Once upon a time, The Washington Post took a conservative approach to digital platforms like Facebook. Then Jeff Bezos bought the paper and everything changed.
The latest episode of AdExchanger Talks brings you an in-depth discussion with Jarrod Dicker, WaPo’s head of commercial product and technology, on the publisher’s aggressive experiments with Facebook Instant Articles, Google AMP, Apple News and Snapchat.
“For us Facebook Instant Articles wasn’t just going to be a driver for more traffic or more revenue, but a way for us to educate ourselves on how users engage on these platforms,” Dicker says. “It’s quite scary for a lot of people, but it’s something that’s been highly embraced.”
But there are downsides, including the extraordinary effort required to staff up for platform opportunities and the unpredictable behavior of digital giants. Recent reports in The Atlantic and Digiday note several publishers have soured on Instant Articles after their content appeared to fall out of favor with Facebook’s algorithm.
Dicker says the pain is real – and it’s not only felt on the content creation side of the house. The sales team is continually being given new things to sell, and the last think you want to do is confuse your sales guys with shiny new objects.
The value of Facebook, especially for Instant Articles sold through Audience Network, is the backfill, Dicker says.
“If you’re not getting backfill to the point where the margins don’t make sense, then of course you’re going to pull out,” he notes. “You don’t want to tell your seller, ‘Here’s another line item you’re going to help push for Facebook.'”
That said, WaPo is still “all-in” on Instant Articles and its platform strategy as a whole.
“There is no argument that Facebook is beneficial to publishing,” he adds. “The other products we build, Fuse and other ad products, are a direct response to how we see users engage on these platforms.”