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Once upon a time, the success of an article was judged by how interesting it was to read.
Of course, front page splashes, naked girls and free giveaways had an impact on print sales, but so, too, did regular columnists of quality and serialised work.
Essentially, serving your audience was thought to be important and publications often had agendas that went some way to determining their output.
I think this is still the case with print media, but one can't ignore the fact that print is receding. As it does, news and media online is to some extent being depoliticised as social media allows any publisher to reach an extended audience. Reaching large audiences is important for driving up the cost of advertising inventory.
Don't get me wrong, the sophistication of the internet is a good thing. It's no longer acceptable or, more pertinently, advantageous to massively keyword-stuff your editorial or add the terms 'porn' and 'XXX' to your title tags.
Ad technology, too, is getting better at allowing advertisers to understand revenue associated with campaigns across platforms. But the fact remains that many believe advertising needs to break away from the religion of the impression.
If it continues, it's going to become increasingly difficult to find subcultures. Parody and the parodied will be indistinguishable.
So, what can stop clickbait?
The Sun ducked behind a paywall in August 2013, so now feels like a good time to find out how it's all been going at Sun+
Beverley Mcintyre is Director of Member Services and Support at News UK. I was glad to catch up with her about customer service behind the paywall, as well as some other interesting aspects of the business, namely advertising and changes to the organisation as a whole.
The recent Hachette and Amazon standoff got me thinking again about the e-reader.
Of all the transformations of physical media to digital, I can’t think of one that has rumbled on and divided audiences like the paperback to ebook.
Arguably not CD to MP3, maybe because people could still burn CDs from iTunes (the move to subscription music was more gradual) whereas people can’t print their ebooks on a whim.
Arguably calls to SMS to messaging apps, DVDs to streaming, physical games to computer games, these were easy transitions.
Think of a pair of axes, one showing relevance and the other transparency.
Where would various publishers’ content be plotted on this chart?
Part of the fascination with native advertising comes from the interplay of these two factors.
Native advertising can cause a bit of a headache. The IAB is yet to offer a definition of the phrase, which is being used in a rather flexible manner by many ad networks.
The Guardian and BuzzFeed are two prominent examples of publishers that refer to 'sponsored' or 'promoted' content. This seems a lot less ambiguous and may clear up some of the confusion for those trying to make sense of the topic.
Whilst I think this type of advertising is here to stay (when done properly), I'm not sure that native advertising is the best term for it. In fact, I think it would benefit from being split into three terms that make greater sense of the issue.
For an overview of native advertising see the Econsultancy report, Native Advertising: What it means for brands and publishers.
Running a profitable publishing business online is no easy task, and success has a lot to do with retaining subscribers.
One way of achieving this is through loyalty programmes, which provide extra value for subscribers, and can even make them valuable advocates for the brand.
I've been asking Nina Gilbert, Account Director at Clock, about the strategies publishers can use to keep customers loyal and reduce subscriber churn...
Search for native advertising on the Guardian and you'll likely find this article.
The irony is almost unbearable. As Doug Kessler pointed out at FODM 2014 (all credit goes to Doug), he didn't find the Guardian's point of view on native advertising. He found this article in a paid-for position.
What does this mean for publishing and advertising? Keep reading and you'll find my rules for succeeding with native advertising.
What’s so great about Quartz?
Quartz is a business news publication that's been talked about a lot since its founding, by Atlantic Media Company (publishes The Atlantic), in 2012.
It's built on WordPress, is mobile-first and characterised by a strong team of journalists that produces engaging short and long content that's incredibly sharable.
Here's some more answers to the question 'what's so great about Quartz?'
Reddit is a veritable goldmine for useful, interesting or downright bizarre content, making it a perfect tool for procrastination.
And one need only take a look at the stories that crop up in the mainstream media in the days after they first appeared on Reddit to see the site’s influence on the news agenda.
But is it any use to publishers seeking to gain additional readers, or social managers looking to drive engagement with a new community?
According to data from SimilarWeb, the UK’s main newspapers get a large proportion of their social referrals from Reddit.
The freemium model is spreading in B2C and B2B, as are paywalls more broadly.
At a recent publishing conference, long gone were the days of impassioned debate about whether a paywall is ‘right’.
The revenue models are working for many and an over-reliance on advertising revenue has been addressed, albeit with mobile making online advertising more lucrative (and to a lesser extent, contextual, programmatic and native ads).
The original discussion seemed about more than revenue, as if the whole concept of the web was under threat. Academics were writing about the democracy of the internet and whether this would be eroded by a dearth of free news content.
Of course, it’s silly to think that ethics play any part in the discussion. Once some companies proved the ability to sell combined subscriptions and then digital only subscriptions, the bandwagon was jumped. These are businesses after all, and many had been in trouble for years.
In this post I’ll detail some examples of approaches to metered paywalls, and look at what factors influence paywall strategy.
How does a publisher move from brand engagement to an enterprise transactional model?
It all revolves around thinking like a retailer and utilising your brands to capitalise on new revenue streams.
Immediate Media is a combined publishing house formed with BBC Magazines, Magicalia and Origin, with around 70 brands.
The group has been investing in technology for a while, enabling digital elements to be added to its subscriptions, as well as integrating advertising and product sales.
The magazines are chiefly publishing special interest content, from sports to weddings etc. With 80% of Immediate’s revenue coming from selling content, it’s clear that there’s a balance to be found between product development and monetisation.
Let’s take a look in more detail…
The Axel Springer group is pretty big, it’s active in 44 countries and generated revenue of €3.3bn in 2012.
13,650 people are employed across the group, which includes more than 230 publications such as Bild, but also companies such as Zanox (which includes Affiliate Window).
But despite its size, Axel Springer is using startups and a new culture to drive digital change and growth across the group.
This has been a big step and is a trend we’re seeing in many industries – see John Lewis’ recent announcement of JLabs, a call for entrepreneurs with a £100,000 investment to the best new startup.
At Digital Media Strategies 2014, Springer Electronic Media CTO Ulrich Schmitz talked to us about developing a digital portfolio.
How does one develop new business models in the light of digital? What is the best way to foster innovation and entrepreneurship? And when does one integrate digital investments or indeed keep them separate.