Neil Vogel, CEO of Dotdash, and Bryan Goldberg, CEO of Bustle, answered some of the industry’s top concerns in rapid-fire Digiday member event.
Last week, Dotdash hosted the most recent Digiday member event in the company’s hip Times Square office. Neil Vogel and Bryan Goldberg faced off in a rapid-fire session of True/False led by Digiday’s editor-in-chief Brian Morrissey. The below prompts have sparked much conversation in the Twenty-First Digital office, so we compiled our notes and personal takeaways to share a brief recap of the evening’s discussion.
1, True/False: Mashable was not the last. More fire sales are to come in digital media.
True. There’s a storm of media companies caught in merger and acquisition hell right now. Once the dust settles, there will be more change. There’s a trend of digital media companies trying really hard to look more like a profitable tech company right now in order to make themselves more attractive to potential buyers.
TFD Takeaway: Stay true to your mission by continuing to build a business around bringing the best possible service and brand experience to your niche. Stay nimble with your content and don’t be afraid to evolve, but don’t try to be something you’re not.
2. True/False: Relying on Google is just as dumb as relying on Facebook.
False. Google is a monopoly from every angle of the media business. For better or worse, that isn’t going to change any time soon. We’re forced to rely on Google heavily and adapt our strategies in a way that ensures we’re helping Google answer queries for their users.
TFD Takeaway: Smart publishers are producing content that truly provides their market with the product/information they’re looking for and Google rewards this work by increasing your search visibility. Attempts at manipulating Google to improve your SEO will be outsmarted faster than you can implement. If you’re publishing well-built, thoughtful content consistently on a healthy site, Google will be your strongest ally.
3. True/False: The pivot to paid will fail for most publishers.
Mostly true. With the exception of publishers like The New York Times, a paywall provides one more point of friction for your audience and unless you’re producing content that your market truly can’t access through any other publisher, you’re likely going to sacrifice more than you earn in terms of audience and subscriber acquisition. Goldberg even suggests that a subscription-first model is a mistake for even the biggest publishers, explaining that the efforts necessary to continue appealing to the audience on the inside of the paywall could lead to an echo chamber of content that narrows editorial and advertising opportunities.
TFD Takeaway: Publishers who have been charging for subscriptions for a while now are ahead of the game in the ‘pivot to paid’. But that doesn’t necessarily translate to the idea of a paywall. Paywalls are hard, there’s no getting around it. There are technology costs, the costs of integrating with your fulfillment house, say nothing of the challenge of getting your audience to adapt and starting paying for your online content. Before you start putting up the gates and assume your audience will gladly open their wallet for content they’ve been getting for free all along, consider your value proposition and consider how that will roll into your other product offerings, mainly your print subscriptions.
4. True/False: Relying on display advertising for the majority of your revenue in 2018 is insane.
False. While Google and Facebook (the “duopoly”) are getting more than the lion’s share of digital ad dollars, they’re certainly not the only place where display advertising is thriving. Don’t use the duopoly as an excuse.
TFD Takeaway: Stay competitive with a suite of data-driven display options and sharp return reporting to your clients. Your value is your niche audience and your ability to engage this audience and communicate this actionable engagement with your clients is what will enable you to continue to thrive in the display ad space.