ADOTAS — The conversation about the future of print in the digital age has reached a dire tone, with traditional print companies scrambling to find relevance and revenue. But with the acquisition of The Washington Post by Jeff Bezos earlier this year, all eyes have been on his next moves. The hope of many is that he will pave the way and build the model for print’s revival. What changes will he make? How will he use technology to drive growth? Can the print industry be revived through digital?
The truth is, the model has been built and is actually thriving. The future goes by the name Buzzfeed, and the future is bright.
If you aren’t familiar with Buzzfeed, it is the leading media company for social news and entertainment, focused on delivering high-quality original reporting, insight, and viral content. They are the creators of the infamous lists that are shared millions of times across the Internet every day. According to an internal memo from the Founder and CEO, Jonah Peretti, Buzzfeed is successfully growing, and fast! It reached 85 million unique visitors in August and works with more than half of the top 100 brands.
If you are a traditional print business trying to figure out digital, take note. There are things you can do now, with little to no heavy lifting, to improve their user experience and increase the value of your inventory. So, in following the Buzzfeed model, here are the top 5 things publishers need to be doing to survive.
1. Unique Editorial & Curation. Buzzfeed notes that there is a huge opportunity and need for news leadership in the social and mobile world. Over the last year it has provided a unique voice and perspective in the content it is creating. In the new world of content curation, it has also been able to select and share great content. Through the use of data, Buzzfeed can see which topics are trending, the engagement of their readers, and the viral effects of their content. Other publishers need to follow suit and use content analytics to capitalize on user behavior and make editorial decisions to help them grow their audience. Companies like ShareThis or AddThis provide content data solutions for publishers.
2. Diverse Content Formats. Since content is now consumed and shared in many different and unique ways, the types of formats need to be equally creative and diverse. Buzzfeed is constantly innovating its long-form and short-form content. It is also introducing new ways for their audience to interact with content: quizzes, original graphic art, rubbable gifs and apps. It’s time to get creative with new formats. If you are a publisher who hasn’t changed or updated your formats, time is running out!
3. Video. This year we have seen a serious transition in ad dollars from TV to digital video, due to the explosion of online video consumption. We are seeing double-digit year-over-year increases in desktop views and triple digits in mobile. Many large publishers are building video teams to capitalize on the growing demand for video content. Though most publishers are unable to build their own video production teams, there are great video solutions for publishers to utilize and inject video content into their sites. Companies like One Screen and Propel Video (from Kitara Media) are excellent video solutions.
4. No More Banners – Think Native. Disclaimer: My company, OakReach, is a native ad and content marketing platform. Though I may be a little biased regarding native ads, I strongly encourage a visit to Buzzfeed’s home page. You will not find one banner ad. That is because Buzzfeed monetizes though native ads, which allow them to charge a significant premium. To be clear, a native ad is a unit that relies on content and is incorporated seamlessly into the experience of a website. For Buzzfeed, it’s the featured or sponsored content you see spread throughout their home page. Native ads allow for brands to connect with content in a way that traditional banner ads do not. And throughout the year, studies continue to show the increased effectiveness of native ads compared to banner ads. When you look at the price of banner ads, the value continues to decline. A recent SEC filing from The New York Times cited continued declines in display revenues. Similar to video, many large publishers have created their own tech to facilitate native ads. But for publishers without a tech team, there are great solutions from companies like Sharethrough and OakReach (my company) that can help activate and manage native ads.
5. Mobile. This is another place where we’ve seen substantial growth this year. Advertisers and agencies will spend $2.61 billion dollars on mobile this year. Due to the massive amount of mobile inventory, publishers are struggling to figure out the best way to monetize their mobile audience while demanding similar CPMs to their desktop audience. Looking at Buzzfeed’s mobile presence, both its mobile site and mobile app have 3 important characteristics: simple mobile-optimized site design, no slide shows, and no banner ads. The problem with banner ads is amplified on mobile devices as screen size and mobile user behavior hinders the effectiveness of mobile display ads. Instead of banner ads, Buzzfeed uses native ads to monetize its mobile audience. This allows it to garner similar CPMs to their desktop traffic as well as create a seamless and uncluttered mobile user experience. If your site is not mobile-optimized, then it should be your top priority to make it. And when creating the mobile version of your site, take a page from Buzzfeed; Make your site easy to navigate, to consume content, and monetize with native ads.