Week of Nov. 9th-15th: Your Media News Update

This past week, the media industry has seen a lot of new approaches in tackling the challenges of the traditional subscription business model. Companies are getting creative and investing into forming a better content experience and improving targeted distribution.

This past week, the media industry has seen a lot of new approaches in tackling the challenges of the traditional subscription business model. Companies are getting creative and investing into forming a better content experience and improving targeted distribution. Some of the highlights include:

  • A new way of positioning subscription packages with vertical-specific content
  • Numerous examples of media organizations who are developing digital series and long-form content to drive digital traffic
  • Publishers are paying close attention to online search behavior, and are creating content to address those enquiries

Continue reading to learn and stay up-to-date with the latest industry news published over the past week.

Vertical Subscriptions Are the Newest “Side Products” Being Used to Drive Revenue

For many news publishers, the main selling point of a subscription is getting access to a broad range of coverage and content. But some publishers are thinking outside of the content experience box and are starting to promote slimmed-down versions, i.e. vertical subscriptions, as a way to drive more revenue. These types of packages are targeted towards readers who continuously return to specific content categories.

Grant Belaire, VP of digital audience development at McClatchy, proposes that it’s better to retain a subscriber with a vertical than to lose them entirely. Take the publisher’s sports readers, for instance. They make up less than 20% of McClatchy’s total readership, but contribute to over 50% of page views. By promoting a sports-focused subscription called the “Sports Pass,” which gives readers access only to sports content, McClatchy was able to double their subscription conversions in a week. 

Another publisher investing into the vertical-subscription model is The New York Times. The company has a standalone crossword subscription offered for $6.95 a month. With that package alone, The New York Times has earned more than 500K subscribers. And as subscribers consume crossword content, additional content offers can be promoted to eventually expand readership revenue per user.

After seeing more than 60K people visiting articles written by politics writer Charles Pierce every day, Esquire decided to build a $17.99 annual subscription offer specifically for his content. The annual subscription grants access to all of Pierce’s stories, a weekly newsletter written by Pierce and, to top it off, a tote bag. 

Jumping on the sports-related vertical-subscription model is The Athletic, a sports news subscription site that launched in 2016. They now have over 500K subscribers and are targeting over a million by the end of the year.

Media Organizations Get Creative in Developing New Ways to Monetize the Content Experience

In this day and age, the need for more subscribers is becoming increasingly significant in order to provide sustainable revenue. As a result, many media organizations are coming up with creative ways to attract new viewers, with the intent that they will eventually convert into paying subscribers. 

Bleacher Report is a publisher who has taken steps towards appealing to a larger audience. To boost viewership on its YouTube channel, the company has debuted an interactive show called “Your Call,” where viewers play the role of an up-and-coming soccer star. As the series progresses, viewers have the opportunity to make choices that impact the future of their soccer career, such as which team to join. 

The series is part of the sports publisher’s recent shift to produce more mid- and long-form programming for video-viewing platforms like YouTube versus shorter fare made for social platforms like Instagram, which are more difficult to monetize. 

Since October 2018, Bleacher Report’s soccer-related YouTube channel has grown from 235K subscribers and 10.8 million monthly views to over 1 million subscribers and 21.5 million views.

Another publisher that’s adding new formats to the content experience is Dow Jones’ Barron’s Group. Last week, they started a 10-minute weekly digital show called Marketbrief, which covers all the latest financial news for relevant investors. With this, Barron’s Group hopes to widen its audience.

Tastemade a video network that offers food and travel-related programming for online audiences is also expanding its long-form content offering on the ad-supported streaming platform, Samsung TV Plus.

Globally, Tastemade reaches 120 million monthly viewers via its 24-hour channel that launched 16 months ago. Samsung TV Plus is the biggest platform for the publisher in terms of viewers, watch time and revenue, largely in part because audiences don’t need to pay for its content and the service comes pre-installed on newer TVs. 

In other news, by repackaging and selling content created for other channels, USA Today aims to grow revenue through its video operations. Similar to Tastemade, the publisher is focused on increasing its content on ad-supported streaming platforms. The most recently launched streaming series is a weekly half-hour show called “USA Today Sports Weekly Pulse,” which highlights the most popular clips from USA Today’s sites over the course of the week on Fubo Sports Network

The New York Times also just announced that they’ll be venturing into film with two feature-length documentaries as a way to attract new audiences. These newsroom-specific documentaries will be produced by its very own journalists. In the past, the company has produced shows for connected TV services, including Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video.

To help media organizations monetize their content faster, Brightcove, a provider of cloud services for video, released a new SaaS-based OTT platform that allows content to be released on multiple platforms simultaneously. The new technology helps publishers launch and monetize video content across mobile, web and connected TV, all from one platform. 

Read up on the state of consumers in the streaming wars (and how to win them over) to learn more.

Publishers Try Increasing Site Traffic by Optimizing for Search

While many publishers have a social-first content experience, Delish, a food publication, decided to strengthen its search optimization about two years ago. They deep dived into what people were searching for and created an editorial strategy that incorporated content specifically tailored to answer keyword searches and enquiries. 

While they used to make short-form videos suited for social media platforms like Facebook, Delish quickly learnt that users who stayed the longest were looking for simple cooking guides. So, Delish started creating content that was 3-5 minutes long, aimed at satisfying Google inquiries.

Since the change in strategy, Delish has nearly doubled its site traffic, hitting a record 41 million unique visitors in September. That same month, search contributed 49% of its referral traffic, and in October, it rose to make up 54% of traffic. 

Publishers like Delish are slowly cutting down on the advertising dollars they’re pouring into social platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Instead, they’re beginning to focus on perfecting their own organic content and editorial strategies in order to grow audiences directly on their own platforms.

Week of Nov. 2-8th: Your Media News Update

As the year 2020 draws closer to us, a wide range of new content forms and topics that consumers will want to engage with are emerging.

With the month of November officially in full swing, we’ve seen a number of reports on current and predicted trends in digital media, especially related to ad spend. As the year 2020 draws closer to us, a wide range of new content forms and topics that consumers will want to engage with are emerging.

This week’s media news update highlights some of the trends that publishers and brands are finding to be most popular with audiences, including:

  • The renewed focus on building stronger brand loyalty as a way to create new revenue opportunities
  • The increase in ad spend on connected TV media as a way to reach audiences on streaming platforms
  • Creating consumer engagement strategies that attract but fail to profit off of younger audiences through social media platforms, like TikTok

Refocusing on Brand Loyalty Will Increase Consumer Engagement and Sales Partnerships

In order to succeed as a media company today, publishers need to have an extraordinary brand. And the general consensus in the industry is that a trusted brand is built on quality journalism. With this in mind, many big brands have been smart in capitalizing on the trust they’ve developed over time with their audiences. This has been achieved through high-quality, relevant content offerings. 

Rolling Stone, for example, believes so strongly in the need for quality journalists that the company has grown its editorial staff by 40% since being acquired by Penske Media

Additionally, the brand is capitalizing on the incredible amount of access it has to artists and celebrities. They’re creating monetization opportunities by offering unique products and services to their niche audiences. Take “Musicians on Musicians,” for instance, which gives readers access to intimate conversations between two artists from different genres.

Products and services need to be deemed valuable and meet the needs of consumers in order to gain their trust. Media executives at the Folio: Show agreed that building brand affinity with an audience relies heavily on engaging content that showcase value, such as solving a need or problem. In the case of Rolling Stone, its audience craves insider content that offers an intimate glimpse into the lives of the musicians and celebrities they admire. 

In addition to consumer engagement, brand power also has a significant impact on sales partnerships when it comes to advertising and renewals. For travel magazine, AFAR, licensing content has become a profitable way to develop strong partnerships and showcase its travel expertise.

For other companies like Meredith Magazines, who owns well-known lifestyle brands such as InStyle, People, and Eating Well, the company’s strategy is to partner with other strong brands, like HGTV’s Joanna and Chip Gaines. Content with those particular celebrities were featured in the Meredith-published magazine, The Magnolia Journal, and sold out in four hours on newsstands when it debuted. As long as quality content is at the heart, brand partnerships have proven to be very successful for many publishers.

Ad Spend for Connected TV Media Increases as Publishers Try to Reach Streaming Audiences

According to a new eMarketer forecast, it’s expected that ad spend on TV streaming platforms will soar this year. Analysts predict that media spend on ads for TV streaming services in the US will be more than doubled by 2023 alone

Roku is the most popular streaming device with about 44% of viewers, followed by Amazon Fire TV (33%), Google Chromecast (16%) and Apple TV (13%), taking into consideration that there is some overlap among users of multiple devices.

In response to this, media and tech companies are launching a slew of new services that aim to reach viewers who bypass cable or satellite TV subscriptions and instead, connect their TVs directly to the internet to stream content. Tech company Sabio recently launched a product called App Science TV. It’s a platform that enables brands to serve highly targeted ad units via TV and mobile formats by tracking app behavior. 

A key challenge going forward for these types of services will be developing more reliable audience metrics and ways to keep viewers engaged

Publishers Use TikTok for Long-Term Audience Engagement

TikTok, a social media video app for creating and sharing short lip-sync, comedy, and talent videos, is quickly attracting a growing group of publishers eager to increase their relationships with young audiences. Media corporations such as Vice and Buzzfeed are among those who have already started experimenting with short-form content on the app.  

Vice, which started using the platform earlier this year, is finding that TikTok followers crave exclusive content. As a result, Vice is planning to launch a “Munchies by Vice” account next month, which will feature exclusive content made specifically for the social media platform. 

BuzzFeed, which also started using TikTok earlier this year, hasn’t gone down the route of creating exclusive content for TikTok just yet. A key motivating factor for the brand to join TikTok was to create a Tasty account, as an attempt to ward off copycats.

Despite the popularity of some brands on the app, publishers have generally been reluctant to spend time and money on platforms when there is not a clear path to revenue generation. Currently, there is no mechanism for creators or publishers to directly monetize on TikTok. Many view TikTok as a long-term way to engage and grow their respective audiences until they can figure out how to extend this understanding onto their own platforms. That way, they can engage and keep audiences while generating profit.

Week of Oct. 26th-Nov. 1st: Your Media News Update

During the last week of October, we saw the release of many new technologies that will forever impact the state of content delivery and how we consume content. We now have an abundance of information at the touch of yet another app.

This week’s media news update focuses on the impact that everyone from tech companies to social advocacy organizations has in influencing how we access and engage with digital media, including:

  • Amazon’s and Apple’s foray into TV app streaming services for video news
  • Media executives’ thoughts on the value of reader habit on their owned and operated properties
  • America’s oldest and largest journalism advocacy organization slapping President Trump with cease and desist letters every time he uses the term “fake news”

For more details on the latest and greatest industry news from the past week, read on.

Amazon and Apple Have Been Busy Shaping the Future of TV

Streaming services have revolutionized how we watch TV and consume content. Watching news broadcasts used to be something that was part of your early morning routine as you prepared for work, or in the evening, before or after dinner. 

However, the internet has significantly changed our behaviors by giving us access to news content at any hour of the day. Streaming apps are now gaining speed in overtaking pay-TV services. And with an abundance of pirate sites available to consumers, competition for media streaming services is stronger than ever.

A growing number of platforms that aggregate video news from a variety of services have launched apps this year. Amazon now joins the ranks with the release of an ad-supported video news app designed for Fire TV devices. This app enables viewers to catch up on all the latest current events with both live and on-demand content from the likes of CBS, Reuters and Bloomberg. 

Simply called the News app on Fire TV, this new offering joins the previously launched news aggregator from Plex and other similar offerings from competing companies. The News app is free for Amazon’s Fire TV users. With this release, the company will be in a better position to compete with the offerings of rival services such as Apple News and Google News while at the same time strengthen relationships with publishers such as Sports Illustrated, Al Jazeera and Yahoo.

News-related content within the app will be rolled out to an expanding pool of compatible devices over the next few weeks, including tablets such as the updated Fire HD10. Amazon is focusing its efforts on creating the optimal customer experience so consumers won’t need to create separate accounts to benefit from the content. 

New ad revenue streams to diversify its revenue base are currently in progress, setting the company up to become the third-largest digital advertiser in the US after Google and Facebook.

Meanwhile, Apple is trying to get its TV app on as many devices as possible as it launches its $5-per-month video streaming service. Most recently, the company added its TV app to Amazon’s Fire TV platform. Available as of October 24 for both the Fire TV Stick and Fire TV Stick 4K, the Apple TV app will also be making its way to other Fire TV devices in the coming weeks. 

Media Executives Dig Into Building Profitable Consumer Habits

With print ad revenue in decline and digital ad spending heading towards its first decline in a decade, publishers are now looking to a future where readers are loyal to their own platforms.

At Digiday’s Publishing Summit Europe in Budapest, Hungary, executives shared their plans to diversify their sources of income, and the associated pain points.

One topic that was explored was how to develop loyal reader habits, keeping them on publisher sites for longer. Media executives who attended the event emphasized how the more opportunities to engage readers they offer, such as engagement tools or apps, the more likely visitors are to stick around.

One way that publishers are engaging their readers is through real-time, moderated commenting tools.

In another media news update, Publishing Executive also proposed that an upcoming trend for 2020 will involve publishers focusing on key reader metrics, on a more granular level than ever before. And it won’t just be up to data teams to analyze these metrics. 

The media company goes on to suggest that editors themselves need to understand the metrics that matter. That way, editors can create content that better engages community members, and appeals to advertisers. 

Fun Fact Friday

The Florida Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) has had enough of President Trump using the term ‘fake news’ whenever he doesn’t like something the press says about him. 

SPJ is America’s oldest and largest journalism advocacy organization. To help uphold the integrity of the industry, they decided to trademark the term ‘fake news’ in hopes of stopping the president and others from using the term haphazardly. Every time he uses it incorrectly, the organization will send him a cease and desist letter.

In addition to obtaining the trademark, a launch video has been marketed that features a journalist explaining why the term was trademarked. The video drives people to FakeNewsTM.com, which has tips on how to spot actual fake news and what journalists are doing to ensure they report the truth. 

It currently has 332,000 social media shares and has been covered by Newsweek, The Hill, New York Post, CBC, CTV and Daily News, among other publishers. The project was created in partnership with Calgary-based creative agency Wax.

If you haven’t already taken a look at it, you may find some valuable takeaways to share with your own company’s editorial team. 

What We Can Learn From Pirate Sites

Currently, the internet is littered with pirate sites that offer viewers free, often illegal access to TV shows, movies, live sports and music. These sites also include audience engagement solutions to build invested communities. What consumers often fail to realize though, is that by streaming something for free, their seemingly insignificant action becomes part of a much larger problem: billions of people are contributing to digital theft. That theft is making it extremely challenging for content owners and legitimate streaming services to succeed. 

MUSO, an anti-piracy watchdog organization, found that just this past June the movie Detective Pikachu was downloaded a whopping four million times via pirate sites. That’s a potential four million consumers that should be (but probably aren’t) paying to watch the movie in theaters or accessing it through subscription services.

“It would seem that a lot of modern-day pirates are merely frazzled parents who wouldn’t dream of stealing their Friday night bottle of chilled Riesling from the grocery store but don’t want to pay the same amount to watch the latest TV phenomenon,” says Andy Chatterley, MUSO’s CEO. “Online piracy is like taking candy from a baby.”

Unfortunately, pirate sites tend to offer more than an often all-encompassing library of media: they’re also experts at providing a great user experience for their visitors. Streaming something illegally is almost too easy thanks to their audience engagement solutions. 

If media streaming service providers want to be successful in this highly competitive climate, here’s what they need to do before they can walk in the right direction: 

Leverage an Audience Engagement Solution

One area that pirate sites excel at is building communities around their content. While regular streaming providers can’t compete with the breadth of content found within pirate sites, they can do a better job at engaging and building their own communities.

Many of these pirate sites rely on commenting tools and comment forums like Reddit, where consumers often go to find illegal streams. Highly engaging conversations are then built as people say thanks to those who provide the streams as well as comment on the overall quality and content. By providing people with valuable content, and engaging them, pirate sites are able to convert visitors into loyal community members and advocates.

Some pirate sites also use commenting as well as rating and review tools to allow their community members to help flag bad or fake files. This helps to build up visitors’ trust towards these platforms and encourages them to return.

Although these pirate sites spark an impressive audience engagement solution, it’s mostly based on people exchanging ideas over what content is worth stealing — which is a type of engagement that you don’t want to have on your platforms.

So why not beat these pirate sites at their own game? Give people valuable content that is enhanced with opportunities to engage in meaningful conversations. In other words, giving them a platform to engage with one another will allow them to form relationships around the content that they like or dislike.

Streaming experiences can then be enhanced. Think about implementing moderated commenting tools, live chats for sports or event coverage, live blogging or ratings and reviews.

Audiences love viewing your content and love talking about their favorite content. Make sure both of those activities are happening on your platforms.

Collect Data to Personalize the Experience

When it comes to an audience engagement solution for streaming service providers, personalization is key to building a superior experience for consumers.

Take sports games, for instance. The ability to target content based on a fan’s favorite team or player will allow you to significantly improve their experience just by understanding their likes and dislikes.

Pirate sites are completely free to users, which also means visitors often don’t need to login or develop an account to consume content. Those who visit pirate sites even make an effort to protect their identities using tools like VPNs or incognito mode. As a result, the majority of their audience is anonymous. Their visitors also run the risk of being infected by malware as many pirate sites make money by allowing hackers to put malicious code onto their platforms.

And that gives media organizations an advantage: the ability to create a much more personalized and pleasant user experience.

First-party audience engagement data will help you to not only curate a highly-relevant selection of content for consumers, but it will also allow you to understand general behavior on your platform to inform your content, subscription and retention strategies.

As you get to know your audience’s interests and build loyalty-driving habits, you can also identify which users are no longer engaging with your content and are likely to churn. This information can then be used to send your known users exclusive content, a custom offer or discount to keep them invested in your brand.

Pirate sites aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. So give consumers a compelling reason to dish out some money in exchange for your content.

Interested in learning more about audience engagement solutions? Then check out this article: Audience Engagement Data is About to Amp Up Sports Media.

Week of Oct. 19th-25th: Your Media News Update

The last week has seen a flurry of activity around topics related to automated content moderation and product design as well as ways to develop communities and keep them engaged. The many news stories and reports that have been discussed are a treasure trove of best practices we can learn from, including:

  • Twitch’s decision to amp up its live-streaming moderation and establish a “three strikes” rule before suspending a streamer’s channel
  • Microsoft’s testing of new content filters for its Xbox Live messaging system as a way to reduce the amount of toxicity on its platform
  • The Telegraph’s ability to achieve a 49% growth in subscriptions by optimizing its homepage

To continue learning and staying up-to-date with the latest and greatest industry news from the past week, read on.

Content Filtering and Moderation Reaches a New Level (for Some)

Content filtering and moderating live-streamed content have significantly evolved over the years. Twitch, one of the most popular video live-streaming services in the world, is leading the charge by providing a space for online communities to develop in a positive way. CEO Emmett Shear has been a big proponent of stream moderation as a way to empower streamers in creating the type of community they want. 

Twitch isn’t an “anything goes” type of platform. It’s very explicitly not a free speech platform, which differs from Twitch’s competitors. Shear says, “We’re a community. And communities have standards for how you have to behave inside that community. And so we think that it’s not anything goes.” 

When it comes to the digital world, community guidelines need to be set and enforced to keep platforms safe and productive.

More and more companies are also taking steps to adopt automated content moderation systems as a way to create safer online communities for the masses. For example, Microsoft is now testing content filters for its Xbox Live messaging system to reduce toxicity on its platform.

Microsoft has managed moderation on Xbox Live for almost 20 years, including the ability to report messages, usernames, and photos. Their new content filters empower players to have control over what kinds of messages are instantly hidden. The company also aims to protect live audio calls with real-time bleeps, similar to broadcast TV. Microsoft is now trying to be more open and transparent about how it moderates Xbox Live and the choices it makes to enforce these filters across the community.  

Facebook, on the other hand, still lacks in its commitment to content moderation based on its current automated filtering tools. The company has now publicly announced its shortcomings in an attempt to challenge a European Court of Justice ruling. 

When the top EU court decided earlier in the month that Facebook must use automated content moderation to detect “defamatory content,” the company responded by saying its tech was simply not good enough. Facebook described their own moderation tools as a “blunt instrument,” unable to properly understand the context, and therefore, make correct decisions.

Publishers Tap Into Creating Better Product Designs to Increase Subscriptions

Many publishers are trying to move away from relying on advertising income as the main source of revenue. To be financially sustainable in the long-run, more companies like The Telegraph are continuing to think about a subscriber-based revenue model. Consequently, there is a new thought emerging about how products reflect and align with this type of model. 

All of The Telegraph’s products, for example, now revolve around subscribers. Mathias Douchet, Director of Product at The Telegraph, says that “we had to move away from an ad strategy to a more user-engagement, user-centric strategy with our own products.”  

To do this, The Telegraph rebuilt its website’s homepage. Its old homepage offered hundreds of stories but very little in the way of editorial curation. It was also difficult to group content around a theme and make content stand out.

Since the Telegraph’s homepage is a key product that many subscribers turn to on a daily basis, it was revamped to offer top-notch user experience and ongoing engagement. 

The homepage redesign has resulted in very positive outcomes for the publisher. All consumption and engagement KPIs are up, subscriptions have increased by 49% and advertising revenue has increased but with fewer ads.

The Guardian has also released a daily app for paying subscribers as part of its quest to reach two million financial supporters by 2022. The appeal of the new app is that it won’t carry ads and will offer news in a streamlined way.

The new app lets users scroll horizontally through different news sections in depth. It also lets users read the previous week’s worth of papers. 

Publisher app users are typically highly valuable because they consume more content more regularly and for longer periods of time. For these reasons, publishers are beefing up their apps for subscribers. This includes The Economist, which last year launched an app to help drive retention. The app design takes its cue from the digital user experience of music streaming apps like Spotify. Similar to publishers, music streaming apps also face the challenge of displaying massive amounts of content grouped by genre in an intuitive way.

Successful businesses are no longer making products and decisions that revolve completely around advertising; they revolve around subscribers

Audience Engagement Data is About to Amp up Sports Media

Just last week, Adam Hodgkins, the senior business development manager at Genius Sports Media, published an insightful article that dug into why audience engagement data on-site is the key to growing revenue in sports. And we couldn’t agree more.

“There’s an awareness in the OTT space that sports companies have lost control of their audiences to social media,” says Michael Shewchenko, Head of Business Development for Sports and Media at Viafoura. “But they now have an opportunity to engage their audiences on their properties in a positive and highly valuable way, and use their own data to put a name and a face to their users.”

Audience engagement data is the money-making factor that many sports companies are missing out on. Any sports company that wants to significantly boost revenue would, therefore, benefit greatly from connecting with their audiences, learning who their community members are, and then using that information to create and send highly relevant content and ads.

Unlocking a Premium Experience for Sports Fans

To connect with audiences on a more direct level, sports companies need to turn their digital properties into engaging communities through super-exclusive spaces that capture valuable insights on users. This can be accomplished through ‘premium experiences’ that can be offered to encourage users to register or subscribe.

“Engagement tools can open up the premium experience,” says Shewchenko. “Tools that encourage on-site interaction increase the likelihood of passive sports consumers becoming active and highly engaged users. It’s all about building the two-way communication between users and brands.”

A premium experience can include anything from participating in live chats, real-time commenting and blogging to following favorite teams, players, authors, topics or getting regular updates.

In his article, Hodgkins explains that unique behind the scenes footage, exclusive interviews and easy access to detailed statistics have handed sports leagues and teams a golden opportunity to turn their websites and social channels into valuable destinations for information-hungry fans.”

Techcrunch even conducted a recent survey, which found that 78% of industry experts believe that fan engagement tech will have the largest impact on live streaming and esports in the next year.

Sports fans are already excited about players and upcoming events they’re practically itching to interact with one another and around related content. The more opportunities you give them to engage on your platform, the more data you’ll be able to gather on who they are and what kinds of content and experiences they like.

Not only can sports companies sell this consumer data to advertisers, but “by knowing that their audience are, say, mostly men aged between 18 and 25 who read about basketball on a daily basis, advertisers have a huge strategic advantage when choosing where to spend their budget,” says Hodgkins.

Targeting Content to Known Users

As sports companies learn who their audience members are and how they react to different types of content, they can create content and experiences that delight their communities. For instance, knowing which player is your community’s favorite can help you generate extremely high-performing, related content that your audience will devour and generate conversations around. Plus, the more engaging and relevant your platform is, the more likely your community is to grow.

By serving up a premium experience to fans, sports media is able to capture meaningful data, which can significantly improve conversion strategies, grow revenue and increase consumer loyalty.

Stop relying on third-party news aggregators and social media platforms to run your ads off of, and instead, become the primary destination for consumers.

Get to know your fans on your own properties. Give them the content and experiences they love. Then use their data to inform business strategies and grow revenue. It really is as simple as that.


Related: What We Can Learn From Pirate Sites
RELATED: Build Your Community of Sports Fans Now
RELATED: 13 Questions Every Publisher Should Ask a Potential Tech Partner

Week of Oct. 5th-11th: Your Media News Update

During the course of the last week, the media and publishing industry has been talking about some very important and thought-provoking issues:

  • Publishers are scrambling to expand their revenue channels while navigating through the challenges presented by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) 
  • Mergers and acquisitions are all the rage as publishers attempt to expand their content offerings and appeal to niche audiences
  • Valuations of privately-owned publishers are skyrocketing but at the expense of employees

To learn more and stay up to date with the latest and greatest newsmakers of the past week, keep reading about the topics below.

Publishers Scramble for Revenue-Generating Alternatives Post-GDPR

For many publishers, the ever-evolving legalities surrounding the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and loss of third-party cookies on Safari and Firefox browsers represents an inconvenient, potential threat to programmatic ad revenue.  

To combat the restrictions, publishers are trying to figure out ways to monetize their first-party data by creating audience identifiers that help clients target the right people at scale. With this approach, publishers won’t need to rely on third-party cookies.

In some cases, this has led to more granular targeting on their own digital properties around audience intents, behaviors, sentiments and interests. For others, this involves selling first-party data, which will be used for targeting audiences outside of their own properties. 

News Corp is one of the publishers actively pursuing beyond-the-cookie strategies that prioritize identifying audiences with first-party rather than third-party cookies. The organization issues a news ID for individual readers so they can be identified without the use of third-party cookies. To date, the media group has created 590 million global anonymized user IDs. 

Being able to track each known user means that companies can identify the behaviors and appetites within their communities, providing valuable insights around readers’ habits and preferences. 

Others are also pushing hard to convert anonymous users into known users based on first-party data. Insider spent the last year developing hundreds of millions of reader IDs, mapping first-party data that isn’t personally identifiable but provides in-depth insights into reader behaviors, interests and intents. As a result, the company is able to create effective targeting segments for marketers.

Sports media companies are also only beginning to realize now that fan engagement data is key to building audience loyalty and revenue

The Financial Times, on the other hand, is focusing on putting efforts towards capitalizing on private deals specifically programmatic-guaranteed deals. 

Meanwhile, The Washington Post has created a first-party data ad targeting tool that offers detailed contextual targeting capabilities along with user-intent predictions for marketers. The publisher aims to provide targeting options for advertising clients who want to wean themselves away from third-party cookies.

Digital Publishers Are Expanding Their Audiences by Focusing on Niche Interests

In pursuit of audience expansion, digital publishers are buying up smaller, niche publishing companies and are launching new verticals focused on those specific interest areas. 

A growing trend among publishers, the industry as a whole is looking to achieve greater leverage against ad giants Google and Facebook. Three recent announcements are clear proof points that the focus on niche content is how publishers are trying to distinguish themselves within the market:

  • IAC’s Dotdash — a media organization that owns 10 publishers — just purchased Liquor.com, its fourth acquisition this year of niche vertical content.
  • Vice Media’s male-dominated content will now be more inclusive with a deal to acquire Refinery29, a popular publisher with younger female audiences interested in their lifestyle and entertainment verticals. 
  • Bustle Media Group (BMG), a female-focused digital media company, is launching a tech-focused news site called Input in November, bringing BMG’s total site count to eight. Over the past year, BMG also acquired science-focused site Inverse, culture-focused The Outline, and pop-culture-focused Nylon in a bid to attract more diverse audiences. 

Niche outlets are able to help publishers not only expand their audience reach but also their ability to target ads based on interests. This is the main advantage tech giants already have, which easily persuades marketers to sacrifice their precious ad dollars. 

By mimicking this core benefit — interest-based ad targeting on their own properties — publishers can increase their share of the pie. For example, Dotdash is bundling its assets into four groups, including “health and wellness,” “finance” and “food, beverage and home” to make it easier to pitch to certain brand categories by interest area.

Digital Publishing All-Stock Deals Are the New Normal

Investors are no longer interested in funding media companies that are not growing quickly. As a result, the growing trend is making all-stock deals as the last and best option for publishers and their investors. 

While mergers and acquisitions have dominated media headlines this year, some of the biggest have been all or mostly stock-based deals, including the three most recent ones:

Stock deal valuations are essentially what someone else values the stock to be worth. And the only way to know this is to either go public or to sell the company to someone else. It’s up to the seller and the buyer to make up and agree upon the value. The stock isn’t traded on a public exchange, so while the relative values are meaningful, the overall value is virtually meaningless.

Another big issue is that all-stock acquisitions often mean that whatever common stock employees held is now worth much less. That can make it harder to keep the talent they have, as well as recruit new talent.

Week of Sept. 28th-Oct. 4th: Your Media News Update

Over the last few days, industry experts have been buzzing about some interesting media news topics:

  • Registration walls and opinion editorials are enabling publishers to drive higher traffic and capture more data
  • As a way to get around ad-blocking, companies are shifting their focus towards creating higher-quality content that’s supported by ads on their own platforms
  • Publishers are developing creative strategies to continue reaching and engaging with the coveted millennial audience

The list goes on. To stay up to date with the latest and greatest news hits of the past week, take a peek at the trending topics below.

Refocusing on Subscription Revenue Brings Publishers Back to Basics

Subscriptions have become the talk of the media and publishing industry as a more sustainable source of revenue versus digital ad revenue. With market and political conditions awry due to the escalating trade war, many business publishers are seeing a natural increase in subscriptions as readers seek to stay up to date on stock market activities.

However, many organizations are still struggling with increasing their subscription base. Looking deeper into the challenge, the issue may lie in the misalignment of organizational goals and resource allocation. 

According to FIPP’s 2019 Global Digital Subscription Snapshot Report, an overwhelming 75% of publishing execs say they currently spend less than a quarter of resources on subscription efforts.  

However, that’s all changing as more and more media and publishers undergo organizational restructuring. Many publishers are revealing their plans to go back to and enhance their registration walls, which have the potential to drive subscriber conversion rates 10x higher for known users. 

Publishers are also using their first-party data to learn about the types of content readers are willing to provide personal information for, and correlate that back to what they’re willing to pay for to read. The New York Times, Hearst Newspapers and GateHouse Media are just a few examples of those who have started using or updating their registration walls over the past few months. 

Opinion journalism is also coming back in vogue, which has proven to be a lead traffic driver to publisher content. 

In order to achieve revenue targets, shifting to a digital subscription revenue model has become key for media organizations. Publishers are also paying more attention to gathering metrics on how users are interacting with one another around content on their own platforms. With this data, they’re able to fine-tune editorial and subscription strategies around audience behavior. 

Content is Still King and Key to an Optimal Consumer Experience

Several subtle but significant shifts were noted this week in discussions about the future of the news media among industry leaders who gathered for the International News Media Associations’ (INMA) Reader Revenue Symposium. The event focused on how to address a broader mix of income streams than just charging readers for access to content.

Publishers are still all about content, but now in the context of services, experiences and relationships rather than simply selling subscriptions and products. Many recognize that there will be major consumer demand for free services as well as experiences with no or fewer ads. The industry is going to start seeing publishers offering free streaming and accessible content that is ad-supported.

Starting now, publishers will try to diversify the way that they not only reach an audience but how they follow through in monetizing it.

Publishers Get Creative in Finding New Ways to Reach and Engage Millennial Audiences

As the majority of traditional news consumers belong to an aging demographic, publishers know they need to find new ways to reach the younger generations. And that’s only the first step. Once they’ve been reached, the biggest challenge is actually following through in delivering engaging content that will appeal to them and keep them coming back for more. But what are the habits of young people when it comes to news consumption?

The role of news for Gen Z and Gen Y is tricky business because research shows it needs to be highly personal rather than characterized by broad generalizations. According to a new report from Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, adults aged 18-35 view the news from the perspective of what it can do for them as individuals rather than for society as a whole. 

Overall, these younger generations find value in the news that progresses personal development and increases enjoyment or awareness in topics that are relevant to them.

As an example, BBC Global News has recognized this trend and is responding by launching more verticals and sub-brands outside of its regular news cycle. The company states that 62% of its audience across platforms are millennials between 25 and 35 years old. 

The goal is to grow its international audience and drive more advertising revenue by covering topics that are important to younger generations, such as sustainability and environmental issues. 

Friday Fun Fact

Journalists, take note: Merriam-Webster has just added another 533 words and definitions to its dictionary.  New words include ‘dad joke,’ ‘fatberg,’ ‘sesh’ and ‘inspo.’ But the dictionary, which is updated twice a year, has drawn much attention due to its decision to recognize “they/them” as gender-identifying pronouns.

“If we see that a term is used frequently, then it’s going to get into the dictionary,” said Peter Sokolowski, a Merriam-Webster lexicographer.

The fact that the oldest dictionary publisher in the United States has added its interpretation of this pronoun is a reflection of changing times. After all, the dictionary is a window into society’s current use and expression of language.


For a more recent media news update, click here.

The Key Engagement Tool Metrics Media Organizations are Losing Out On

There are a number of engagement tools that publishers can leverage to build digital communities. Before you commit to any community engagement solution, we want to make sure you’re fully benefiting from the tools you choose to invest in.

After all, it’s important to monitor a number of key metrics that measure the health and growth of your digital community. As you gather information on how your users are interacting with one another around your content, you can fine-tune your editorial and subscription strategies around audience behavior. Keep in mind that third-party cookies are no longer an effective way to capture your community’s information, meaning you now have to turn to the rich data from your own platform to collect it.

Set your business up for success by ensuring your engagement tools are giving you the following metrics:

Daily, weekly and monthly active users

While the number of new users is important to keep track of and could represent the success of your user acquisition strategies, it fails to take into account churn and loyalty. A growing, active user base, on the other hand, highlights the fact that you’re providing value to your community.

The definition of an active user depends on your individual objectives and product offering. For us, the number of active users includes active commenters, users who authenticate and users who spend more than five seconds reading comments.

A good rule of thumb is to aim for 20-40% of your monthly unique visitors to be in the active user category. 

Engagement Velocity

The engagement velocity is essentially the number of aggregate engagement actions per minute. This is another helpful metric to keep track of that can help predict how popular your content will become based on the speed of user engagement with your front-facing tools.

Use this metric to find out how well your content is resonating with users.

Daily, weekly and monthly active engagement

“Many publishers are focused on fostering deeper engagement with loyal users, who exhibit a higher propensity to return, and ultimately to subscribe,” reads a new report by the Local Media Association.

Be sure to monitor the number of daily, weekly and monthly active engagement on your platform over time and across pages. Over time, it helps you measure the impact of strategic decisions, and across pages, it helps you identify highly engaging pages early on and improve their visibility to maximize conversions.

On average, we see an annual increase of 20% in active engagement across our clients.

Percent of user attention time in comment sections

Time spent on-page is a common metric that publishers keep a close eye on. But to get a thorough understanding of your audience’s engagement level, you need to dig a little bit deeper.

Most users are passive consumers of content that means they are more likely to read than contribute to a conversation. For this reason, the percent of time users spend reading comments can be a good indicator of community engagement. While engagement will vary depending on article type, our clients see a monthly average of 9.46% to 26.53% of user attention time in commenting sections across their platforms (with some as high as 43%).

Looking to boost this number for your platform?

Last year, Microsoft conducted a study, which concluded that good content is the key to getting users to spend more time engaging with your content. This is especially important as the study found that the human attention span has been reduced from an average of 12 seconds to eight.

Moderated conversations can also be an asset in capturing user attention by helping users feel protected enough to participate in discussions.

Civility Trends

Your audience’s online engagement is in fact dependent on civility toxicity has a negative impact on engagement, ad revenue and brand image.

To keep track of your community’s online health, monitor civility trends across your platform. This can be as simple as watching the rate of disabled posts (disabled posts / all posts), which allows you to assess at a high level if users, in general, are complying with your community guidelines.

Dive a bit deeper into your engagement tools’ civility trends by monitoring the disabled posts even more closely. If you’re able to classify the reason behind disabling posts, you can monitor the violation trends and create strategies to resolve specific violation types. For example, if you’re seeing a lot of political hostility around an election, you may choose to keep a close eye on related articles in the politics section of your platform.

Here’s an example of one of our moderation dashboards:

Make the most of your engagement solutions by monitoring these metrics on a regular basis, and identify related strengths and weaknesses on your platform. Only then can you adjust your business’ strategies to build a loyal community.

If you’re unsure of where your numbers stand in the media industry, you can use the Google News Initiative tool to see where your data stands and set benchmarks to help your organization grow.

If you liked this article, you’ll love reading about what every publisher should ask a potential tech partner. 

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