Digiday Publishing Summit Europe in Budapest

After returning from the Digiday Publishing Summit in Budapest in 2019, I collected my thoughts on the key themes. There were some really insightful conversations. For me there were some consistent themes throughout: Diversification – Life beyond the cookie – Ad blockers and Subscriptions.

4 key themes:

1. Diversification

Well no real surprise really that publishers need to look at diversification of revenue! But what was interesting was how varied some of the areas are. The Washington Post (owned by Jeff Bezos) created products they are now sharing with other publishers (page optimisation etc). They have created a tech company separate to the rest of the business. The Post is just one of their customers! 

The move towards paywalls and subscriptions is growing as publishers look to monetise their consumers. They provide a better experience for their subscribers, ensuring they remain loyal and engaged. The Financial Times has been quite successful in this area. They announced at Digiday that they have now passed 1 million subscribers. They planned to double this in the next year. The FT shared some of its learnings (and diversify its business) by launching a new consulting unit called FT Strategies. This offers FT resources, knowledge and experience to provide publishers with a consulting partner resource. It will be interesting to see how this develops!

What is very clear is that publishers continue to diversify to survive. No area is free from where revenue can be gleaned, hence the need for a flexible booking platform that can meet those needs. I think this is exactly why we created BrightMEDIA.

2. Life beyond the Cookie

Publishers have relied on third-party tracking cookies in recent times to track and understand users behaviour. Nearly all ad tech uses cookies for targeting, retargeting, display advertising and behavioural marketing in general. That’s all about to change now!

Cookie-blocking technology led by Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) and Firefox’s Enhanced Tracking Protection (ETP) block third-party cookies by default. Even Google’s Chrome is doing something similar, although they are talking to publishers (maybe they have an interest in the advertising side?).

Browser-level blocking, third-party ad-blocking apps, and regulations such as GDPR and the new California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) are relegating the cookie to the past. Once the CCPA is in force, this type of legislation will gradually roll out throughout the rest of the US.

With GDPR rules having control is very important so the need for a central CRM is so important. You need to be able to record legal information and have a platform that is, and will remain, compliant.

3. Ad Blockers

This continues to be a source of irritation to publishers, especially with some adhering to initiatives like the Acceptable Ads Program. The Acceptable Ads Program establishes a set of criteria for ads that are less invasive and annoying. Publishers should not show the full content and definitely not premium content if your ad blocker is on!

Ad blockers came around due to the invasive nature and poor experience that many sites created. Get the experience right and the need for ad blockers should go away. There is certainly an onus on publishers to do their part in this.

4. Subscriptions

The biggest topic around diversification was with subscriptions. Maybe we are at a point now in what people are prepared to pay for? We are so used to paying for subscriptions now, it can be anything from a car to a dental plan, Netflix; the list goes on…

With subscriptions and paywalls, publishers are trying to make these much more sticky, with premium content and incentives for retention. Happy subscribers = high retention rates!

The whole subscriber journey and how for most publishers getting initial retention (first few months) is hard. What was interesting is how some had addressed this. It was clear that for a lifetime value, you have to invest in providing the subscriber a great experience. Make them feel valued and provide content directly relevant that cannot be found outside of the paywall. Don’t give them a reason to leave.

My favourite session

I really enjoyed the talk from James Henderson (CEO Zephr) and Matt McKenzie (SVP News Corp). It was around how insight and data were informing the customer journey regarding subscriptions, from targeted to the lifetime value.

This subscriber journey and maintaining lifetime value is where understanding the subscriber and all of their touchpoints is so important. You need to service the subscriber, understand when renewals are occurring and the personal preferences of that subscriber. This where having a CRM like Salesforce is so important. It’s that view and what you do with the information that allows you to provide the best service.

Digiday dinner