It’s a fundamental question that all top media companies are facing in 2016—and a topic that many publishers are struggling to face head-on: ‘how in the world can we continue to grow as a business with traditional advertising decline in value?’
This question is tough to answer: media companies are all struggling to find new sources of revenue in an increasingly fragmented audience ecosystem. High-demand, valuable readers are spread thin. The days of ‘cast your net wide’ are approaching their end, as ‘niche’ becomes the holy grail of all digital marketing.
To see where you stack up against your fellow advertisers, check out this research on 2016 Publisher Benchmarks. The key trend that you’ll see? Across the board, media companies are looking to innovate. The good news: the majority of these companies are still in exploratory mode and chiseling away to find new opportunities for growth. Here are some ideas for ways that media companies can outsmart the crowd and generate more revenue from advertisers in 2016:
1) Give Advertisers and Audiences More of What They Both Want: Curated Connections
This lesson comes straight from the New York Times: check out this behind the scenes account of the media leader’s new revenue powerhouse, T Brand Studio, which evolved from a business experiment into a core strategic initiative within a few short years.
What’s so interesting about T Brand Studio?
First and foremost, it’s a dramatic departure from traditional advertising models: it’s an internal agency for companies that want to develop their own custom content.
Recognizing the demand for high-quality branded content, The New York Times has acted quickly to keep up with the demands of the market—to create a mechanism to help advertisers build powerful, lasting, and memorable bonds with their audiences.
As a media company, you’re in a position to facilitate powerful relationships between advertisers and your core readership. Think like the New York Times, and find the shortest path through strong content.
2) Understand the Hidden Forces that Stop You From Monetizing
There’s a clear culprit here: ad blocking.
Studies over the last few years have recognized an uptick in audiences choosing to ignore advertisements. As technology improves, readers in the digital universe are becoming more empowered to take control of their own media experiences—and as a publisher, you should be helping them along the way.
Take a step back to figure out why your audiences might be using ad blocking software in the first place. Are your banner ads too obtrusive? Are marketing messages irrelevant? Take the time to uncover the ‘story behind the story’ by digging into these questions.
Ad blocking is a relatively new topic for many media companies, so don’t be worried if you aren’t sure where to get started. Here are a few helpful resources to get you started:
- How Ad Blocking Works: Everything You Need to Know: Read this for primer on the mechanics of ad blocking and how you can take action sooner rather than later.
- Ad Blocking Is Becoming a Real Threat: Check out the deep dive section on how publishers can use sponsored content in response to ad blocking.
- Why You Should Worry About Ad Blocking in 4 Charts: Read this for a crash course on industry trends with ad blocking.
Pro tip: don’t worry about ad blocking itself. Instead, focus on the trends at large–the fact that audiences want more control over their reading experiences. Study the underlying motivations, so that you can ensure that your advertisers are always in a position to add value. Brand-to-reader connections should never be obtrusive.
When audiences love your messaging, ads stop feeling like ads. This value proposition, to advertisers, is priceless.
3) Diversity Your Packages
Find creative ways to offer new value to advertisers and audiences. Look beyond your articles and even your website for revenue: media companies are in a unique position to offer expertise. Create bundled tutorials, webinars, or in-depth ebooks. Test out options to see what your audiences are willing to buy.
The best way to develop your own strategy is to study ideas from your fellow publishers. Here are a few ideas:
- Take a look at how HBR expanded upon its free content to launch a marketplace for premium resources like case studies, books, and magazines
- Host sponsored webinars that allow advertisers to educate their target audiences (like these examples from AdAge)
- Use your media-meets-storytelling powers to host an event like FastCompany’s Innovation conference.
The list goes on. Media companies have infinite resources at their disposal: content and audiences are valuable building blocks. Not sure where to get started? Think back to the New York Times example in the first part of this blog post. Get your creative teams involved, and collaborate on how to add value.
Advertisers are looking for ways to be different and make a true impact. Stand out by offering a truly custom offering.
Last But Not Least
Make a commitment to start segmenting. The competition for audience attention is fierce, and you need to find a way to make a bigger impact with your target audience. The solution here is to get granular, and offer your advertisers a way to be more visible.
Don’t throw a link into an email and hope for magic. Stop blasting your audiences with one-sized-fits all messaging. Find a reason for your readers to pay attention. Your value to advertisers will follow suit (and increase exponentially as a result).