What we learned while helping publishers collaborate

By May 30, 2017Publisher

As the mega platforms Facebook and Google continue to increase their share of the online advertising spend (in Q3 2016 the “Duopoly” took 99% of the US online advertising growth), more and more publishers show an interest in collaborating with other publishers to form a stronger offering. To sustain their position in the market, publishers have come to realize that collaboration is key.

The last 10 years have taken publishers down a path that only ends at a destination called “Content provider”. Media companies know that this is not a viable strategy in the long run. Not only because it impairs their ability to sustain and engage an audience, but also because it will further limit their opportunities for future financial growth. Just look at the broadcasting business: who’s making the big money? Production Companies or Networks and Distributors who own consumer relationship? Hint: average profit margin for production companies is often no more than 1%.

The challenge for the media industry has been that investing in platforms that enable data-driven distribution and personalisation, on a level that can compete with industry behemoths like Facebook and Google, is completely out of scope. Not least in markets where the audiences are too small to ever deliver return on such an investment. The answer: Collaboration.

But how can companies that have fought over market share, advertisers and reach for decades suddenly come together to ensure mutual growth? Answer: neutral ground.

Since 2013 Strossle has implemented its content discovery platform with more than 1500 publishers throughout Europe, and now we enable this platform to support traffic exchange. Strossle is committed to facilitating traffic collaboration between media companies through a project called “The Visitor Accelerator”, and it serves two main interests: 1) increasing traffic and keeping the audience in the media ecosystem, and 2) providing the users with a more comprehensive media experience. Read more about Visitor Accelerator here.

While developing this cross promotion platform we listened carefully to the publishers and used the beta to gather not only data insights, but also feedback regarding fundamental conditions the publishers wanted to see. This is what we learned:

 

  1. QUALITY: Publishers must rest assured that they only share traffic with publishers living up to defined quality standards. Because you don’t want to send your users to fake news. Therefore Strossle has produced a Publisher Approval Checklist that all affiliated partners must comply with. For instance they must have at least 50% original content and they must follow our Content Ethics Policy.
  2. CONTROL: Publishers don’t want to collaborate with their most fierce competitors. That’s why we allow every publisher to decide exactly which parties they want to collaborate with. From full network down to individual media outlets.
  3. FAIR: Large publishers mustn’t end up as net contributors to small publishers. Therefore we introduced the general rule that each publisher must receive more traffic than they give away. Our commitment reads: For every 1 user publishers share they will receive ≥ 1 new user in return, guaranteed.
  4. AUTOMATION: Sure you can use your editorial staff to select external articles to link to. But that will never scale. In order to make a real difference linking must be automated.
  5. INTELLIGENT: Automated recommendations/linking must be at least as relevant to the users as if they were handled by humans. That’s why we invest heavily in data driven targeting and Machine Learning. And remember: relevance is NOT only based on topic. Reading an article about bananas doesn’t mean that the user wants to read three more articles about bananas. It’s more likely that he/she is interested in health or fitness. By observing user patterns, computers are actually more likely to suggest relevant content than time-pressed editors.

This is a start. But of course we need to develop the platform further, in a close dialogue with publishers. If you want to know more, or have feedback, please contact product owner johan.unger@strossle.com.

Dan Willstrand, CMO