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Weekly Roundup: Latest Adtech Trends, A New Bipartisan Privacy Bill, Publishing Strategies, And More

"Consumers should have the option to engage with internet platforms without being manipulated by secret algorithms driven by user-specific data"

Summary

  • NFL and other sports-related topics are becoming the new favorites of the US audience. Last year, political content created most of the buzz on news sites.
  • Earning reports of top publishers show that there’s still a lot of potential in the subscription business. Ads and subscriptions can exist and grow together.
  • Boston Globe’s journey of digital subscriptions shows that you can command a high price if your content can provide unique value to your audience.
  • Group Nine has created a new source of revenue with branded product boxes. It curates brand-sponsored items and sends them to its sweepstakes winners. The publisher charges a flat fee for the campaigns.
  • Privacy-centric Google alternatives are gaining momentum in the market. But, the opponents are currently too small to give a tough competition to the search giants.
  • A new bipartisan bill seeks an algorithm-free environment for users. Critics argue that personalized content can violate privacy, promote extremism, and cause addiction to the services. So, online platforms should provide an option to access non-personalized versions of their content.

Ad Tech Trends For Publishers

Changing Reading Habits In USA

NFL and other sports-related topics are becoming the new favorites of the US audience. Last year, political content created most of the buzz on news sites. Taboola’s research on 1400 news sites shows NFL, football, and ESPN were among the top 10 topics of interest during the last month. On the other hand, 18 of the top 20 stories were related to politics during October 2020. Coronavirus is consistently the no.1 news topic in the US, but the interest is slowly falling among the audience.

Source: Axios

So, publishers of political content can expect a decline in traffic, whereas sports publishers can witness an increment. 

Changing Revenue Mix

Digiday has analyzed the earnings of four media companies to highlight the changing landscape of online publishing. Here’s what you should know:

  • Dow Jones’ revenue increased by 15%, and the majority of it comes from circulation and subscriptions. It had an 18% YoY growth in subscriptions. 61% of its total ad revenue came from digital formats, up from 56% in Q2 2021.
  • Gannet earns more from its legacy business, but digital is catching up slowly. Its digital revenue grew by 18% YoY in Q2. Its digital-only subscription business is growing rapidly, and the company aims to reach 10 million subscribers within the next five years.
  • Meredith’s digital revenue increased by 24% YoY. Digital ad revenue is up by 24%, whereas subscriptions and newsstand sales increased by 10%.
  • The NYT gained 320,000 news subscriptions, whereas 135,000 subscribers for non-news products. Its digital-only subscriber growth has decelerated from 50% to 25% YoY.

The trends show that there’s still a lot of potential in the subscription business for publishers. Ads and subscriptions can exist and grow together. The NYT even has subscriptions for its crosswords and cooking app, etc. So, subscriptions aren’t limited to editorial content only. You should keep exploring such opportunities.

Boston Globe’s Journey In Digital Subscriptions

The Boston Globe started promoting its subscription at $1 for six months at the beginning of the pandemic. Most of the publishers were doing the same as there was a high appetite for subscriptions among readers. But, as the promo ended, the publisher moved to its regular pricing, and people started to cancel their subscriptions. The publisher was expecting the dip, and it continued till January before reaching stability.

“I would say if you are not on the analytics team, it could be a little disorienting for people to see like: whoa, what are these big dips? But really, it was pretty much expected just because of the way we grew and how we grew so quickly.”

Tom Brown, Vice President

Ultimately, the revenue from retained users started making up for the lost introductory subscriptions. This year, the publisher expects the revenue to grow by 30%. Interestingly, the publisher found that the retention period of subscribers is the same in the long term, no matter if they were acquired via promotions or not.

Boston Globe subscriber retention

The Globe’s a dollar per day subscription plan is costlier than its rivals. For instance, the NYT costs around 60 cents a day. Despite the high price, people are paying for the Globe because it provides a unique value to the user:

“You can obviously subscribe to the New York Times or somewhere else for more of a national perspective. But they don’t have the depth and breadth of what we do in our region, which I think is why we have a very sophisticated regional reader and subscriber base. And they’ve agreed with us in the sense that they’ve been willing to pay a premium price.

– Tom Brown, Vice President

In conclusion, we can say that your user acquisition strategy can play a vital role in the success of your business. Also, you can command a premium price if you can deliver value to your readers.

Group Nine Has A New Source Of Revenue

Group Nine has created a new source of revenue with branded product boxes. It curates brand-sponsored items and sends them to its sweepstakes winners. The publisher helps the brands in finding the right boxes to sponsor. The sponsorships for this program have brought in at least $1 million in revenue in the first year. Group Nine hopes that the program can bring revenue in eight-figures. The brand gets the participants’ details for marketing, the publisher receives a fee, and the users enjoy the competition. It’s a win-win-win situation for all the involved parties.

Would Your Traffic Shift From Google To Its Alternatives?

Axios says that the business of privacy is booming. Rising distrust towards the big tech companies is boosting the growth of privacy-centric products. Many small companies are creating browsers, search engines, plugins, and many other products that limit Google and other ad tech companies from tracking users. Accelerated adoption of such products is building a small competition for companies like Google and Facebook. Which are some notable products, and how are they faring currently?

  • ProtonMail, the end-to-end encrypted email service, expects to hit 75 million users in 2022, up from 50 million in June.
  • DuckDuckGo says it saw a 55% increase in downloads between June 2020 and June 2021.
  • Brave, a privacy-focused web browser, says it now has 36.2 million monthly active users, up from 18.3 million in August 2020.
  • A new privacy-oriented search engine, You.com has recently raised $20 million in funding.

How big a dent can such companies form in Google’s business? We can’t say much because there’s no comparison between the tech behemoths and these startups. But, if the privacy wave continues to grow stronger, we can expect changes in the big tech’s modus operandi. The deprecation of the third-party cookie and the development of privacy sandbox are the early signs of the upcoming trend.

A Bipartisan Bill Against Personalized Content

A new bipartisan bill seeks an algorithm-free environment for users. Critics argue that personalized content can violate privacy, promote extremism, and cause addiction to the services. So, online platforms should provide an option to access non-personalized versions of their content.

“Consumers should have the option to engage with internet platforms without being manipulated by secret algorithms driven by user-specific data,”

– Reps. Ken Buck (R-Colo.)

The companies with fewer than 500 employees, those with annual gross receipts lower than $50,000,000 in the last three-year period, and those that gather data on fewer than one million users annually are exempted from the bill. It means most publishers wouldn’t have to alter their content recommendations. But, if you acquire traffic from social platforms like Facebook and Twitter, their algorithm-free versions can impact the flow of visitors from these sources.

It’d be too early to draw any conclusions right now. First, we should see whether it becomes a law or not.

Moments That Matter

How spammy sites that rip off obits end up running ads from major brands – Morning Brew

The 100k Club: News websites with most subscriptions ranked – Press Gazette

Google loses appeal over record-breaking $2.8 billion EU antitrust fine – Insider Intelligence 

Automatad Team

At Automatad, we help publishers to monetize better without hampering the user experience. Our products are live across hundreds of publishers, earning them incremental ad revenue with every passing second. You can request a free audit to get an estimated revenue uplift today.

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