If you’re making any kind of digital content, whether it’s a corporate blog or a Snapchat account, you’re probably feeling pressure to deliver. Constant shifts in the market, never-ending platform updates, and improved mobile capabilities are all forcing digital publishers to focus on much more than just creating great content. The challenges of delivering great content, and then making sure that content provides real business results, begin before the first sentence is even written.
1. Cutting Through the Noise
Even before the influx of social media marketers, the world of online content had been crowded for years. The rapidly growing number of ways to spread information online continues to make it more competitive for creators to reach, attract and retain their target audience.
Beyond the obvious need to continuously improve your search engine optimization and paid promotional efforts, it is critical to focus on developing long-lasting relationships with your audience. Three proven ways to do this are:
- Develop a distinctive brand voice, and remain true to it. Part of this is maintaining a very clear and consistent point-of-view that makes you more easily recognizable.
- Learn from your readers and constantly try to ascertain their wants and needs. Use this input to consistently deliver the content and style they expect and appreciate.
- Connect with your audience as much as you can – both on your site and via your other owned channels. Make them feel heard, valued and appreciated. Find ways to empower your audience and provide a channel for them to give you feedback. Monitor social media channels for trending conversations relevant to your area and make sure that you’re providing fresh content.
2. Improving Monetization
Traditional web banner advertising has come under pressure as the use of ad blockers has increased. As banners have been (and still are) a monetization mainstay for online publishers, the impact of this change in user behavior is taking a toll on ad revenues.
While PC-based ad blockers have been widely used for quite a while already, the use of mobile ad blockers has increased dramatically over the past year. It is now estimated that more than 309 million people (representing 16% of the world’s 1.9 billion smartphone users) are already blocking ads on the mobile web by default.
So what can you do?
If you are not already using (or exploring) revenue-generating alternatives to traditional display advertising, it’s time that you do so. Here are four avenues worth considering:
- Try a Tip Model: Online display ads are an option for larger publishers, but they don’t scale down well to sites with less traffic. As an alternative, try using tools to collect tips or donations on your page like the Website Tip Jar. Your visitors can directly support your bottom-line and you can continue creating the content they love. It’s a great way to make the most of any sized following.
- Maximize Mobile Conversion: A large percentage of your readers are probably consuming your content on mobile devices. If you’re a site with a conversion point (whether you’re selling something or getting subscribers), analyze the differences in conversion rates from desktop and mobile devices. You may be surprised by what content goes further on mobile than desktop.
- Product Placements: More often used in broadcast media and video games, digital publishers are also collaborating with brands to mention, show and recommend particular products within and alongside their regular content. While more time-intensive to do right, it has the advantages of avoiding ad blockers and providing a seamless end-user experience.
- Subscriptions: Putting some of your content behind a “paywall” might make sense, depending on the value of your content and the loyalty of your audience. It’s an entirely different business model than most smaller online publishers are used to, so careful consideration is required.
3. Improving the Mobile Experience
While the use of mobile devices to consume online content has been steadily growing for years already, many digital publishers are behind in the mobile game. The latest data indicates that more than half of all online content is already consumed using mobile devices.
Transitioning your publication over to a “mobile-first culture” is key to successfully interacting with and engaging readers in what has become the primary browsing environment for many consumers. If you’re not already delivering a first-class end-user experience on screens of all sizes, you should make doing so a high priority during 2017. Be sure to review the content you publish (articles, design assets, sign-up or checkout process, etc.) on your mobile device. Make sure you’re familiar with your own website’s mobile experience as preparation for a shift in mobile optimization.
Achieving this goal requires a combination of technology and design. Assemble all the relevant stakeholders and come up with a plan to implement effective “responsive design” techniques to ensure that all your content (old and new) looks great on large and small screens alike. It might also make sense to publish a dedicated mobile app with which to distribute your content to readers (more about this in the next section).
4. Adopting New Technologies
Simply keeping up with all the new technologies available to digital publishers is challenging enough, never mind evaluating and deploying them! Yet, emerging technologies can provide substantial benefits in terms of the end-user experience, competitive advantage, and monetization. So, it’s important to stay on top of the latest and greatest options at your disposal and to implement the technologies that make the most sense for your content and your audience.
One example is the category of technologies available to deliver new video and multimedia ad formats, which can offer new presentation options, better streaming, better interactivity and better support for different screen sizes (and even entirely new types of devices, such as smartwatches, digital TVs, automotive infotainment systems). These new formats tend to be more immersive and can generate higher revenues than more traditional ad formats. Newer ad formats have names such as bumper ads, flyout ads, gravity ads, interactive takeover ads, pre-roll ads, pushdown ads, ribbon ads and wallpaper ads. For some examples, take a look at Google’s Ad Format Gallery, Smaato, and Broadstreet.
Another example is anti-ad-blocking technology which combats the revenue-decreasing ad blockers we mentioned earlier. There are a number of solutions available, each with its own angle. For example, take a look at Admiral, Ooyala, PageFair and Secret Media.
Yet another example is technologies to repackage content into native mobile apps that provide mobile users with a more enjoyable (and “sticky”) experience while also opening up new revenue opportunities for the publisher. There are many mobile app developers who can do this for you, or you can adopt a do-it-yourself technology, such as Paperlit, Magloft, GoodBarber or Imirus. Keep in mind that getting into the app market also means focusing on promoting your app and discovering techniques to encourage users to place your app icon on their home screens and use it daily!
There are many technological categories to explore; these are just some samples to expose you to ideas you may not have come across yet. It’s worthwhile allocating some resources to following technology developments relevant to the digital publishing industry. You might also consider attending a Digital Publishing Innovation Summit, where you can discover a wide range of options in a very short amount of time.