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Recapping The Publishers' Forum 2016

Recapping The Publishers' Forum 2016

We touch more people [today] than we have ever done in our lives” opened Piers North, Strategy Director for Trinity Mirror on Tuesday morning at The Soho Hotel in London.  Piers kicked off a packed half-day of discussion at Brightcove’s 2016 Publishers' Forum, shading his excitement about the opportunities in front of media leaders with cautionary tones about the market forces that they are confronting.  This became the style of the day as leaders from La Stampa, The LAD Bible and other publishers delivered presentations interspersed with insights from Brightcove and our partners from SpotX, Google and Twitter.

Let’s hit a few themes that got significant airtime during the day, each framed with a quote from Piers’s “Navigating the Storm” talk.  Roughly:

  1. Scaling content while maintaining differentiation
  2. Publishing into platforms vs. the open web vs. apps
  3. Where are the revenue opportunities?

“We are not going to pivot to become a tech business - I think that’s a dead alley.”

Piers acknowledged the bias inherent in his background as a journalist when he asserted that newsrooms like The Mirror’s have capabilities that are uniquely valued by their audiences and are strengths to which publishers should play.  The ability to create content above the noise can translate into new lines of business he noted, as evidenced by The Pride of Britain, which Trinity puts on with a hefty sponsorship from TSB or, in the case of B2B pubs like MediaWeek, an event like the very Brightcove summit at which he was speaking.

In his slide full of headlines illustrating industry “Consolidation and Cooperation”, he pointed to the efforts of content companies to gain scale through acquisition or collaborative ad-selling partnerships.  It’s a worldwide trend with perhaps no deal getting as much visibility as the pending Tribune-Gannett tie-up in the U.S.

“c.55p in every £ in digital display is spent with Google or Facebook”

While certain brands are breaking through on social platforms like Facebook and Twitter to achieve tremendous scale, questions remain about the vulnerability of content businesses dependent on Facebook’s algorithm or about the different ways that platforms let publishers monetize.

On the first problem, Mimi Turner from The LAD Bible shared some huge stats for that brand’s audience and engagement across numerous social platforms, that demonstrated how The LAD Bible is mitigating its Facebook dependency while generating revenue with brand integrations that travel with the content and avoid ad blockers.   

Theo Luke from Twitter followed Mimi’s social success story with an update that EMEA publishers, like US pubs can now, will be able to use Twitter Amplify to monetize all of their video with 6, 15 or 30 second ads while allowing advertisers to leverage Twitter’s targeting by the end of the year.

However, Giuseppe Covato, Chief Technology & Innovation Officer at La Stampa, pointed out that innovation on the platform side isn’t always good news.  Some are building their own, potentially competitive, content operations and so La Stampa recognizes the need to emphasize mobile web as much as apps or walled gardens. La Stampa has invested in Instant Articles and AMP, but Giuseppe also shared how they are creating a new video-focused solution of their own, having dubbed 21 videos, to work with other publishers to verify and collaborate on breaking news.

Google’s Nick Harthan backed the importance of the open web, noting that while it netted only 13% of consumers’ time as compared to 87% in apps, the reach of the mobile web is far greater and it’s far easier for a publisher to scale audience there.  The comScore data he shared showed that 3x the number of UVs visited the top 1,000 mobile websites as compared to apps but the audiences that did use the apps were 20x more engaged than they were when using the mobile web properties.  So there are opportunities for pubs to deliver faster and richer mobile web experiences – the latter potentially through an outgrowth of AMP that Google calls Progressive Web Apps.

On the AMP front, a few data points that seemed to be of interest to the room included:

  • 40% of users abandon pages that takes more than 3 seconds to load
  • AMP pages are 4x faster to load than regular web pages and use 1/10 of the data
  • When a search term is trending and there are more than 3 publishers who have AMP-compliant pages relevant to that term, then Google will present AMP results at the top of the SERP in the carousel

In the face of the “relentless automation of the buying process” publishers need to embrace data to offer “better reasons for advertisers to do private marketplace deals with [them].”

On revenue-related topics, Leon Siotis supported Piers' assertions in his presentation, "Trends from the Sell Side". He noted that a typical insertion order in 2016 might have shed a number of individual publishers in order to make room for a broad “audience line” and “a data line” and that the percentage of private exchange programmatic deals had grown from 25% in April of 2015 to 42% in March of 2016.   Content owners need to get smart about their audience data to take advantage.

With the opportunity I had to address the room on ways to improve video ROI, I shared our work with Leon’s colleagues at SpotX as a partner to support VAST 4.0 in the context of server-side ad insertion (SSAI) – a valuable method of helping publishers increase ad delivery in the face of ad blockers.  We also spent some time on understanding viewability – both as something that can be provided even with SSAI and more generally as an element of a publisher’s IO that can command higher CPMs.

I wanted to thank all of the speakers and publishers who spent Tuesday AM with us to further our community’s abilities for “Navigating the Storm” and the London team who put the event together.  We’d love any feedback from those of you who attended.