To Survive, Publishers Have To Focus On Building Trust

The Sell Sider” is a column written by the sell side of the digital media community.

Today’s column is written by Rob Beeler, founder of Beeler.Tech

Be honest: You’ve engaged in a bit of “dead pool” discussion about our industry.

Who isn’t talking about what hurts digital advertising the most? Will we be regulated to the point that we can’t operate? Will the Godzilla vs. Mothra vs. King Kong battles of Big Tech crush all of us in ad tech Tokyo?

Well, that got dark quickly. 

Here’s the deal – there is no doubt publishers are at a crossroads. Multiple threats make navigating forward complicated. But as “fun” as it is to bet on what dooms us, might I suggest we start placing bets on what saves us?

For publishers, the way forward is difficult but clear. First, take stock in what you have. 

You have visitors. I’ve yet to see a study that shows that people are wanting to consume less content. And those who consume media understand that advertising funds their experiences. They may not understand our business, but they’re not blind to how ads work. However, they also have a limit to how much advertising they will endure. 

The key is to move beyond advertising. Diversify your revenue streams. Spread your bets across channels that might give you better odds.

Newsletters are a launching pad

If you haven’t launched a newsletter subscription program yet, do it. A subscription to your newsletter is a vote for your brand. It signals that consumers trust you enough to let you into their inbox.

Most newsletters find their way into spam folders. But to me, that is an issue of execution: If your newsletter is valuable enough to the reader, it will get read.

Put a price tag on content

A fair value exchange is a key element of revenue diversification. Whether it’s a paid newsletter or a gated part of your site or app, charging for exclusive content ups the ante: As a reader, if you value my content, it’s time to pay for it. Of course, it’s essential to offer a truly curated or unique experience to justify any added costs.

Consider ecommerce and events

I’m a big believer that publishers should invest in ecommerce solutions. NBCUniversal’s Checkout is an example of a publisher reducing the steps a person needs to take to buy a product by integrating the ability to purchase within their sites. In the process, they can help their partners understand buying patterns and move product. It’s not a natural fit for most publishers, but ecommerce sites know their customers. They have to convert. Publishers need to do the same.

More publishers should also consider event-based businesses, virtual or in-person. ComplexCon, for example, may sound like an idea only suited for specific types of publishers, but isn’t the audience for every site a community waiting to come together? So why wouldn’t you bring them together?

Building trust with visitors

If your current strategy as a publisher is weak content paid for by advertising, your future is in question. 

The only way to future-proof your business is to center it around your relationship with your visitors. That relationship must be built on trust. Publishers often assume that trust is in place when it is not. 

That’s why diversification is important. Ultimately, it’s an exercise in measuring and establishing trust with your audience. If I can’t trust you, do you think I’d give you my email address? Or buy a product? Or attend one of your events? Flip that around: Imagine you have visitors that do trust you enough to have such a relationship. That’s a business with potential. It’s a first-party relationship and with it comes first-party data.

But trust does not come from one interaction. It’s built over time. It’s not one conversation but many. As you look at your interactions with your visitors, from asking them to remove ad blockers to paying for a subscription, these conversations all have to align.

Publishers have only one way forward: creating personalized conversations with your visitors that establish your value proposition and trust. That’s the foundation upon which to weather any storm.

Follow Beeler.Tech (@BeelerTech) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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