Published Articles

Email As User Identity

Email is your primary identity on the Internet, one that you carry with you for life. It is the first thing you set up on your new phone or computer, and for website owners the most effective way to reconcile 1st party data. What does this mean for publishers? Find out in my article in Publishing Executive:

Why Email is an Easier Way to Establish User Identity

Getting Audiences To Pay

There is a macro-trend in publishing towards Pay Walls, which are a fundamental departure from the advertising business model in that audiences pay directly for the content. This model won’t work for every publisher, and the rule of thumb is that your content must be differentiated and high quality for it to work. So when the quality is mostly behind the paywall, how do you actually get readers to convert? There’s a chicken and egg problem here: users won’t convert without seeing the value, but the value is behind the paywall. I addressed this topic in my first guest post at Martech Series.

Getting Audiences to Pay When Everyone’s Behind the Paywall

Browser Push for Publishers

Browser Push hasn’t generated much hype recently, but given the now universal support across browsers and devices, it will. Publishers should be highly motivated to diversify their channels away from Google and especially Facebook, and browser push is a great complement to email. Browser Push is an additional direct channel that you own, can reach your audience at a time of your choosing, and literally buzz their pockets.

Browser Push can be highly effective if done right, but is easy to screw up. Read my article in Publishing Executive to learn more.

The Power and Pitfalls of Using Browser Push Notifications

 

3 Hard Truths

Despite writing this article before the recent announcement of Facebook finally kicking publishers to the curb, it is still just as relevant. My strategic advice to publishers has consistently been to treat Facebook as, at best, a frenemy.

The industry is at a turning point, and publishers need to decide what type of publisher they are going to be:

  • large-scale commodity publisher with low production costs, or
  • high-quality publisher with paid subscription models, or
  • niche-content producers with small audiences sold to advertisers directly

Read the full article on Publishing Executive:

The 3 Hard Truths Publishers Must Face in 2018

Update: this article was one of the top 12 articles on PubExec.com in 2018.

Personalize Your Business Model

My byline in MarTech advisor on personalization of content (pay) walls. This is effectively personalization of the business model to your audience segments. You think that first time visitor from Facebook is going to convert on your paywall? Nope, but you can expect much higher conversion rates by offering them something lower hurdle, like a 7 day guest pass in exchange for their email address.

How Publishers Can Use Personalization to Increase Subscriptions

Subscribers vs. Subscriptions

My byline on iMediaConnection about the revenue benefits of increasing the number of subscriptions, on top of getting new subscribers. Or said another way, drive your engaged audience to subscribe to more than one newsletters. The more subscriptions you have (per subscriber) the more revenue you generate at all levels of the monetization funnel. Give your subscribers multiple, category-based newsletters to choose from, and cross promote. A corollary to this is that having one (personalized) newsletter to “rule them all” is bad for business. It may sound glib, but the more email you send, the more revenue you generate.

Forget Subscribers: It’s All About Subscriptions

Personalization Doesn’t Solve the Real Problem

1-to-1 personalization was nearing the end of the marketing hype cycle, when it suddenly morphed into something-something Artificial Intelligence. Regardless of how it is actually implemented, personalization is not the solution to publishing industry’s main problems: how to counter decreasing advertising CPMs and how to take back control of their audience from the platforms. At best, personalization can increase engagement of already engaged subscribers. As a solution, it’s got more in common with the “show more ads on the page” strategy for increasing revenue than it does with something that can actually change the course of publisher business models.

I expand on this in my contributor post at the Association of National Advertisers: The Truth Behind Personalization: Why It Doesn’t Solve Publishers’ Biggest Problem

How Programmatic has Hurt Publishers

This is a byline I wrote for PerformanceIN. While PerformanceIn is an advertiser focused publication, publishers are a critical part of the ecosystem so their woes should be of concern to advertisers.

The gold rush to programmatic created a digital “tragedy of the commons,” with too many publishers providing too much inventory supply, and CPMs began to plummet. This might sound like a good thing for advertisers – after all publisher revenues are advertiser costs. But publishers are supplementing their falling revenue simply by placing more ads. This hurts the reader experience, erodes trust, and reduces ad performance due to systemic “ad blindness.”

How Programmatic Has Hurt Publishers and Why Advertisers Should Care

Politics and Email

Email has always been a (maybe the) lucrative way for political organizations to raise funds come election time. I was interviewed by USA Today on this topic … I really wanted to say more, but I have several political advocacy clients at PostUp that send exactly this kind of email and wanted to respect their privacy.

Campaigns see dollar signs in AOL email addresses

This article ran in the paper edition also. At least I can check “quoted on the front page of USA Today” off my bucket list.

Facebook Engagement … or not

In reaction to the latest of Facebook’s publisher harming algorithm and product changes, I was asked by State of Digital to suggest ways to boost engagement on Facebook. In fact, the best way to use Facebook to drive engagement is to use Facebook to establish a direct relationship with your audience (the Facebook one publisher’s don’t actually own), so that you depend less on Facebook as a channel.

10 Ways to Boost Facebook Engagement Without Ads

10. Encourage Fans to Interact via Other Channels

Brands can also use social media to encourage interaction via other more direct avenues like email.

“This newsfeed change is cause for publishers to stop building their greatest asset on borrowed land,” said Keith Sibson, vice president of product and marketing at email marketing firm PostUp. “Publishers and brands must figure out how to stop being reliant on social platforms for developing their audience. There is great reward in organically nurturing and growing audience relationships.”

Google to Punish “Popups” on Mobile

When Google changes their algorithm publicly, everyone should take notice. In this case, Google is penalizing “intrusive interstitials” in mobile search results. Fair enough, these interstitials are often annoying and spammy, but there’s a real risk to legitimate publishers just trying to engage their audience. I wrote an article on Martech Advisor about how to avoid these problems. (Note that I did not choose the title, I’m not encouraging anyone to circumvent Google’s crackdown, only to stay within Google guidelines as to what constitutes a good mobile user experience.)

How to Circumvent Google’s Crackdown on Mobile Pop-ups

Cautious Optimism for Publishers

Leading product and marketing for an email technology company, I suppose I could be accused of bias when saying that email is part of the solution for many of the publishing industry’s current problems. However, the fact that publishers need to establish a direct relationship with their audience is something that I truly believe, and email just happens to be the best way of doing this. Getting an invitation to the inbox is extremely powerful.

Here’s my section from Columbia Journalism Review’s article, Publishers’ New Year’s resolution: more experimentation, cautious optimism.

Strengthen relationships with readers through email

With the death of the homepage, readers spend less time engaging with the full slate of any publisher’s content. To circumvent the algorithms Facebook and Google use to determine who sees what, connecting directly with consumers often requires getting to their inboxes.

“Email is the direct relationship with the audience,” says Keith Sibson, vice president of product and marketing of PostUp, which provides email marketing platforms to clients including NBC, Disney, and The Golf Channel. “Whereas a lot of the things going on in the digital publishing world are about people coming up against an intermediary in that relationship, Facebook being a really big part of that.”

For many publishers (including CJR), email newsletters are a way to share content they want to highlight with consumers who have signaled their willingness to engage. “When someone signs up on a publisher website, and provides their email address, what they’re essentially giving is an invitation,” Sibson said.

Getting that invitation is the first step towards deepening a relationship with consumers that exists outside the walled garden of social platforms. Once readers have engaged enough to sign on for a newsletter, publishers have the ability to tailor content for that user’s interests, from politics to cooking. Many outlets have already embraced this strategy; The Washington Post offers 65 separate newsletters that readers can choose from and The New York Times sends out 53, including seven that focus on ‘special offers’ that provide deals on products offered by premium advertisers.

Whether by partnering with advertisers to bring consumers specific products or simply drawing readers directly to an outlet’s website, email provides an end run around the dominance of Facebook and Google, and while they’re no silver bullet, the prevalence of newsletters shows that many publishers have already realized this. “Email is not going to change publishing businesses overnight,” Sibson says. “But it can become a very big part of their revenue streams.”

DMN “Contrarian Week”

Digital Marketing News featured my thoughts on 1-1 personalization as part of their contrarian week. I don’t always go against popular opinion, but being a marketer, product manager, and computer scientist I do tend to see through the hype associated with marketing technology and trends.

Marketers Have to Stop Chasing One-to-one Personalization.

Marketers have to be relevant in order for their efforts to be worth anything. But chasing the elusive (and difficult to achieve) goal of 1:1 personalization may actually be hampering revenue potential. There is a way to remain targeted and relevant and provide a great user experience while increasing the LTV of each individual user in your database, and a category-based program might just help you strike that balance.

My byline in Publishing Executive

Programmatic advertising is, paradoxically, the creator and the (potential) destroyer of the modern digital publishing industry. This article is about how the industry got there.

How the Ad-Driven Business Model Derailed Medium & Why Publishers Need to Think Beyond Programmatic.

Programmatic & The Tragedy of the Commons

A notable exception is BuzzFeed, which built a successful business based on programmatic. But most traditional publishers couldn’t afford to pay the rent, let alone journalists’ salaries and the electric bill with the money that programmatic generates today. BuzzFeed took the low cost model to an extreme, capturing a huge share of audience attention, but with none of the costs associated with actual journalism or content production. Essentially, BuzzFeed took $10 billion of revenue from the publishing industry, and turned it into $1 billion of revenue for BuzzFeed.