DigiPub NYC returned this year with a tone of maturity and innovation. Unlike previous years at DigiPub—where “programmatic” reigned over the discussion or “native advertising” was hailed as a dominating factor in the market—there were a series of presentations that spoke to how publishers are differentiating themselves in the marketplace with their own strategies, some niche, some not-so-niche.
Dealing with Facebook’s dominance. One might expect a digital publishing summit to spend a great deal of time addressing Facebook, and the recent changes to the Facebook algorithm, to focus less on promoted and more on user-generated content. That was the case this year and there were some obvious winners and losers. Gretchen Tibbits, COO at LittleThings.com, a lifestyle website with shareable content, said she has already seen a bounce with her audience sharing LittleThings.com content on Facebook. Indeed, Facebook’s position as the go-to place for consuming content means that some publishers can find a niche in the market based solely on the opportunity created by the Facebook audience stream. Alternatively, many others lamented the control Facebook has over whether their content makes it into a user’s stream or not. As the industry adapts to this change, it’s clear the arbitrage game of owned vs. paid media is more important than ever.
Own your audience, best you can. The expansion of paid media along with the engines that drive them creates a strong temptation among publishers to buy the audiences that their advertisers demand. And, as demographic demands become more specific, they become harder to fulfill with the traffic generated by an owned site with a limited Data Management Platform (DMP). To satisfy those advertiser demands, sellers will need specific, clean data from their DPM or else have to purchase those eyeballs from another site. In fact, that definition of “site” now varies with all the new mediums with which to digest content. The end result is demand for innovation around DMP’s, whether homegrown or purchased. That requires owning an expanded and deeper audience, which can best be found by engaging consumers across mobile, display and event-based activities.
App-based advertising. The conference nearly coincided with the momentous launch of Pokémon Go. With $200 million in revenue in its first month, according to one report, the cultural phenomenon shows little signs of abetting. The runaway success of the app, is a new indicator of the value publishers’ can bring by capturing data and serving relevant ads. That can be extremely compelling to an advertiser. This jump from virtual apps to virtual/reality apps creates exciting opportunities in a demographic with lots of spending power.
Revenue growth and billings are more complex. The multitude of new mediums and arbitrage scenarios means that tracking margins has become even more difficult. It was clear from the show that clients and agencies see value in the campaign packages that span these mediums but they want simple billing. NetSuite customer Chris Cahill, Refinery29’s vice president of finance, pointed out that billing that matches a brand’s ability to spend is critical to maximizing the brand relationship and growing the top-line. By accommodating billing and matching the new revenue recognition constraints, firms like Refinery29 can stay ahead of the curve and focus on strategic initiatives. For example, Refinery29 has managed to continue to grow and add offerings to their product mix by coordinating billing and revenue recognition.
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