As Publishers Pivot For Sustainability, Editorial Needs A Seat At The Table

By Stephanie Himoff, VP of global publishers and platforms at Outbrain

This article is sponsored by Outbrain.

Already battered by years of marginalization from walled gardens, media owners on the open web are looking over a cliff. The deprecation of third-party cookies promises to hamper targeting on their sites, threatening to wipe out 52% of their inventory’s value.

Meanwhile, the walled gardens continue to strengthen their barriers and command a greater share of every incremental dollar spent on digital. Open-web publishing is still searching for the right balance between advertising and subscriptions, still negotiating uneven paths toward first-party data, still grasping for stable ground.

One thing is clear: The problem of revenue is not one that can be divorced from product – which is to say, content. Each monetization channel implies a new direction for editorial, whether it’s native content, personalized feeds or newsletters.

The wall between business and editorial is sacrosanct for many publishers – and for good reason. But these are extraordinary times for publishers. As someone who works directly with many rev-ops teams across the globe at Outbrain, I’ve come to believe involving editors on the business side of publishing decisions is actually the ultimate sign of respect. Here’s why.

A complicated pivot and a valuable exchange

Let’s start with the substantial monetization challenges that every publisher faces today. Many of these challenges have arisen due to the mounting barriers to digital display ad revenue: ad blocking, ad blindness, plummeting CPMs, you name it. Properly monetizing content through interruptive executions has never been less feasible than it is today. The digital display ad model that drove our industry 20 years ago simply isn’t relevant anymore.

To counteract the structural decline in digital display CPMs, publishers have sought out new ad formats and more diversified revenue strategies powered, in part at least, by reader revenue. These usually take the form of tiered subscription models in which readers help fund the content either directly with their own money or indirectly with their personal data or attention. Either way, success with these models hinges on reader experience: Publishers must give readers a reason to hand over money or PII and explore paid content experiences that are integrated into the site itself.

In other words, publishers today are relying on the strength of their content experiences to build a more sustainable future. Which begs the question: Why is editorial so often denied a seat at the table when it comes time to make decisions related to the monetization of the site experience? Who understands good reader experiences better than editorial?

Rethinking the impermeable wall

Typically, when companies start talking about breaking down the wall between the editorial and business sides of a publishing organization, it conjures the image of executives peering over the shoulders of editors, telling them what to publish and how to do their jobs. But this isn’t reflective of the reality at today’s top publications.

Among editors, content quality, objectivity and a strong editorial mandate remain the top priorities. But that doesn’t mean they’re not intimately attuned into the needs of the business when it comes to retaining readers and converting their attention into revenue. Editors want to be part of the conversations that drive their companies forward, and often their voices deliver the most constructive ideas.

Editorial understands that content only connects with readers when it’s surrounded with a strong user experience. Every component of how the content is being monetized counts: ads, sign-up prompts, sponsored content, recommendations and native advertising included. When it comes to selecting and designing these elements, editorial needs to be integrated into the process all the way from high-level concepting through to execution. With a finger on the pulse of their readership, editorial can ensure that what actually appears on the site functions as intended and aligns with a strong reader experience.

Now is the time for publishers to be rewriting their future. Across the board, we see the best monetization and reader experience results when these savvy voices have a prominent seat at the table – and editors need to be able to choose their long-term partner to help them with data and make more informed decisions. Who better to understand the value of content at a profound, innate level than its masters?

 

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