Part 1 of 2
For many, January is about new beginnings, but if you’re running a media business, it’s about solving the problem of how to build upon what’s already in place. For us at Praetorian Digital, it’s a time for budgeting and planning for growth—financial, audience, traffic and engagement—as well as setting fresh expectations for the team.
For me, it’s also a time of worry. What are the major risk factors affecting my business? What opportunities do I not want to overlook?
The media industry continues to be in a state of rapid change and evolution. Consumption behaviors continue to shift from print to online to mobile. As a digital-only B2B media company, we’re lucky enough to be in the right place, but there are plenty of meaty challenges to grapple with. Here’s what’s keeping me up at night as we kick off 2015 and how we’re approaching each challenge.
1. Responding to Nontraditional Competitors and Programmatic Buying
As publishers, our competitive landscape has rapidly expanded over the past 10 years. From Google to Facebook to SEO and beyond, advertisers have more options than ever for investing their marketing dollars. Plus, more companies are adopting the “brand as publisher” mentality, investing in improved capabilities for in-house content creation, Web design and marketing automation—limiting their reliance on agencies and publishers alike.
Additionally, programmatic buying is becoming more prevalent in digital media, accounting for $10 billion in US display ad spend in 2014; it’s projected to account for 50 percent of spend by 2017. This trend presents a major threat to advertising spend for publishers and requires us to consider to what degree we should participate.
At Praetorian, we’re exploring DMPs and DSPs, and investing in our audience segmentation and demographic data capabilities so we can maximize monetization of unsold inventory, but also so we can be smarter and better engage larger advertisers directly with premium inventory. More broadly, we’re assessing how we, as a publisher, can better compete, and how we expand our product line and rev up our value proposition to capture a growing share of spend in light of what promises to be an even more competitive media environment ahead.
2. Adjusting to an Increasingly Mobile Audience
Every publisher is grappling with how best to capitalize on the growth in mobile traffic, as well as mitigate the negative impact on ad revenue. In a given month, more than 50 percent of our traffic might come from mobile. That number seems likely to grow in 2015.
Addressing the mobile trend isn’t as simple as blowing up your site and converting it to a responsive WordPress-style blog. We’ve seen publishers react hastily and overhaul their sites abruptly, introducing a dramatically different user and advertiser experience. This has, in some cases, led to significant traffic drops and audience erosion.
Our approach has been more measured. We’ve been careful with our redesigns, striving to make necessary upgrades while preserving a familiar user experience and avoiding negatively impacting desktop use cases (such as product research that are often most valuable to our advertisers). It’s an iterative approach that has been more gradual, but has allowed us to monitor impact from smaller changes and collect user feedback. Early returns have been positive, and 2015 will be a year of continued analysis and experimentation.
Solving the mobile problem carries with it significant rewards, but it’s a delicate balancing act to optimize for one user experience without negatively impacting others.
3. Growing Recurring Revenue
There’s nothing worse than coming off of a strong year of revenue growth and having to start the New Year at zero, re-pitching last year’s clients and trying not just to match but exceed last year’s performance.
In publishing, one-time revenue and annual planning are a reality we all face, but how can we move our advertisers towards recurring programs that deliver consistent results and renew automatically? What data, technology or subscription products can we offer our advertisers or our audience that leverage our content capabilities and industry expertise to address pain points or unmet needs?
For me, it means always looking for and being open to ways—whether via acquisitions or in-house projects—to expand the scope of our business model. We actively track our percentage of revenue that is recurring and are constantly investing in developing that segment, from enhancing our current advertising products and developing premium user subscriptions to launching new businesses, such as online training and grant assistance for vendors.