What Publishers Can Learn From Ziff Davis

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The recent announcement that Ziff Davis was acquired by cloud-computing provider j2 Global came as somewhat of a surprise. By all accounts, the $167M exit is a positive outcome for Ziff Davis, but it also proves the strategic value of branded content businesses.  There are several lessons to be learned here that that other publishers, looking to build businesses for the digital age, can take away from this success story.

Ziff Davis is best known to most for its flagship brand PCMag.com. But while most publishers are strictly content businesses—and feeling the strain as it becomes ever harder to monetize in today’s digital marketplace—Ziff Davis built a diversified business on the shoulders of its respected content brands. In addition to PCMag, they have several complimentary sites under their umbrella including Geek.com and Security Watch, building targeted reach as a result.

Taking the powerful audience it knows best, in-market tech buyers, Ziff Davis then created the BuyerBase platform to help marketers reach valuable in-market technology consumers across the Web. Most publishers are unable to offer advertisers significant scale in audience targeting, which makes it tough to compete with networks, portals and exchanges. An audience product like Buyer Base presumably allows Ziff Davis to do just that.

Finally, the third interesting component to its business model is LogicBuy, which offers consumer deals for tech buyers—again, the exact audience catered to by Ziff Davis publishers. Ecommerce strategies like this, which capitalize on the power of publishers’ own content, could well be an untapped goldmine many publishers.  When your business is content, you generate intent, but rarely receive credit for it, let alone revenue. In-house shopping and recommendation tools allow publishers to tap into the billions of dollars beyond advertising that lie in ecommerce.

Build well-known, respected content that attracts valuable audiences. Leverage the power of data to extend those audience segments and make them scalable across the broader Web. Tie in an ecommerce business that caters to those audiences’ interests.  While not all publishers will be able to follow the exact steps that Ziff Davis took to build a truly valuable business (and attractive acquisition), they can learn from the strategy behind it: leverage the power of your content and brand to enter the adjacent, profitable markets that make the most sense for your audience.

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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