Published Articles

HOW PROGRAMMATIC HAS HURT PUBLISHERS

This is a byline I wrote for PerformanceIN. While PerformanceIn is an advertiser focused publication, publishers are a critical part of the ecosystem so their woes should be of concern to advertisers.

The gold rush to programmatic created a digital “tragedy of the commons,” with too many publishers providing too much inventory supply, and CPMs began to plummet. This might sound like a good thing for advertisers – after all publisher revenues are advertiser costs. But publishers are supplementing their falling revenue simply by placing more ads. This hurts the reader experience, erodes trust, and reduces ad performance due to systemic “ad blindness.”

How Programmatic Has Hurt Publishers and Why Advertisers Should Care

Politics and Email

Email has always been a (maybe the) lucrative way for political organizations to raise funds come election time. I was interviewed by USA Today on this topic … I really wanted to say more, but I have several political advocacy clients at PostUp that send exactly this kind of email and wanted to respect their privacy.

Campaigns see dollar signs in AOL email addresses

This article ran in the paper edition also. At least I can check “quoted on the front page of USA Today” off my bucket list.

Facebook Engagement … or not

In reaction to the latest of Facebook’s publisher harming algorithm and product changes, I was asked by State of Digital to suggest ways to boost engagement on Facebook. In fact, the best way to use Facebook to drive engagement is to use Facebook to establish a direct relationship with your audience (the Facebook one publisher’s don’t actually own), so that you depend less on Facebook as a channel.

10 Ways to Boost Facebook Engagement Without Ads

10. Encourage Fans to Interact via Other Channels

Brands can also use social media to encourage interaction via other more direct avenues like email.

“This newsfeed change is cause for publishers to stop building their greatest asset on borrowed land,” said Keith Sibson, vice president of product and marketing at email marketing firm PostUp. “Publishers and brands must figure out how to stop being reliant on social platforms for developing their audience. There is great reward in organically nurturing and growing audience relationships.”

Google to Punish “Popups” on Mobile

When Google changes their algorithm publicly, everyone should take notice. In this case, Google is penalizing “intrusive interstitials” in mobile search results. Fair enough, these interstitials are often annoying and spammy, but there’s a real risk to legitimate publishers just trying to engage their audience. I wrote an article on Martech Advisor about how to avoid these problems. (Note that I did not choose the title, I’m not encouraging anyone to circumvent Google’s crackdown, only to stay within Google guidelines as to what constitutes a good mobile user experience.)

How to Circumvent Google’s Crackdown on Mobile Pop-ups

Cautious Optimism for Publishers

Leading product and marketing for an email technology company, I suppose I could be accused of bias when saying that email is part of the solution for many of the publishing industry’s current problems. However, the fact that publishers need to establish a direct relationship with their audience is something that I truly believe, and email just happens to be the best way of doing this. Getting an invitation to the inbox is extremely powerful.

Here’s my section from Columbia Journalism Review’s article, Publishers’ New Year’s resolution: more experimentation, cautious optimism.

Strengthen relationships with readers through email

With the death of the homepage, readers spend less time engaging with the full slate of any publisher’s content. To circumvent the algorithms Facebook and Google use to determine who sees what, connecting directly with consumers often requires getting to their inboxes.

“Email is the direct relationship with the audience,” says Keith Sibson, vice president of product and marketing of PostUp, which provides email marketing platforms to clients including NBC, Disney, and The Golf Channel. “Whereas a lot of the things going on in the digital publishing world are about people coming up against an intermediary in that relationship, Facebook being a really big part of that.”

For many publishers (including CJR), email newsletters are a way to share content they want to highlight with consumers who have signaled their willingness to engage. “When someone signs up on a publisher website, and provides their email address, what they’re essentially giving is an invitation,” Sibson said.

Getting that invitation is the first step towards deepening a relationship with consumers that exists outside the walled garden of social platforms. Once readers have engaged enough to sign on for a newsletter, publishers have the ability to tailor content for that user’s interests, from politics to cooking. Many outlets have already embraced this strategy; The Washington Post offers 65 separate newsletters that readers can choose from and The New York Times sends out 53, including seven that focus on ‘special offers’ that provide deals on products offered by premium advertisers.

Whether by partnering with advertisers to bring consumers specific products or simply drawing readers directly to an outlet’s website, email provides an end run around the dominance of Facebook and Google, and while they’re no silver bullet, the prevalence of newsletters shows that many publishers have already realized this. “Email is not going to change publishing businesses overnight,” Sibson says. “But it can become a very big part of their revenue streams.”