Month: January 2018

Getting Audiences To Pay

There is a macro-trend in publishing towards Pay Walls, which are a fundamental departure from the advertising business model in that audiences pay directly for the content. This model won’t work for every publisher, and the rule of thumb is that your content must be differentiated and high quality for it to work. So when the quality is mostly behind the paywall, how do you actually get readers to convert? There’s a chicken and egg problem here: users won’t convert without seeing the value, but the value is behind the paywall. I addressed this topic in my first guest post at Martech Series.

Getting Audiences to Pay When Everyone’s Behind the Paywall


MediaPost solicited my opinion along with a panel of industry experts about the recent changes to Facebook’s news feed that prioritizes local news in the content feed.

“While on the surface, this is good news for local news, it feels a bit like flowers after being punched in the face. Let’s not forget that Facebook just cut publisher’s organic reach to zero. Also, this change is more about Facebook trying to show users healthy content than it is about helping publishers. I think we can agree that local news is better than clickbait, but it still causes discomfort that Facebook is the arbiter of what’s good and bad for us.”

Read the full article on Media Post:

As Facebook Prioritizes Local News, Industry Experts Respond


Despite writing this article before the recent announcement of Facebook finally kicking publishers to the curb, it is still just as relevant. My strategic advice to publishers has consistently been to treat Facebook as, at best, a frenemy.

The industry is at a turning point, and publishers need to decide what type of publisher they are going to be:

  • large-scale commodity publisher with low production costs, or
  • high-quality publisher with paid subscription models, or
  • niche-content producers with small audiences sold to advertisers directly

Read the full article on Publishing Executive:

The 3 Hard Truths Publishers Must Face in 2018

Update: this article was one of the top 12 articles on in 2018.


On February 15th, Google will enable ad blocking from within the Chrome browser, affecting 60% of web users, which is Chrome’s market share. Affected ads include full page, auto-playing sound and video, and flashing or otherwise intrusive ads. Google is using its near-monopoly power with Chrome, to try to improve the “user experience” of the internet, and specifically the web. Without debating what constitutes a good user experience and whether Google is justified in deciding this, the actual business motivation is that Google makes more money when lots of people are spending lots of time on the web. In their view, aggressive ads hurt the web experience, especially on mobile, and drive users into the arms of relatively uncluttered walled gardens like Facebook. Google absolutely has the will and ability to reduce or eliminate (subjectively) aggressive ads. Publishers that currently rely on this type of ads will likely lose 60% of the revenue associated with them.

Can you block the blocker? At the risk of sounding defeatist, it is a bad idea to try to subvert or block Google’s ad blocking. This was fine when defending against the myriad of ad blocker plugins, none of which have overwhelming market share – a fair fight. But Google is the 800 pound gorilla of the Internet. They have all the power, and can seriously hurt your site. When publishers have tried to subvert Google algorithms in the past it has usually ended badly for them, up to and including being delisted in search results.

Publishers using low key advertising techniques like banners and native ads have nothing to worry about, but those using more aggressive techniques better have a plan to replace the revenue. A better strategy is to produce quality content that people want to read, advertise alongside it non-aggressively, and even better: charge a subscription fee to access it. Long term, work to grow a direct relationship with your audience, and email is a great channel for this.