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Do Publishers Have To Be Technology Companies?


IP publishers plug inPublishers don’t just brag about their content anymore – they talk about their technology, which amplifies their voices in a world of social sharing, content recommendations and sorting algorithms. But what’s the balance between being a technology company and content creator?

On the eve of the Industry Preview conference, AdExchanger asked three of the panelists on “This Is Digital Publishing in 2015” session this question:

“How can publishers find the right balance between being a content creator, a platform and a technology integrator?”

Click below or scroll down to read their responses.

Dao Nguyen, publisher of BuzzFeed

“These things are not in conflict with each other. A digital publisher is both a content creator and a technology platform, whether they like it or not. … It may be somewhat counterintuitive, but having a really creative editorial team helps the technology and platform become more creative and powerful as well. … Too often “editorial” and “technology” are pitched as opponents. When this happens you have a vicious cycle of teams not being aligned.

Here’s an example that illustrates this point. One of our most viewed articles covering the Boston Marathon bombing was a list of pictures of the tragic event. The photos were very graphic and some readers had a strong reaction to them. So the technology team built a “Graphic image, click to see it” feature that editors could use to place over graphic images. Readers could click (or tap on mobile) to see the image if they chose to. … Our editors were then inspired by this feature and asked to use it over images that weren’t graphic at all, like for spoilers or jokes. … Other parts of the editorial team then used this feature to experiment with new forms of storytelling. The platform evolved to support that. Everyone wins!”

Jon Steinberg, CEO of North America, MailOnline (DailyMail.com)

“The expressions of what publishers are tend to overcomplicate the matter. If you’re technology or if you’re media, we are all creators of editorial. … The difference between being a TV company and web company will dematerialize over the years – the line between CBS and Yahoo doesn’t make a lot of sense. … With advertising we’re trying to balance monetization with user happiness: TV advertising is the most intrusive, dominating form of advertising – you can only watch eight minutes before a commercial and, for some reason, people don’t complain about it. … It comes down to the fact that the contract is clear when you watch broadcast TV, you know that it’s free, and that contract is fair.

With digital advertising, the contract isn’t there and often isn’t fair: data is being taken in ways that they didn’t agree to. We can solve a lot of problems if we make that contract clearer with video advertising. There, you’re getting 10-20 times the CPM of display, and we’ve got a shot at getting that right. We can show less advertising because of the higher CPMs, and we can be clearer with the end user about how much advertising they have to be exposed to in order to see the content.”

Troy Young, president of Hearst Magazines Digital Media

“All publishing companies need to have a deep technological expertise, because technology is required to manage distribution. Historically, all publishing companies have had the ability to do that. To me, distribution equals technology, and technology equals platform. We need to be data scientists and technologists, but we also have to do what we’ve always done, which is create the kind of content that’s filled with tension and wonderment and delight that brings consumers back to our brand. When … brands [have] to distribute content in many different places, technology becomes really important. …  At Hearst, we have a concept called Media OS [operating system], which makes the curation, creation, syndication and analysis of the business of editors much easier. The platform makes editors competitive. … If you write a post, you need to understand: How it will look on all environments? What kinds of posts are successful? When they are successful, how do you make them more successful? How do you change the experience if the person arrives from Facebook or Pinterest? And how do we present the right next piece of content to consumer?”

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