lost some of the boring stuff, right? So, technology has clearly moved on by about six generations since the telegraph. But largely, we are using those same habits and formulas, which come from the telegraph era. So that is strange in and of itself. So that’s why we use the inverted pyramid now. And actually, there’s not really a reason for it anymore.
When I talk about why writing linear stories is better, or producing stories of whatever kind, whether that’s text or whatever, in a linear format is better, we just go back to what are stories for? And stories are there for a kind of evolutionary, anthropological, there’s a neuroscientific basis for storytelling. They help us navigate the world. If you wanted to bring in kind of modern day techniques, they’re like a virtual reality simulator for the world. That’s what stories teach us. And I’d really recommend a book by Jonathan Gottschall, called “The Storytelling Animal.” And in that, there’s a really beautiful quote, where he says, “We are, as a species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories.”
And so, we know that to be true, right? But those stories aren’t told in inverted pyramid style. They’re told as a linear narrative. Starting at the beginning and ending at the end. And that is what we’re hardwired for as human beings. But as journalists, if we’re writing in an inverted pyramid style, we’re essentially going against what we’re hardwired for. We’re putting up a barrier between the storytelling and the engagement with a story, from the get go. And that, again, is not logical. It’s not rational. It doesn’t make any sense.
So actually, just on that kind of linear storytelling, we built a bunch of prototypes. But actually, what I was really interested in testing, for exactly the reasons you’re interested is, what if it was just linear storytelling, there’s no other formatting, would people find that interesting? So we did a prototype, which we just called kind of a plain text, dramatic prototype. And that was literally plain text, writing a story, sort of casting it quite badly, in my own opinion, because I wrote it, in a kind of three act dramatic structure, like we were just talking about. And the results from that were absolutely startling.
We tested it with more than 1300 people, against options of news which were currently available to them. And what we got the people to do was essentially, say whether they thought that it was more engaging, more informative, and more useful. And we created, I guess, a net approval rating. So on the kind of engaging axis, people have found just a plain text narrative more engaging than a BBC story, or an ITV story, or Sky News story here in the UK. The rating for that was plus 57, not 57%, plus 57, of the positives against the negatives. On informative, it was plus 41. And on useful, plus 37. So those are big, big numbers. And in some ways, you’d say for news organizations, they’re a no brainer, right? If you can, tomorrow, do something which is more engaging, more informative, and useful by big margins, just by essentially changing the structure of your story, why wouldn’t you do that?
Salz: Now we’ve had some companies here on Digital Content Next, they have been sharing what they’re doing and they are already taking a more modular approach to news and to storytelling. So there are companies moving in this direction. They understand that just by encouraging readers to skim, they’re not really driving engagement. And they have to do it in a different way. They need to break down the stories. How can news organizations further improve what they do to draw their audiences in? What is it that you’re telling them?
Kulkarni: So the very first thing is clearly thinking about what the audience, what citizens want, right? So when I was writing my prototypes, really, the first thing was to blank my brain. I’d tried to forget all the conventions of journalism, and ask myself the question, what do I actually need to know about this story to help me understand this? Rather than, what would a journalist normally write here? Because those two things are actually surprisingly different. And I think it’s where I think the kind of practice of journalism has become quite disengaged from the purpose of journalism. And as you say, there’s lots of hand wringing over, you know, people in newsrooms looking at analytics, when they are looking at analytics, and probably not enough people are sort of hand wringing over, well, people only spend 10 seconds on our page. Well, kind of, of course, they only spend 10 seconds on your page if you write an inverted pyramid style, where you’ve put in the headline, and in the first paragraph, something that looks like everything you need to know about that story. And then people think, well, actually, it gets more boring, and less interesting as I go down.
Now, actually, the truth is, it’s not everything you need to know about the story, because we all know, headlines don’t represent a story. They’re largely used as a sales technique. And the first paragraph often is a kind of one side of the story or just a really quick summary. But actually what people are telling us they want routinely, and not just me, in lots of research, they want more context around a story. What we tend to do is drop people into an on the day story, just on the day. And not everyone consumes news in the same way as journalists, right? They don’t read the news necessarily every day or every hour. We need to explain to them what’s led up to this point, and actually to some extent, what’s going to follow from this point. And so, actually providing all those things as a service, because yeah, journalism is a service, again, something which we forget. Then all those things are going to help people engage.
Salz: News as a service, you’re absolutely right here. And you’re also talking about what news organizations need to do to embrace the linear approach. Fortunately, it’s something they don’t have to do on their own because your research also shows that it’s really about collaborating, co-creating whatever you want to call it with AI to keep reader attention, as the story unfolds. Even determine the best starting points in the news. Ways to draw the audience in. So how does this collaboration working with AI? Look, what is the role of AI to get people to come into the story and stay?
Kulkarni: Lots of journalism organizations are using AI very well now, already. And so this is going to be the future of journalism. The next stage of journalism will be driven by automation and AI. So we have to be in that space. And I think the starting point is, look, right now online news is largely just newspaper articles put online, right? We’re not using, we’re not taking advantage of all the digital and technical storytelling tools that are available to us.
And I think what we’re seeing is that we should be in a post-article world, right? We can’t provide, or we shouldn’t be providing exactly the same article to everyone, right? We can’t be all things to all people. And where that leads to is personalization, essentially. That actually, we can provide news, information, in a way that is personalized to meet individual user’s needs in a really efficient way. So that might be, for example, I’m based in Wales, where we have quite a big immigrant community as well. If I’m a Chinese person living in West Wales, accessing BBC Wales’s news, wouldn’t it be interesting if I could access that in my first language, even though it’s news about Wales? That’s going to be more accessible to me. Working in that modular way, where we’re taking out a lot of interstitial language, we’re building short modules of information, which we’re putting together in different ways for different people. That, for example, takes out a lot of translation problems. It actually takes out a lot of inherent bias that exists within us as journalists. So it’s more accessible and more inclusive in that way.
So providing fact-based modules of journalism, that can be put together in different ways, by AI, to match the personalization preferences of users, citizens, audiences, has to be one big part of the future of journalism, I think.
Salz: That’s fascinating Shirish because we did start with personalization in news. It was about the categories asking audiences to choose the categories they wanted. Now it’s about personalization taking that personalization to a next level, a new level. And we agree it’s about the audience. It’s also about context, transparency, diverse perspectives.
Now these are the guiding principals, but it also comes down to the experience and that’s where your research also offers some answers. You’ve come up with ways to allow a different experience for different readers. The linear story is the concept, but you have accordions, timelines, videos. What can you tell us about the best on-ramp right now for organizations listening in, they want to know what is the best way to make the biggest difference in their stories and their metrics?
Kulkarni: The narrative accordion is really my favorite prototype. And actually, the favorite generally, with users. And what we’ve done here, essentially I’ve gone back to the basics and asked myself the question, what do I need to know about the story? What’s going to help me understand it? And I put these kind of expandable and collapsible questions, which means that people can either read them from top to bottom, so they make a linear story from top to bottom. Or if you’re interested in a particular question, such as, is this a green solution? I can go straight to that and check out the answer to that first, and navigate around exactly how I want it. Because what audiences really told us they wanted was some agency in storytelling. They wanted to be able to decide how they navigated the story. And we all understand that, don’t we? Like, when we go to find something out ourselves, we remember it better. We understand it better, because we feel like we’ve been part of that investigation process.
And as I say, the narrative accordion overall, in our testing, did really well. So basically, 75% and upwards, comparing the narrative accordion to options which are available to them in the general market, said it helped them understand the story better, and was more engaging.
Now, again, going back to the commercial needs or publishers, if you can do tomorrow, this doesn’t take a lot of kind of tooling or engineering, you could do tomorrow, something which more than 75% of people say helps them understand the story better, and is more engaging. Now, that, in a commercial sense, to me, is a no brainer, right? If you can do that tomorrow, why wouldn’t you?
Salz: That makes perfect sense. Absolutely. It’s a no-brainer and there’s no reason not to pursue that, but you’ve also found something else interesting in your research. You’ve found out that we are hard-wired, literally for the hero story or the heroine story. We want to have that arc of the story. Now, how can organizations apply that to journalism and still keep a credible balance? Because of course, drama can quickly become melodrama. It can become exaggeration very easily. So how do they approach this to give us the story? But again, also the engagement, because that’s the way of generating revenues.
Kulkarni: So, I see the tension, I’m all for kind of fact-based journalism, which sometimes, we get into kind of click bait stuff, which is about creating a particular kind of drama, right? When I’m talking about, this kind of hero, heroine story, it’s that fundamental evolutionary need for a particular kind of story, which you might describe as essentially, a fairy tale, is a great example of that. It’s why they’re so popular and successful. And that could be by just thinking about who are the characters in this. We don’t have to go off into kind of writing “non-objective,” but I’m going to put objective in quotation marks there, “non-objective” stories. What’s the sense of character, a resolution as well, because fairy stories always have a resolution. And new stories very rarely have a resolution. And actually, at that evolutionary level stories which don’t have a resolution leave us feeling uncomfortable.
So actually, that’s where we get into kind of news avoidance, because so much of our storytelling is inverted pyramid storytelling. Leaves us feeling uncomfortable and unresolved. So that’s a really important point as well.
Salz: So the answers here are context, narrative, linear narrative, AI, imagination, innovation, engagement, but achieving this, internalizing, this can take time, maybe even other talents. So what would you leave us with here? Give me a few steps news organizations can take right now to change the old habit.
Adopt the new model, adapt the new prototypes that you’re proposing such as the accordion, and also integrate AI more into this process. What can they do that they’re not already doing?
Kulkarni: When I started doing my research, I think people wanted me to come up with some kind of nonlinear gamified piece of storytelling, innovation, right? And I quickly realized that’s like putting a $100,000 kitchen in a house which doesn’t have a roof, right? We need to sort out the fundamentals. It’s journalism which is broken, and we need to fix that.
So, that comes down to understanding the user need, the audience need, remembering that journalism is for citizens, it’s for people. It’s not for journalists. So our audiences shouldn’t be other journalists. They should be what people really want from journalism. And so we need to listen to that research, not going with preconceived ideas of what we think journalism should be like in the future. We need to listen to what people actually want from journalism and then action that. And in terms of the storytelling, yeah, I think it’s using personalization, meeting people where they are, meeting their needs. And to do that, we need to leverage AI, essentially. Because to do that at scale, we need to use automation.
People want that information, they do want to understand the world, they do want to engage with it, but they’re feeling let down by journalism at the moment. So there’s repressed kind of need for that, which we can tap into. And actually, yeah, people are willing to pay for that if they get something which meets their needs. I talk about it in terms of, if you were working at Procter & Gamble or Unilever, and you never listened to your customers needs, you just carried on doing what you’ve always done without thinking about what you need to change, then you wouldn’t work at Procter & Gamble or Unilever for very long. But actually, in journalism, that’s what we do. We just carry on doing the same thing we always did, because we like doing it and we know how to do that. Regardless of the fact, we know people aren’t engaging with it or consuming it. So, there’s a really clear, hardnosed business model for doing storytelling better.
Salz: Shirish, I can’t thank you enough for sharing and, yes, for being exactly like your research, open, transparent, a bit provocative. It’s been great to have you.
Kulkarni: Thank you so much. It’s been a real pleasure.
Salz: Thank you. And of course, thank you for tuning in taking the time.
Of course, more coming in the series around how media companies are taking charge of changing their business and also increasing revenues. And in the meantime, be sure to check out digitalcontentnext.org for great content and including a companion post to this interview. And of course, join the conversation on Twitter at DCNorg until next time I’m Peggy Anne Salz signing off for Digital Content Next.
When the pandemic took hold in spring 2020, travel publishers had to think, and move, fast. In a world where travel became unsafe, if not outright banned, this segment of the publishing world faced long odds. However, many—including Conde Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, Thrillist, and National Geographic—refocused their strategies to keep housebound audiences informed and entertained. But now, as parts of the world reopen to travel, while others are still profoundly struggling with Covid-19, travel brands are poised to make another pivot.
Destination for information
Last spring, Conde Nast Traveler shifted its digital content strategy away from bread-and-butter destination content to travel news. In particular, it dove into how the unfolding Covid-19 pandemic was impacting travel. And, after a precipitous drop off when the world essentially shut down in March, traffic began to rebound in April as homebound readers spent more time on the site, driving up total engaged minutes 10% in 2020.
As lockdowns set in around the world, Conde Nast Traveler focused on creating a deep well of
evergreen content aimed at inspiring grounded readers to daydream about future travel. It highlighted adventures closer to home. It also provided virtual travel experiences to transport and engage housebound audiences.
However, now that actual travel is back on the rise, Conde Nast Traveler is pivoting again. “As regulations ease and attitudes towards travel shift, we’re focusing on content that helps people get back out into the world,” said Jesse Ashlock, Conde Nast Traveler’s Deputy Global Editorial Director.
Traffic to domestic destination-based content and road-trip related content began to climb last summer. Interest in vacation rentals also spiked. Audience time spent with that content rose more than 1,100% between January and October 2020. Ashlock expects those trends to continue through this summer, as people explore the great American outdoors.
Travel + Leisure made a similar pandemic pivot, leaning into the leisure aspect of the brand as the world was shutting down in the spring of 2020. The brand even updated its Twitter bio to reflect its #LeanIntoLeisure strategy.
“We maintained a very flexible approach to our content, particularly in March, April and May 2020, so that we could be nimble and change course depending on what made sense given shifting world events,” said Deanne Kaczerski, T+L’s Digital Content Director.
The brand also shifted it’s commerce-related content from travel gear toward products related to face masks and work-at-home accessories.
Aspiration and inspiration
On Instagram, Travel+Leisure chose to double down on aspiration. The team shared images meant to inspire far-flung daydreams and asked followers to share images of the places they missed most. “We didn’t entirely abandon the aspirational element of travel,” Kaczerski said. The brand continued to highlight dreamy itineraries for cooped up wanderers looking for an escape from daily pandemic life but also began covering more wellness stories.
There are several indications that strategy worked. “Overall, the website experienced tremendous traffic in the last year. People sought out trusted information, expert advice and compelling content to satiate their wanderlust in a very challenged time,” Kaczerski said.
At Thrillist, the gaze shifted toward learning more about the places that captivate travelers.
“Rather than encouraging people to go out, we encouraged people to dig into learning the history of spaces,” said Helen Hollyman, Thrillist’s Editor in Chief.
As the world reopens, Thrillist’s focus is on service journalism that aims to help readers figure out their pandemic travel comfort level. While things are looking up, “it’s still a little bit of a question mark where things will be at the end of 2021,” Hollyman said.
Given the uncertainty of international travel, Thrillist opted to emphasize domestic travel by highlighting adventures that can be had. These include camping, stargazing, and exploring national and state parks.
Advertisers are ready for the change, Hollyman said. “Everyone’s kind of in this space of let’s get back in there,” she said. “People are tired of Netflix, and they’re tired of streaming.”
George Stone, Editor in Chief of National Geographic’s travel coverage, described the pandemic as a bit of a break. It offered a breather, which allowed the publication to shift gears and return to its roots. “In a way, it gave us the opportunity to do better National Geographic storytelling,” he said. “We were stepping away from consumer travel objectives, and that was a relief.”
With consumer travel largely off the table for several months, National Geographic felt free to focus its website on looking at the world through the lenses of science, history, and culture. “We started to dig into the stories of people and places more so than the immediate story of the traveler,” Stone said.
There were also more Covid-19 stories, a reflection of National Geographic’s deep commitment to covering science. “Our traffic really shot up last March,” said Alissa Swango, Managing Editor for National Geographic Digital.
Homeschooling parents drove up demand for science-related kids content like experiments to supplement schoolwork. A popup pandemic newsletter has remained so popular it still hasn’t pivoted. “Our open rates are still very high,” Swango said.
As travel opens up, National Geographic hopes to help usher in a new more thoughtful era of travel. Like other publishers, it plans to focus more on sustainable travel and responsible tourism through its content.
The goal is to “encourage people to get out into the world for a firsthand encounter with the issues,places, communities that bring geographical and cultural context,” Stone said. “We want people to know the world and love the world as conservationists and explorers.”
Media owners may feel like their cups are half empty. Admittedly, it’s a tough business to be in right now. Certainly, the advertising industry is in the middle of a “Great Reset.” However, we must remember that change also means opportunity. Like most businesses, media owners don’t want to guess about the future and they don’t want to make directional bets that could leave their business in dire straits. The good news is they don’t have to.
Although media owners aren’t fortune tellers, they don’t need a Magic 8-Ball to see that they have a wealth of choices as they move forward. Upheaval driven by the deprecation of the decades-old technology of cookies, a global pandemic, and new regulation focused on consumer consent and transparency have all enabled a tremendous amount of innovation in our industry. As a result, tools for media owners are rapidly becoming more agile and more privacy forward. They are also becoming more effective.
Now, you can target in context. You can target in real time. You can target on first-impression. And you can target across devices, sequentially, with managed frequency, with your own data, with second-party data, with enriched data.
Diversify to thrive
Diversification is key for media owners as we continue into this new era. Marketers want and need options. Many publishers are leaning into contextual as a response to the changes in our industry. While context is a fine option to realize the value of publishers’ great content, it’s not the only lever you can pull, nor should it be.
Marketers agree. In fact, two-thirds of marketers are not confident that contextual targeting alone is a sufficient replacement for audience targeting. That’s a significant percentage of paying customers looking for alternatives.
Media owners, marketers are looking to you for those alternative solutions. Are you comfortable putting all your eggs in one basket and one that appeals to a fraction of your customers?
No one said change would be easy. However, media owners have the tools and partners available today to compete. Google is only part of the story — but you shouldn’t let them be the only story.
Yes, the Chrome browser is important. However, when you zoom out, there are multiple browsers in common use; tablets and phones that are proliferating in the billions; connected televisions, and a vast proliferation of connected devices, spanning the globe. There’s a prodigious open web opportunity up for grabs. Consumers are hungry for your content and willing to pay good money for it.
Google may not embrace identity within its walls (except on its own account, of course) but identity solutions are plentiful across the open web. The walled giant may try to woo you with dumbed down tools. However, you can be sure that, for their own marketer clients, they’ll be surfacing all the sophistication attendant to the rich wealth of data that they have for their own clients. Don’t force your buyers to reprogram dollars to those walled gardens. (And by the way: Enriched data can still be activated via Deal IDs, even in Google.)
It would be wise to fill your cup up with solutions designed for you. From deterministic to probabilistic and everywhere in between, there are smart people working hard to ensure your content, your employees, your business can gain an advantage. So, give them a chance to show you what your options look like.
Deterministic will help you drive your known customers to repeat purchases, while probabilistic will fill the funnel with the other 80-90% of customers that you don’t know or can’t recognize. New privacy regulations are driving better tools for consent and transparency — not the reverse. You’ll be surprised how motivating consumer privacy is for many in the industry. Remember, we’re consumers too. This is the time to test, test, and test again. It will get easier with each test and iteration.
The current climate may seem rough and complex, full of new regulation and uncertain tech modes; however there is no shortage of solutions. There is an extensive buffet of partners and technology that can make identity frictionless in a regulated world, so you can focus on results and not painful implementations. Have your cake and make room for more!
At long last, it seems there may be an end in sight for the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States. Leaders of states and municipalities that have had some of the strictest lockdown and quarantine measures are announcing their reopening dates. Vaccines aren’t just readily available, you can pretty much walk up and get one now. And, in a move that was a shock to some and a relief to others, the CDC has announced that with a few exceptions, vaccinated American adults can resume lifestyles that they’d think of as “normal.”
Getting back to life as usual means getting back to business as usual. But for those of us who work in the media industry, some things have changed permanently. We just don’t necessarily know what they are yet.
One of the biggest unknowns for our industry is streaming video, which experienced a massive boom as consumers found themselves encouraged to stay at home. That left them with new blocks of free time resulting from a lack of social gatherings, commutes, and leisure activities. But industry analysts predicted, too, that much of this would be temporary. Once lockdowns lifted, they cautioned from the start, trends would return to a baseline.
Now, with full reopenings unfolding in real time, here’s the question for marketers: How should we prepare for consumers’ post-Covid habits? The answer may be simpler than you think. Corporate mergers, tech and device launches, and subscription churn (often fueled by hit shows) will invariably have a collective impact that we can’t quite predict. What we can count on is that the real variable is attention.
In the ad industry, we know our business has always been all about attention (or at least we should). But right now, as we exit an unprecedented surplus of attention thanks to a year of quarantines, lockdowns, and stay-at-home orders, the streaming wars are getting more heated than ever and consumer viewership trends could go in any number of directions. There’s never been a more important time to invest in quality content and experiences.
Where to start? First, we really have to grasp just how massive streaming growth was last year. Subscriptions to streaming services, already on the rise, reached 1 billion worldwide; over 25% of consumers in the U.S. subscribed to at least one new service during the pandemic. With many live sports canceled, many consumers reevaluated why they were keeping a traditional cable subscription around. And quite a few of them decided it wasn’t worth it, as “cord-cutting” hit record highs. Sales of connected TV devices also shattered records, with a spike over the holiday season.
As for advertising? In spite of the fact that many of the biggest streaming services have no advertising, ad-supported services increased their share of the market during Covid, from 28% to 34%.
In other words, when COVID-19 hit, the streaming industry was gifted with unprecedented access to consumer attention — probably more of it than we deserved. Now, there’s renewed competition for that attention, with Americans eager to finally travel, socialize, and spend time with loved ones in person rather than over Zoom.
Whether they’ll ditch one streaming service for another (and if so, which ones) is a big question mark. But consumers will be more discerning with their time and attention, and more than ever, they’ll spend time where their attention is respected.
What does that mean, specifically?
First, attention is up for grabs.
When Covid hit, streaming was already experiencing both skyrocketing consumer growth and some seismic shifts on the business side that gave users even more options for where to spend their attention.
Second, the connected living room is here to stay.
Some of the most confident predictions about post-pandemic consumer habits have indicated that once people switch from linear TV to streaming, they are unlikely to switch back. Covid cord-cutters, for example, probably won’t resubscribe to their cable bundles (especially since live sports’ presence on streaming continues to grow). And while both linear and connected TV usage rose during the first few months of the pandemic, ComScore found that virtually every household streaming device continued to grow in data usage even after initial lockdowns began to lift. The biggest growth? Smart TVs, which many households had at home but weren’t even using for streaming before.
This is great news for marketers because, to put it simply, connected TV is great at getting consumers’ attention. Our research at true[X] has found that compared to desktop and mobile, an ad on CTV drives more brand lift at every stage of the purchase funnel. But there’s a catch…
Third, the winners will be the ones who respect that attention.
Streaming is the inevitable future of TV, but that doesn’t mean just being on CTV is enough. Subscription churn is still heavy and consumers have many options —including plenty with no ads at all. With time in front of the living room TV facing new competition for attention as the Covid crisis comes to a close, consumers will be more discerning about what they’re willing to put up with. They already didn’t want their attention to be exploited or wasted, and that will only be more pronounced now. That’s why streaming advertising needs to be better — more relevant, less intrusive, and with less volume — than linear TV and desktop and mobile video advertising. Just being on a bigger screen where people tend to sit down and commit to longer content isn’t enough.
If you work in digital media, whether on the advertiser or AVOD publisher side, and you want to keep capitalizing on the streaming boom, this should be what you care about. Are you confident that your ads work, so that you don’t have to rely on high frequency (and annoy viewers in the process)? Do consumers have an experience that they don’t hate? This is the time to answer those questions, and make it more likely that consumers will lend their newly scarce attention to you.