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2016: The year for publishers

There was a time where new-age digital publishers were ahead of their traditional counterparts when it came to traffic growth. But things changed quickly, and in 2015, we saw the incumbents speed up. Many of the high-profile publishers evolved their digital offerings and achieved significant traction gains.

They possibly found content marketing.

Growing at an unprecedented rate, content marketing has captured the marketing world by storm. But while each stakeholder plays a role in its success, there is one thing we need to acknowledge – the role of the publisher is possibly the most important.

After all, publishers have a distinct advantage with the capacity to control what gets featured on their pages, who consumes that content, and for how long. In many ways then, they are in a unique position to build their brands, increase revenues and focus on user engagement.

But the key is to stay ahead and stay relevant.

At a time when content marketing is taking the world by storm, leveraging search engine optimisation tactics is not enough. In fact, that is a given. Evolution instead demands for a change in attitude and operations.

Let me explain.

Develop a mobile-first strategy to content
Recent studies – including those by Outbrain – show that there’s a powerful connection between the growth of mobile technology and the increase of content consumption on smartphones and tablets. We are spending more and more time consuming content on our mobile devices and this is one trend we won’t see changing.

A study by Millward Brown recently revealed that among global multi-screen users aged 16-45, videos are viewed for more than three hours a days, with time divided between TV and other devices. Of the non-TV viewing time, one-third is on mobile devices – and this is possibly increasing by the minute.

So, isn’t it only natural that content is then shaped that way?

It’s time for both publishers and brand marketers to move away from desktop-only site maps and constructions – or one-size fits all content – to one that is as intuitive and native to mobile platforms. Take the plunge, make the investments and challenge the industry the push the envelope and create content that is mobile-first in its application. It’s really about time!

Make measurement a priority
Like with many new marketing disciplines, marketers are struggling to identify ways to effectively track and measure the impact of content marketing in a standardised manner.

Whilst some bank on primary metrics such as traffic to a brand’s content, others have taken to standard web metrics such as time spent on a page, articles consumed during a visit, etc. Very few are able to effectively track the impact of content marketing on the last mile of purchase.

At the end of the day, the emerging need that content marketing is meant to fulfil is engagement – a big step away from the display world, where the ad impression holds a lot of value.

As such, publishers that take the initiative to work with brands and content creators to develop relevant and sound measurement frameworks to measurement the impact, are more likely to benefit in the long-run.

Take a data-driven approach to content discovery
The concept of finding the most interesting stories on a homepage, is dying. A leaked report by The New York Times stated that the newspaper had lost half of its homepage traffic in just two years!

Our consumption habits are changing and consumers are instead being led from one piece of content to another through improved search and social recommendations. Content discovery platforms like Outbrain are also increasing in popularity, and contribute anywhere from 25 per cent to 40 per cent to a publisher’s income, making it the second most popular source of revenue for the publishing house.

Publishers need to identify the right partner and ensure that its solutions are embedded in their systems from the get go. Access to data and insights are also key as they enable the publisher to better target and engage their audiences – and higher engagement rates would help publishers in turn get quality advertisers.

Sandeep Balani

Sandeep Balani is Director Business Development, India at Outbrain.