Successfully Navigating a Publishing World Consumed by COVID-19

Today’s publishers are working to survive in a new reality where media consumption is up, but revenues are down. The relentless news cycle has editorial teams running at top speed to deliver original, insightful content to readers and viewers hungry for a new understanding of a changing world. Meanwhile, many advertisers have frozen in their tracks — and frozen their media budgets — as they struggle to understand the new realities that surround their businesses.

It’s a challenging landscape for publishers, but it’s also one in which the right moves right now will position businesses to emerge stronger than ever. Let’s examine three ways publishers can thrive — not just survive — and prepare for success in the next normal.

Elevate and Promote the Value of Strong Journalism

Real news and quality journalism are more valuable than ever. Consumers are actively seeking, evaluating, and investing in trustworthy outlets where they can turn for reliable information. We need look no further than revenue trends at acclaimed outlets, where surging subscriptions are helping to offset across-the-board ad revenue declines.

Every publication can take a page from these outlets in proactively explaining, lauding, and advertising the importance of reputable journalism in the era of “fake news.” Now is not a time to let your content speak for itself. It’s a time to give your content a megaphone and remind advertisers with brand safety concerns about the importance of aligning with reputable, high-quality publications.

Refine Your Freemium Models and Data Practices

Freemium subscription models — ones that exchange content for some level of sign-up — are on the rise and will be key to setting publishers up for future success. However, publishers mustn’t be overly simplistic or blunt in the execution of these value exchanges. Success will come from nuance.

Consider the following best practices:

  1. Establish Tiers. Smart publishers have been leveraging freemium subscription models for years by allowing users to access content in exchange for a login. If you’re not already employing such a model, it’s time to start. If you are already employing one, it’s time to enhance your tiered access. Exactly what shape your access tiers take will depend on your publication and readership, but establishment of your structure should focus on a clear value exchange. The more information — or actual revenue, in the case of paid subscribers — that a reader is willing to provide, the more access they should have. The one-time provision of an email address is a great start to knowing a user better, but it doesn’t mean you have to give them the keys to the entire castle. Take stock of the value you provide — through your website, your newsletter, your video content and other assets — and tier access accordingly.
  2. Capture Meaningful Audience Insights. Your tiered freemium model opens the gate to building robust audience insights on your users. This data will be the single most valuable asset your publication owns in the coming years. The digital media world has been drowning in third-party data for the past decade, but the shift to cookie-less environments and the rise of privacy regulations means that many third-party-driven tactics are going to prove unsustainable in the coming years. Publishers with strong data assets and intimate knowledge of their audiences — especially those that partner wisely within the broader publishing community to bolster insights in a privacy-compliant way — will be well-positioned to reclaim the value relinquished by third-party data vendors. So, if you’re not already, it’s time to start getting strategic about how you capture, organize, supplement, and protect your knowledge of your users. Ultimately, this will help publishers reclaim exclusive control of their inventory and move it out of third-party sales channels that devalue impressions.
  3. Refine Your Value Proposition for Advertisers. As publishers ramp up their first-party data assets, they also need to ensure they’re clarifying their value propositions to advertisers and refining the ways in which they deliver and report on that value. Simply put, publishers need to stop trying to compete with titans like Facebook and Google when it comes to driving direct-response campaign results. Publishers are specifically equipped to shine when it comes to digital branding and influence of purchase decisions, and they need to be centering their value propositions and reporting practices around these unique superpowers.

Always Preserve UX

Publishers are all too familiar with the catch-22 of monetization. Revenue is generated when users enter (and stay on) publisher sites, but the ads used to generate said revenue — and the AdTech used to serve them — often lead to high rates of user abandonment, missed clicks, and false advertising. Publishers looking to break free of this seemingly never-ending cycle should seek out partners dedicated to creating superior user experiences through organic formats and accelerated ad delivery. By prioritizing UX, publishers achieve dual aims of generating revenue opportunities and increasing customer loyalty and retention.


Jason Kalin has served as SVP of Business Development since 2012, overseeing publisher strategy, sales and operations at Nativo. Prior to Nativo, he held various sales leadership and operations roles at Visible Measures, a video advertising-technology company, and Marchex, a leading B2B call and conversational analytics company. Jason was also an early employee and Director of Sales at IndustryBrains, a B2B online advertising solutions startup that was acquired by Marchex. Jason also serves as a RIHub Venture Mentor for entrepreneurs in the New England area and holds degrees in History & Education from Syracuse University.


Publish date: June 30, 2020 https://dev.adweek.com/media/successfully-navigating-a-publishing-world-consumed-by-covid-19/ © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT
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