How Publishers Can Stay Ahead in the Changing Digital Landscape

2020 is bringing changes to data, privacy, and transparency, and publishers are faced with navigating an uncertain future.

With Google’s unified pricing rules and move to first-price auctions, new (and upcoming) data and privacy regulations, and the potential of a cookieless ecosystem, publishers are feeling the pressure to adjust their business strategies to continue to grow revenue.

At Publisher Forum Vancouver, four themes dominated our conversations with publishers. The four themes to emerge were:

  1. The Future of Data
  2. RIP to the Cookie
  3. Investing More in Audience
  4. Creating Niche Content and Exploring New Verticals

Read on to learn more about how publishers can plan to reshape their strategies to optimize revenue into Q4 and beyond.

The Future of Data

Data is at the forefront of everyone’s mind. But what does data actually mean? That part is fuzzy, and for good reason. The looming regulations are often vague, with fast approaching timelines to comply, and many questions around long-term consumer privacy standards. Not only are data regulations daunting, but most publishers don’t realize the responsibility put upon them to maintain legal compliance, or how they can harness that data (and turn it into revenue).

When we talk about “data,” we’re talking about two separate—but related—topics: data privacy, and data revenue. Intelligent data use, and intelligent data monetization has become—and will continue to be—increasingly important as privacy regulations become more widespread. Consumer privacy is at the forefront, potentially limiting the amount of user data available throughout the ecosystem—and creating a good deal of both risk and opportunity for publishers.

Harnessing data collection offers a completely new avenue for publisher data revenue, and the intelligent use of data (e.g. engagement data, purchase intent, etc.) can be used to strengthen a holistic business strategy. As the data market shrinks due to regulation, the data that publishers do have will only become more valuable. 

Ultimately, healthy data revenue and data privacy plans lead publishers to better business decisions that ensure they see both short-term growth and long-term success.

RIP to the Cookie

The future could very well be cookieless, and publishers might assume that the road to tomorrow’s revenue lies outside programmatic (e.g. contextual advertising). However, that’s not totally the case.

By investing more in page-level reader engagement, publishers can move beyond contextual advertising alone, better understand their existing audience, and create more value for themselves as well as demand partners.

While cookies may not survive beyond 2020, there are still powerful ways to understand and action off of reader interest. Engagement metrics (like clicks, scrolls, and mouse movements) give an incredibly clear picture of reader interest, as well as indicate high value for demand partners. Better yet, tracking user engagement is a cookie-free process.

By investing more in page-level reader engagement, publishers can move beyond contextual advertising alone, better understand their existing audience, and create more value for themselves as well as demand partners.

Investing More in Audience

Publishers want to grow their readership and resonate more deeply with their existing following. Digital advertising has allowed for the introduction of many independent publishers, making audience loyalty even more important to secure. One big question at Publisher Forum Vancouver was, “How do we bring more value to our audience, and connect with them on a deeper level?” 

The answer: meet your audience where they are and give them what they didn’t realize they needed.

Creating Niche Content and Exploring New Verticals

At one time in the not-so-distant past, finding content online was a new and shiny toy for readers. Today, publishers are looking for the next opportunity to resonate with users. They want to connect with a wider audience through new verticals and build rich content that appeals to niche audiences.

We discussed with publishers a number of growth strategies, from the creation of publisher-hosted conferences to focusing more on specific platforms like App and Video, to acquiring and/or segmenting their markets into user verticals to better create laser-focused content. 

Ultimately, publishers are ready to build new content and engagement strategies to capture an untapped (and potentially underserved) audience base.

So, What’s Next?

No matter how the tides change, digital publishing isn’t going anywhere. But publishers are unclear on how exactly to best tackle the next era of online media. From diversifying monetization strategies to identifying partners that add value to different parts of a publisher’s business, it’s clear that there is a lot of opportunity on the other side of ‘traditional’ programmatic, and 2020 will be the year to explore those new avenues.