San Francisco is known as the foggy city and in Silicon Valley, publishers and enterprise marketers are being consumed by FOGAF (Fear of Google, Amazon, and Facebook). With the official repeal of net neutrality, publishers will face even more pressure to rely on the online ad giants as the players in town with large-scale user datasets, who will take most the growth in advertising dollars.
The logic for leaning on the platforms is clear, but it is flawed. Publishers are still struggling to develop their online ad businesses and seek out any route for monetization they can find. The scale of the platforms offers the promise of an audience big enough to drive monetization, but that promise is never realized, even as platforms roll out new formats like Facebook Instant Articles to keep the idea fresh. Instead, publisher content keeps eyeballs on the platforms, who reap the benefits of ad dollars, while publishers are left fighting for scraps.
There is a better way. Taken together, publishers have massive datasets, much of it high-quality first-person data. But in order to realize the true potential value, they need to learn to share and combine data sets for scale. This could mean higher CPMs for all and more sustainable online publishing business models.
Partnering for a 360-Degree View of the Customers
When siloed, publisher’s first-party data sets provide only a fragmented view of how potential customers are engaging with content. That means that they have no choice but to go to the big platforms in the hunt for revenue.
The nature of the publishing model leaves no time to think up a new strategy: they simply have to grab the programmatic ad dollars (or pennies) that the platforms offer. In the meantime, they are subject to the whims of the platform publishing programs, whether it’s this month’s love for short-form video or the desire for endless food content.
In the current digital landscape, consumers expect content to be instant and highly-personalized. In order to meet that demand and reach the right customer, with the right message in real-time, publishers must join data sets to secure a more holistic view of customers and their buying intentions.
With a more developed viewpoint on the customers they are serving, publishers can serve up more and more personalized and relevant content, rather than the one-size fits all legacy of the print age.
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As YouTube and Netflix have shown, this degree of personalization leads to greater time on the site and more engagement. In other words, enriched data can lead to a virtuous circle of engagement and higher CPMs for advertising.
To be sure, there are challenges. On a strategic level, publishers will have to embrace a more data-centric mindset and a more collaborative culture that stresses the success of partnerships rather than cut-throat competition for readers and advertisers. But the alternative is remaining tied to the platforms forever, so the will to surmount these challenges is surely present.
Leveraging Context to Improve Customer Experience
Publishers don’t have to be paralyzed by FOGAF. Marrying other data sets will help all publishers stay nimble enough to deliver relevant content to their audiences as quickly as the martech stacks are changing. This is especially vital as the majority of publisher’s revenue comes from ad-dollars. According to a recent report by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), the first quarter of 2017 alone reflected the highest earnings attributed to U.S. digital advertising ever, reaching $19.6 billion. In order to keep up, publishers are expanding their content platforms in an effort to drive engagement, whether it’s adding email newsletters, podcasts or live social streaming to their offerings.
Without a consistent revenue stream from CPM, the format won’t survive in the long-run because the advertising model is unstable. The collaboration will be publisher’s best shot at keeping these channels alive – if they can learn to stop worrying and love collaboration.
Cint is an insights exchange platform that can be used to validate and access customer data-sets.
Recommended Read: Interview with Richard Thornton, COO and Deputy CEO, Cint