Many publishers still believe their worst enemy is the “magazine-with-almost-the-same-content” from the “next-door-publisher-almost-as-old-and-big-as-them”. Well, it’s time to rethink.
In the good old days (a few years ago, that is) readers typically decided to buy only one of the magazines in the press shop, or subscribe to only one morning paper. Today, the number of sources for information and entertainment has exploded. And since most stories are only one click away, readers go anywhere to read them. The container itself (the magazine or the newspaper) is no longer important – readers look for great stories, not distributors, just like it always was in the movie industry.
The first companies to embrace this shift the were the social networks (read: Facebook). They use smart algorithms to cherry pick the best content from all publishers to serve their users at zero cost (and according to media bosses at the Newsgeist conference, the algorithms are right now tuned to push videos). Then they monetize the environment around the content, for instance by selling sponsored posts.
The most recent development is that the content is also consumed on the social platforms (as opposed to linking to the article), which means that the publishers are even more distanced from their readers and lose control.
Publishers’ worst enemy today is not other newspapers or magazines, it’s the lack of audience and engagement in their own sites. In other words: the most dangerous competitors are the global platforms that get the publishers’ content for free and monetize the audience far beyond the ad revenues they share with their publisher “partners”.
It can all be explained with basic mathematics:
X * Y – Z = P.
Where X is the number of visitors to the site, Y is the revenue per visitor, Z is the cost to run the site and P is the profit. The publisher’s target is pretty simple: Maximize revenue per user and maximize number of users, while keeping costs under control.
The future of the media business lies in the publishers’ ability to monetize users at their own sites (Y). If they allow people to consume their best content on social platforms they miss the opportunity to introduce users to more revenue generating services, like subscriptions, pay-per-view, user clubs, niche stores, newsletters, classifieds etc. Furthermore, the own site is the only place where publishers have full control over the environment and the data, something that typically renders premium pricing.
If publishers trust this, and if they agree on the formula above, then they should also acknowledge that it’s time to grow the audience (X). And what’s the best way to attract new visitors? To market their great content of course! But if you shouldn’t give it away to social platforms, where do you distribute it?
Here’s the plan: publishers’ best chance to survive the fragmentation is to make new friends with your old enemies. The combined time spent on quality content consumption is higher with credible publishers than with any social media platform. Embrace that. Build on that. Make people stay longer, read more. By sharing content recommendations with each other you will keep the audience within the publisher eco-system. Don’t just do it on a monthly or weekly basis, not even on a daily basis. Do it all the time! Every article you publish is a potential marketing vehicle for your site. Enable an automated, targeted distribution mechanism of your best content across relevant publishers in your market. This, friends, is exactly what the Strossle mission is about – to create the publishers’ own platform.
So publishers of the world, to regain control and prosper, you need to… unite!
By Jens Ander, COO Strossle