Takeaways from the Digiday Publishing Summit

Last month, the Virool publisher development team attended the Digiday Publishing Summit. The team spoke with numerous top tier publishers to gain insights on how to best mold publisher offerings to address the pain points we are hearing in the industry. Below are the team’s top five takeaways from the summit.

1) Find Your Voice
The most important thing publishers cannot lose sight of is the unique voice that has engaged their audience. While it can be easy to fall into the trap of running whatever clickbait will have the highest engagement, the true power publishers have is in creating intriguing content that not only provokes interest in a topic, but reminds the reader that they offer a valuable and unique perspective over competitors.

The Economist drives 60% of revenue from subscriptions and 40% from advertisements. Since most of their revenue comes from subscriptions, it is critical for them to continue to create compelling content that is congruent with the material they’ve created for years.

2) Use Platforms to Grow Your Business
Publishers are relying more and more on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat in order to reach their audience. Some publishers dislike the shift to platforms, as they believe partnering with them puts platforms in the driver’s seat.

There shouldn’t be a battle against platforms, instead, the focus should be on continuing to grow digital revenue. Today, $.85 of every $1 spent on online advertising is spent through platforms. In order for publishers to effectively grow their audience and revenue, they need to leverage these platforms. CNN receives 1/3 of traffic from social media, and Facebook is a very large part of that. It behooves publishers to not only think “how can platforms help me grow” but “how can platforms help me grow in ways that weren’t possible 10 years ago.”

3) Capture Millennial Audiences
Publishers are investing in ways to capture younger audiences, as getting these readers on board now will drive revenue for the business in the long run. In a speaker session at the summit, TripleLift reviewed the below research findings on characteristics of millennial audiences:

– Having no loyalty to traditional media
– Caring deeply about specific issues
– Sharing information through social feeds
– Wanting something smart to say, and don’t want to be told how to feel
– Appreciating stories that evoke an emotion

Millennials provide a unique opportunity in that they are passionate about certain issues and are loyal to content, not brands. Finding out how to reach millennials and providing them with the information that consistently engages them will help publishers connect with that increasingly valuable audience segment.

4) Understand Ad Blocking
Know how ad blocking is affecting your business. According to Paul Ross at the Economist, 15% of users are currently using it, and this figure is only set to grow. From Paul’s viewpoint, you can only blame media for ad blocking, as the ecosystem created products that have not put the reader first. If the media industry ran ad products that were more accepting to the user, then there would be no reason for it at all.

Regardless of whether you believe ad blocking software is here to stay; it is important to recognize that consumers are using them, and publishers need to have a strategy to address the trend. While some publishers think ad blocking is the death of online publisher revenue, others see it as an opportunity and driver for publishers to create a better user experience.

One frequently discussed solution to ad blocking among industry leaders is native advertising. It makes content and advertisements more indistinguishable and relevant to the consumer. Publishers are liable for not only the content on a given property, but also the advertisements that accompany it. Publishers need to decide what type of advertisements balance both their user experience and monetization goals.

5) Diversify Your Audience
Publishers need a balanced audience portfolio and a differentiated brand. Having a well-balanced audience allows for different advertisers to find unique value in running on publisher properties.

Attaining a diverse audience comes from having an editorial team that runs stories that focus on impact, and not pandering to certain groups. Publishers like Vox and Vice have a broad audience due to their loyalty to addressing issues and not the hot topic of the day. You can create a unique voice that still attracts a wide audience base, as long as you hone in on who your audience is and what the best ways to keep them tuning in are.