Digital media disruptions XVII - advertisers revolt, but subscriptions show promise

Profile picture for user jreed By Jon Reed June 8, 2017
In this edition of digital media disruptions, we find advertising at a precipice, while subscription models surprise. 3D goggles and personalized chatbots keep us on our toes.

Yes indeed - it's time for another gut-check of digital media disruptions - the enterprisey review. Rules: I pick the impactful stories from my media disruptions channel and give them a hard look from the enterprise side - along with a course of action. This series is NOT geared for the media industry, but for enterprises looking to win audiences.

Lead story - Forrester Sees Advertiser Revolt as Beginning of the End |
by: Jack Neff
key excerpt: "Display advertising never worked like we pretended," Forrester's report says. "CMOs know this already, but nobody wants to talk about it." Forrester cites the familiar problems of poor-quality ad placements, barely existent clickthrough rates, non-viewable impressions and rising ad blocking."

Forrester isn't exactly going out on a limb with their assertion that online display advertising is in trouble. But - the last few months marks the first time digital ad spenders like Proctor & Gamble are pulling back, questioning ads' effectiveness.

But as Tom Foremski reminds us in More Bad News For Media Industry In KPCB Internet Report, you can win in the digital ad industry. It's just bad news for every media site not named Google or Facebook. As per the new Meeker Internet trends report, these two behemoths now haul in an estimated/whopping 85 percent of all Internet advertising, up almost ten percent from last year.

enterprise relevance: medium. Most enterprises are not stuck in display ad models. It's media companies addicted to ad revenue that are going through the karmic spank tunnel now, such as Google and Apple's pending - and welcome - crackdown on autplay videos.

best course of action:

  • Limit digital advertising spend to targeted keyword and/or demographic platforms (Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, etc.) that return a quantifiable profit on monthly ad spend.
  • Redirect all digital ad budgets into other forms of marketing, with consideration towards content marketing, advocate and influencer marketing. The underlying goal? Opt-in audience building.
  • Redefine visibility goals based on a map of the most relevant communities and events in your company's industry. Have a long term plan for presence in those spots, based on involving your own experts in those communities.

Five industry experts give their insights into emerging subscription models
by: Jamie Gavin
key excerpt: "Looking at The Lawyer, by 2013 we were in steep decline. By that point all you can think about is holding margin, cutting costs, and so on, and it can be a thankless task. We looked at everything and the first thing we said was okay this has to change. We did some research and we found that our readers really valued news, insight and data, so our strategy from there was to move to a high value/subscriptions based model."

One of the most surprising/promising response to display ad revenue woes is to push into paid subscription models. Often this means a content rethink and deeper investment in data/analytics. I could probably write a whole article on this Fipp piece - which details subscription success stories at five publications.

enterprise relevance: high - most companies wouldn't charge for content subscriptions, but the power of content sign-ups as a next level of value/data exchange is real. Earning attention is a lot easier when folks have invited you into their inbox. We can learn from these success stories, which include narrow-casted publications that provide clues into a vertical content focus.

best course of action:

  • Study the ups and downs of paid media subscriptions, and how media companies are are evolving their data/analytics to make this happen.
  • Examine how media sites are experimenting with subscription lead-ups (e.g. "ten articles free") and how they gradually earn more data on audience members. Study what's doesn't work, or what seems too invasive as well.
  • Evaluate how email fits into other subscription audiences. Track UTM codes to hone in on the subscription and/or follow channels with the most traction.

More fresh subscription use cases: Washington Post, Breaking News, Is Also Breaking New Ground, and, even more optimistically, How the Internet Is Saving Culture, Not Killing It.

This is how The New York Times is using bots to create more one-to-one experiences with readers
by: Andrew Phelps
key excerpt: "I think this is happening now because we’re moving toward this more personal relationship between news organizations and their readers, and the rise of bots happens at this moment because it really facilitates those relationships."

enterprise relevance: medium, depending on chatbot resources and use case. This is nifty look into how the New York times found there was a reader appetite for text-based, personalized content - but it couldn't scale. Until the Times tried it with bots, or, more accurately, a blended bot/hand-crafted mix. And yeah, they are toying with similar concepts on Alexa as well.

This is really the convergence of a couple of trends: chatbots with a limited-but-useful scope, and the rise of messaging environments as a preferred medium not just for chat with friends, but for commerce and consumption.

best course of action:

  • Consider setting up a media lab or sandbox project to test new forms of consumption e.g. messaging environments. If you have a chatbot investment, experiment with how personalized content delivery might be incorporated.

Bonus content - a few more stories worth tracking.

These pieces were picked from my curated channel, enterprise media disruptions. You can also view the entire digital media disruptions series.