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MEDIA PERSPECTIVES - November 1, 2017

Editor's Note:

I just wanted to let my readers know that I've created a blog where I will be posting essays and articles I've written on digital and online marketing. It's an extension of Media Perspectives. I hope you continue to read and enjoy!

Here's the link: Jaffer Ali's Blog - Perspectives from a Media Contrarian

Thanks for Reading!

Publisher's Simple Path To Profit
by: Jaffer Ali

"For rational beings will of course try simple things first and thereafter be driven step by step towards an ever enhanced complexification."
--Nicholas Rescher, Complexity: A Philosophical Overview

I have been writing and commenting on Internet marketing, online publishing and e-commerce for over twelve years now. It doesn't take much self reflection to see that the vast body of my work has been a critique of conventional wisdom.

Nowadays, however, faced with an industry panicked and bloated by its own excesses, there is precious little "wisdom" to critique. What I mean by excess manifests in many ways, not the least of which is our penchant for seeking solutions to basic problems by employing more and more complex methodologies.

Behavioral Targeting is just the latest incarnation of complexification. It's a great example of what to avoid when at first we don't succeed with something simple. We have bypassed simple common sense in favor of complexification.

Professor Rescher would say that this is not rational.

To ignore simplicity for complexity's sake is to act/react irrationally. The Internet is God's gift to complexification because so much of what we can imagine can now be rendered by 20-something technicians who lack the experience to consider the ultimate wisdom of their ways. After all, theirs is not to reason why; which explains why few of them do.

Publishers and advertisers alike are caught up in the same mad dance of complexification.

So let's try to simplify things for publishers through a more rational approach by asking them: With your revenue per thousand page views now less than $1/M, couldn't you make more money if your content was viewed on an advertiser's site?

Stop a minute to ponder this simple statement. Slow down, turn down the music in your head and read it again.

Let's say for example that someone visits your website to read an article on Lebron James. They read the headline on your home page with a link for the full article. Now here's where it pays to get simple: Deliver that reader to StubHub where the article appears in its entirety. You have now bundled content and visitor to an advertiser ready and willing to pay for both.

If not StubHub, perhaps Nike or Adidas would like that visitor (and content) on their site. My informed opinion is that advertisers will pay more for visitor-chosen content and content-qualified visitors bundled together. How so informed? We own and operate EVTV1, one of the first video portals ever created, an actual predecessor to YouTube.

But we, too, found ourselves in the inexorable grip of complexification: we bought big-time into pre-roll and content syndication, imbedding our video player on hundreds of websites and sharing sparse revenues while developing ever-more sophisticated tracking systems. All of it seemed perfectly "reasonable" at the time, but all of it proved every bit as irrational as Behavioral Targeting. Our earnings on EVTV1 and across our syndication network sank to $3 per thousand visitors.

But then one day in the shower I heard myself ask: What if the video view took place on the advertiser's site? We already have great licensed video content, and we have a player we can imbed on any site. Why not imbed the player and play the video snack on the advertiser's site? Why not use video snack thumbnails (instead of ads) as bait to attract qualified video snackers? After all, no one wants more ads, but everyone with high-speed access snacks on video.

So we began to bundle and deliver the streamed video snacks and the video snackers directly to select branded destination pages - in exchange for a negotiated bundled snack and snacker fee. Of course the advertisers must develop special branded destination pages with campaign-specific calls to action, but they appreciate the fact that the only brand exposure (or risk) across our entire publisher network of more than 20,000 sites occurs on their own branded destination pages. True accountability, virtually no network fraud, and no need to invest in any expensive and spurious targeting technologies, just three reasons why our cost-per-visitor fees are so far below the industry average.

Yet just when we had it figured out, we actually stopped trying to sell to outside advertisers. We turned our focus inward instead through the creation of product-specific destination pages for products from our own (already successful) e-commerce site. We decided to eat our own clicks the moment we realized that we made more money delivering bundled video snacks and snackers to our own product offers than we do by selling them to third parties. Plus, since we don't pursue outside advertisers, we waste virtually no time and energy on relationships with agencies, almost all of which live (and bill) for irrational complexification. The publishers in our network are happy making more money than if they imbedded the player on their site and we are own best client.

This is simple, effective and delivers the right audience to the advertiser, which in above case is our sister company. The path to profitability is simple: let go. Let go of your traffic. Let go of your content. Let go of your specious targeting algorithms. Let go of complexity. Let go of failure.

We always knew content could build audiences. It only stands to reason that it should deliver them as well. And so, in the words of Budweiser, that's what we do: we build and deliver audiences, period. Simple, don't you think?

If any publisher out there wants to tread a more rational path, give me a call. I answer my own phone. The number is 708-478-4500 ext. 105.


Original Article: Publisher's Simple Path To Profit

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