If I Were a Publisher, What Would I Do?

| Industry + Media

Publishers are at a critical juncture. As digital puts their businesses in an ever-accelerating state of transition, more attention should be accordingly placed on solutions and strategies to help them grow their businesses digitally. But if you pay attention to the content for publishers discussed on stages at industry events and in trades, it’s generally centered around a few topics: programmatic, data, and the general erosion of the banner-based business. These are important topics but in my opinion, have been somewhat exhausted.

So, in the spirit of advancing the conversation for publishers, here’s a little brainstorm. If someone handed me the strategy reigns at a major publisher tomorrow, here are five areas that I’d look to focus on right away as opportunities.

  1. Viewability. I was surprised to see relatively little attention paid to the recent Google announcement that a viewability solution would be added into DFA sometime in 2013. I believe that this will accelerate the adoption of a viewable impression standard which is currently somewhat stalled. The implications for publishers are numerous and significant, and could unlock a lot of value. However right now, too many publishers do not know or understand the viewability of their own site. I would begin working with a variety of vendors to understand the viewability levels of my own site and build a roadmap for late 2013/2014 that would put my business in the driver’s seat when it comes to viewability.

  2. Rising Stars. The IAB Rising Stars – larger, brand-focused banner units – play to several current trends: viewability (see above), increased brand budgets, and native/content distribution. Undertone released some research earlier this year that showed that budgets for Rising Stars would increase if buyers had more trust that publishers could implement and scale these units. This is a signal for publishers to get serious about Rising Stars. I would build a roadmap for implementation, understand what inventory levels would look like, and roll out packages for the sales team ASAP.

  3. Industry PR. PR is important for overall awareness, competitive leadership, and being able to tell one’s own story in the media. And demand for publisher stories are high – ask any editor or conference organizer. Yet there are very few publishers that have a consistent presence in trades and on stages. Look at The Weather Company. They are everywhere, and I’m sure it’s paying off in awareness of their new direction, interest, and ability to connect with customers as a result. If internal policy was an issue, I would work aggressively with my team to figure out how to work within existing guidelines.

  4. Social. Digiday had a good article last week that showed how the Harvard Business Review is using social. It’s a blueprint that any publisher can follow. The reality is that social is (or can be) driving a significant amount of traffic for any publisher. At the same time, it’s important to understand the various platforms and how user experience should be optimized for social visits.

  5. Mobile Web. Similar to the point above about social – a typical publisher can see up to 30% or more of traffic going to their mobile and tablet websites. It’s also related to the point above since, increasingly, social is a discovery vehicle for the mobile Web. It is critically important to create a mobile Web presence that is conducive to user and advertising experience. In fact, unless my mobile native app was a hit, I would divert all mobile resources to the Web and have my social/mobile teams work closely together for the above reasons.

These are just a few ideas. There are more—and I’d love to hear from people who have them. In my opinion the opportunity is wide open for publishers to get creative and take a leadership position.

Eric Franchi

Eric Franchi is co-founder of Undertone and serves as senior vice president of business development, leading the company’s relationships with its most important partners. A respected industry leader, Eric has been featured in publications including Ad Age, Adweek and The Wall Street Journal, and on stages worldwide including IAB MIXX, Advertising Week and Cannes. He has held a place on the board of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) for several years, helping guide the digital advertising industry through a period of rapid growth and change.

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