Guest Columns
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Redefining the status quo – how publishers must evolve to thrive in this new era

OPINION

In recent years, the emergence of user-centric business models has enabled companies – the likes of Uber, Airbnb, Netflix, and others – to quickly create a place of choice, both for the general public and within their respective sectors. However, the model of monetizing a product or service, without owning or having produced it, is nothing new. In fact, this is how the duopoly of Google and Facebook came to dominate the digital advertising industry.

To what do these new platforms owe their success? A few contributing factors, and publishers should pay attention if they plan to stay ahead in 2020 and beyond.

Redefine the status quo

The meteoric success of Uber and Airbnb is largely in response to ignoring conventional media models and choosing to ‘zag’ where others ‘zig’, thereby adopting a user-centric approach. In today’s digital era, company success depends on the ability to leverage online channels and hyper-connectivity in order to reinvent industries, rather than be constrained by processes that are no longer relevant. Success is predicated on building experiences that are intuitive and personalized to customers, with the consumer experience being at the core of one’s business strategy. This is a transformation that the publishing industry, which creates websites based on newspapers printed 100 years ago, has struggled with and must grasp.

Become customer-centric

To regain shares of digital advertising investments, publishers must adapt to today’s customers and match their desire for intuitive experiences that minimize efforts towards conversion. Publishers stand to benefit from new strategies and technologies found in other industries to acquire, engage and retain customers. Take the example of Discord, a platform specialized in text, visual and audio communication for gaming communities, which has since ranked 17th in the US App Store without having relied on any paid acquisition. By spending less time observing their direct competitors, publishers will have more time to observe and learn from all types of innovative platforms. Putting customers at the forefront may not guarantee a company to become the next ‘giant’, but it is indeed a recipe for progress and subsistence within the ecosystem.

Personalize experiences and content

Like the famous and endless “year of mobile”, personalization is expected to be one of the main trends every year. The year 2019, however, truly marked an important development in matching the user to the right content, in the right place and at the right time. The context in which it is delivered has also become just as important as the quality of the content produced. While many publishers still think of personalization as inherent to content, it can also be extended to experiences – a key to success for the duopoly, whose easy-to-adopt platforms are personalized according to users’ interests.

Moreover, forward-thinking publishers can push personalization to subscription models, or adapt advertising formats and their distribution to users’ consumption preferences for greater relevance. For example, a user on the move will be more receptive to a push notification received on their smartphone in the form of a title, or audio content to listen to on their journey, rather than long editorial content or video that they could consume on their computer later in the day. All of this, however, will involve recognizing changes in consumer habits and taking them into account.

Consider native advertising as a strategy over format

With the proliferation of intrusive formats and fake news, the ecosystem has lost the trust of many consumers. By offering formats that are well integrated into content and respectful of internet browsing, native advertising has established itself as the future of digital when industry players seek more responsible media. Native advertising is not only about formats that will continue to evolve and provide impactful and non-intrusive user experiences, but a 360° approach to the ecosystem that will allow digital advertising models to thrive and preserve publishers’ media activities.

Victor Charpin, Head of Platforms, Outbrain

About: Outbrain is the world’s foremost discovery and native advertising feed for the open web. A third of the world’s Internet-connected population explore and discover information through its feed technology, which is trusted by brands and integrated into thousands of media companies’ tech stacks to manage and monetize their publishing operations. Outbrain operates in 55 countries and is headquartered in New York City with offices in 18 cities worldwide. www.outbrain.com.

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