How GDPR Affects Publishers, and Other Webinar Takeaways
On March 7, 2018, PostUp participated in Publishing Executive’s educational webinar, “How Publishers Can Survive the Assault on the Advertising Business Model.” Presenters talked about the changing digital publishing industry, threats to the advertising-based business model (from ad blockers to Safari updates to GDPR), and how publishers can drive revenue in an industry increasingly dominated by the duopoly.
If you were too busy to watch the webinar live, you can sign up to view the webinar on-demand here.
If you’re still too busy to watch the webinar, we understand. There’s a ton of stuff going on in digital publishing right now. That’s why we’ve put together a few of the takeaways covered in the webinar right here. Catch up real quick, then get back to work!
1. “Scale no longer equals success.”
For years, the advertising-driven business model allowed digital publishers to drive revenue with programmatic ads delivered at scale, fueled by cheap clicks from Facebook.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case anymore. Not only does scale-for-scale’s sake not equal success, it’s often a direct path to failure if an algorithm tweak renders your strategy irrelevant. That’s a tough truth many publishers are grappling with right now.
2. Publishers can’t rely on Facebook for traffic.
You don’t need a webinar to tell you how the whole Facebook situation is going. News feed tweaks are pushing publishers out, and social-dependent brands are feeling the squeeze.
Of course, it’s not all bad news for all publishers. Facebook might have thrown local publishers a bone by prioritizing them in the feed, but it doesn’t change the bigger problem. Massive social followings don’t mean much if publishers don’t take advantage of it to move their audience to a more direct channel. Like email
3. Email is the equivalent of the home address in the print world.
Facebook could magically reverse course overnight and restore organic reach for publishers, but it would still be an obstacle between you and your audience. Email allows publishers to reach their audience at any time in a focused environment—the inbox. If publishers hope to monetize audiences directly, they must have these avenues of direct communication.
4. In digital publishing, authority is key, so “prove you own the space.”
Without the name recognition of larger, legacy publishers, smaller publishers and digital-natives have to get to work demonstrating their value. That means connecting readers with their content, collecting the email address, and nurturing the relationship with additional content.
Email’s a great place for doing so, especially if your new business model depends on a paywall. Newsletter subscribers visit your site more often and consume more content per visit, which is probably why Seattle Times site visitors who come from email are 25 times more likely to become paid subscribers.
5. Audiences are more willing to pay for content than ever.
The Internet is getting pretty crowded. There isn’t enough time to sort through it all (there’s hardly enough time to watch webinars!), which means that audiences are finding value in knowing exactly where they can turn for the good stuff.
Last year, an American Press Institute study showed that willingness to pay for digital content is on the rise. It’s a good sign for an industry plagued by declining ad revenue and platform dominance.
6. For publishers putting up a paywall, the metered paywall is the best way to go.
You can’t prove you own the space without letting your audience see how you do it. Unless you have an established reputation for quality (like Financial Times or The Information), your best bet is to eschew the hard paywall and allow readers to sample content until right before their appetite is met.
What’s the magic meter number? Well, there is none. It depends on the audience. Some publishers are experimenting with dynamic paywalls that adjust to the individual audience member, or even leverage the email address in exchange for content. It’s a good exchange, but when collecting the email address, you may have additional data concerns to contend with.
7. How GDPR affects publishers depends on their audience.
Generally speaking, the risk posed by GDPR is proportional to the size of your European audience. Publishers located in the EU have a greater burden to be smart and transparent with data collection, earn consent of the audience, and ensure that their tech vendors are compliant.
If you’re not in the EU and don’t cover topics of particular interest to the area, odds are your European audience is fairly small. Still, that doesn’t mean you can get away without taking GDPR precautions. The rules apply to anyone who collects data on a single EU resident.
To mitigate the risk of noncompliance, use geolocation to bifurcate users. Segment your email list and target your EU audience with a campaign designed to earn their consent before GDPR takes effect on May 25, 2018.
8. Make sure your ads don’t fall afoul of Google Chrome’s Ad Blocker.
The EU isn’t the only one trying to clean up the internet. Google’s taken it upon themselves to rid the digital world of bad ads. Publishers who have an ad that doesn’t meet Google’s standard will see all of their ads blocked by Chrome.
It might just be one browser, but it’s the browser that the majority of the web uses. Unless you can afford to lose out on half of your ad revenue, you’ll have to comply. Of course, cleaning up your user experience is a good thing to do anyway.
9. Don’t harm the user experience with intrusive email capture, especially on mobile.
Speaking of Google, this isn’t the first time they’ve docked publishers for subpar ad practices. In 2017, Google began penalizing publishers who deploy intrusive mobile interstitials, such as popup ads that cover up the majority of the screen.
Does that affect mobile email capture widgets, such as sliders? Google doesn’t consider email collection an ad, but that doesn’t mean you should be aggressive with your mobile widgets. PostUp’s audience development teams maintain the mobile user experience by waiting to deploy mobile capture until the second pageview.
10. Publishers must change how they think about engagement, but first they need the tools to do it.
It’s no longer enough to amass clicks from one-and-done visitors. Publishers must work on strengthening ties with their direct audiences. From marketing automation to personalization, publishers are turning to new sets of tools to deepen engagement, send targeted messaging, and implement data-driven strategy.
As discussed in the webinar, Apartment Therapy has started testing personalized content in emails to great results. Their personalized emails saw double-digit improvement over the non-personalized sends, demonstrating the revenue potential of relevant messaging in a publishing industry where established revenue channels are drying up.
To see how PostUp has helped clients like Apartment Therapy, The Onion, and NBC Sports drive success in the inbox, download the 2018 edition of our Creative Services Lookbook.
Editor, PostUp PlayBook