Publishers Pen A New Playbook For The Platform Era

Google AMP, Facebook Instant Articles, Snapchat: It’s enough to make a publisher’s head spin.

With so many third-party distribution points, publishers need to be in constant test-and-learn mode. Yet too many fall into a trap of leaning too heavily on platforms – or not enough.

When it comes to succeeding with platform distribution, half the battle is figuring out when to build, when to partner and when to simply borrow, said Jarrod Dicker, head of commercial product and technology for the Washington Post, during Videonuze’s Video Ad Summit last week.

Although WaPo has distributed content using Facebook’s Instant Articles, being a private company owned by the ever-experimental Jeff Bezos allows the publisher to take a more educational rather than operational approach to platforms, Dicker said.

For instance, the Washington Post might evaluate Google AMP’s approach to mobile page optimization while at the same time thinking about how to bring the AMP concept back to its owned and operated site and build formats for itself.

Similarly, Mashable, a Snapchat Discover partner, took a page from the platform playbook with its recent launch of Mashable Reels, a vertical video format that mimics the look and feel of Snap and Instagram Stories by letting consumers swipe through a series of animated graphics.

“It’s very Snappable, and [an example of] how you can leverage platform partnerships to create a [similar format] on your own,” added Paul Marcum, president of Truffle Pig, an agency joint venture backed by Snap, WPP and Daily Mail.

Whether advertisers will ultimately prefer to buy vertical video from a platform like Snap or from a publisher like Mashable or the Washington Post remains to be seen, but publishers shouldn’t expect a built-in ROI from newer ad formats, at least not immediately.

“You should never underestimate the value of the shiny and new,” Marcum said.

But publishers with an appetite for experimentation are appealing to advertisers.

“Whether or not an advertiser buys a format like Reels, it attracts an advertiser looking for innovation,” Dicker said. “It shows you’re willing to take a risk as a publisher.”

But platforms are the frenemies that publishers can’t do without. And if you can’t beat ‘em, then partner. Bloomberg Media, for example, is striving to strike the right balance in its platforms strategy between building and partnering.

Even though Bloomberg has built its own ad units in the past on Bloomberg owned-and-operated properties, such as a swipe-able video unit called Responsive.TV, lately, it’s trying out larger platform partnerships.

Later this year, when it launches the 24/7 live-streaming news “network” TickTock on Twitter, Bloomberg will collaborate with Twitter on new ad units.

But for now, Bloomberg’s Twitter partnership is primarily about trying to engage its most loyal readers while simultaneously moving the needle on revenue and advertiser interest, said Michael Shane, global head of digital innovation for Bloomberg Media.

Bloomberg sees platforms, whether Facebook Live, Apple News or TickTock, as a way to “reward the segments of its audience who tell us they care about us,” Shane said.

“We realize only a smidge of people will come to our O&O from [third-party] channels and sign up for a newsletter,” Shane said. “The Bloomberg website is one of the most expensive sites to advertise on in the world because it’s a premium audience of 60 million users, so we realize we don’t have to engage with everyone.”

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