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A New Wave Forward for Publishers

December 05, 2018 Publishing

The CredSpark team recently returned from the 2018 Business & Information Media Summit (BIMS), where leaders in the B2B publishing world gathered to meet and discuss trends, innovations, and disruptions happening in the industry.

You don’t have to be an industry insider to know that media and publishing businesses—especially advertising-supported print publications—have been through a maelstrom of havoc and disruption over the last decade, wreaked by the Internet and the painful transition to new, more viable business models.

But this year, we noticed that a long-lost friend had reappeared: Optimism.

There was a palpable sense that the bottom has been hit and those in attendance had not only survived, but also discovered several viable paths forward to growing their audiences, providing more value for their advertisers & readership, and at long last, increasing revenue.

And all of these opportunities revolved around one recurring topic: Audience Data.

Riding the Data Wave: Publishing’s Path to Growth & Profitability

Based on session topics, vendors in attendance, and our ongoing conversations with publishers, editors, and advertising directors, there are four major, data-driven aspects to this new business model.

Proprietary Audience Data

Once dependent upon newsstands, controlled circulation, B2B industry conferences, search, aggregators, and social media to drive readership, publishing and media companies are coming to a new realization: They simply can’t rely on outside sources for their audience data.

The risk is too great. Case in point: The big social media platforms have literally put media companies out of business with small changes to their algorithms or publication polices (recent case in point: Mic.com.) In addition, with outside digital traffic, much of that audience data stays right where it is when readers click over to publisher sites to consume content. From demographics to interests, publishers simply don’t have the visibility they need to truly understand their audience segments.

That’s starting to change. Tired of being burned by Facebook, Apple, Google, and others, media & publishing companies are now starting to build the infrastructure needed to build and deepen their own data capabilities. This gives them the capability to move beyond cookie-driven ‘surface metrics’ and into deeper insights into their audiences, including content/topic knowledge, consumer needs & interests, and purchase intent. And that data opens up a world of possibilities for new products & services that publishers can offer their readership and sponsors.

Interactive Content & Advertising

One of those opportunities is interactive advertising. The ubiquity of digital ad space and consumer “tune out” of online banners have combined to drive down the pricing power that publishing & media companies can get for advertising on their content properties.

However, this new focus on audience data opens up opportunities for publishers to create interactive content for their own editorial purposes or for sponsors. These native interactive experiences allow readers to engage more deeply with content, increasing page views, clicks, time on site—and most importantly—provide additional data such as lead information, topic knowledge, purchase intent, and more. Imagine a potential advertiser faced with buying banners for pennies a click or getting actual leads with contact information and those peoples' answers to crucial qualifying questions. Which would the advertiser choose? You guessed it. And how much would they pay for it? A lot.

Interactive advertising harnesses your audience data to provide real value for sponsors & your readership; and it puts pricing power back in the hands of publishers. Plus the tools to achieve it are affordable & easily implemented, providing a quick return on investment.

> See how EducationWeek harnessed interactive content to drive revenue.

Market Research

Publishers are also beginning to recognize the revenue potential in developing custom market research products and services for their sponsors. They’ve been leveraging native, interactive content experiences like surveys and assessments to gain valuable insights into audience behavior, demographics, interests, and intent. This has been especially valuable for publishers with niche audiences formed around certain industries, subject matter, or geography.

Market data is a clear differentiator for sponsors and they’re willing to pay a premium to those media outlets that combine the right audience with deep data and insights that are specifically aligned to the sponsors' business needs. In addition, people enjoy expressing their opinion. So, not only do research products drive sponsor revenue, they also increase reader engagement and offer distinct opportunities for PR and marketing outreach.

> See how Business Travel News created a proprietary research product for the travel market.

Deep Personalization

The publishing & media industries are just now starting to take notice of the possibilities surrounding AI-driven personalization. And it was a big topic at the BIMS conference.

Publishers can leverage deep personalization to drive engagement and revenue in multiple ways, enabling a quick return on a surprisingly affordable initial investment. Many publishers in the B2B sector are diving into events, online learning, and proprietary research and data products. Personalization offers them a way to capture data on audience preferences, purchase history, content needs, and more; and then use that data to create personalized recommendations for each individual audience member. It can direct users to specific content, learning modules, conference sessions, & more—all based on their specific inputs.

This deep level of personalization creates more engagement with content, drives incremental sales, and delivers qualified prospects to sponsors. Why? Because Deep Personalization delivers relevance. Deep Personalization is a true greenfield for the publishing industry and a terrific revenue opportunity for those who can deliver on it effectively.

> See how Reed Exhibitions uses AI-driven personalization to increase engagement with its conferences & events.

Don't Miss the Data Wave

At this year's BIMS, we could finally see a publishing & media industry turning the corner and optimistically looking towards the future. It was clear that this bright future is being driven by proprietary audience data. Publishing companies—big & small, general & niche—have the best opportunity in years to grow their audiences and drive big revenue growth...if they catch the data wave. 

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