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Becoming by Automatad, Inc.

Becoming Series – If They Can Do It, You Can Too

Being a publisher has never been harder. Both the users (time) and the buyers (money) are spending on the duopoly and other walled gardens. Even with the header bidding and adoption of video ads, most publishers find it difficult to move the needle.

As you all know, we’ve always wanted to educate publishers about the opportunities and what’s happening in the ad tech.

So far, you can keep up with the adtech by simply reading an email (Adtech weekly roundup – once a week) and learn the basics with our decode series.

Now, we’re pleased to continue our offerings to you by starting a new series – Becoming.

So, What’s Becoming?

It’s a series where we’ll cover how top digital publishers reached where they are today. What steps did they take, and most importantly, how you can replicate it. You will find interesting ad revenue numbers and strategies implemented by the publisher. 

Don’t worry, we will include both the ups and downs and try to cover the growing stage of a publisher so that you can relate more. Okay, enough talking.

Let’s Get into the stories!

The Guardian

The persistence and individuality of the publisher are inspiring. It’s not easy to sustain and grow your presence across the globe while battling against the downward sloping revenue graph. In fact, The Guardian’s survival was in question a few years back as the publisher was burning cash consecutively and on the verge of going bankrupt. But now, it’s in the path of breaking even by 2019.

Continue reading…

The Guardian Ad Revenue

The Bleacher Report

Though they’re not a bootstrapped publisher and has been raising funds for years, we decided to cover their story because of two reasons.

– They were born and raised in the midst of the 2008 financial crisis. It’s not easy to raise funds and continually build a community when the market is collapsing.

– The uphill battle faced by the publisher, especially against the likes of ESPN, NBC, etc. is dramatic. This means we all can bag a lot of lessons from it.

Continue reading…

Becoming the Bleacher Report

The Financial Times

Everyone in the adtech knows the ft.com for its whooping readership and successful paid membership model. But there’s more than what meets the eye.

They pioneered the online news space and have initiated the paid subscription model. They took the necessary risks and of course, had their struggles during the early years.

It took 7 years for Financial Times to get into the black

In fact, they still do. Even last year, they only managed to get just £6.2m profit on revenue of £310.7m (Src).

Continue reading…


When we hear Pitchfork, we often tend to see the grand events and impressive revenue numbers. As always, there’s more than what meets the eye.

Pitchfork was started by a high school kid (just after graduating), Ryan Schreiber with no prior experience in writing and online publishing.

This means you won’t see any staggering traffic or revenue in the beginning. The hockey stick graph of Pitchfork took time and a clean strategy to hit the apex.

Continue reading…

Becoming the Pitchfork

The New York Times

The legendary publisher and media giant have seen it all – Men walking on Moon, Cap. E. J. Smith sinking with Titanic, the Civil Rights Movement, and more. Though the publisher began its run with a newspaper, it won over the digital-only publications by a landslide. The publisher’s traditional roots succored the digital spin-off and now, NYTimes.com is the most valuable part of the whole company.

Apparently, it’s hard to even imagine The New York Times without its online presence. Here’s what we found compelling while working on the piece – NYTimes.com will push you to take calculated risks – on both editorial and monetization fronts.

Without any further ado, let’s dive into the story of The New York Times….

Becoming The New York Times

Insider Inc.

Business Insider, turned a profit in just 3 years, sold at a whopping $442 million valuation, and is often cited as one of the successful digital media startups that have ever existed. The journey to success wasn’t easy though.

We’ve previously studied how Bleacher Report, a sports publisher started in the same year sold for $175 million to TBS. Both have some common grounds, see for yourself.

Business Insider had ~1000 readers a day when they started in 2007 and competed against the likes of Bloomberg and Reuters as it targets business people and investors, rather than a general audience. Besides, the 2008 financial crisis exacerbated the situation for small/mid-market media companies.

Don’t you think it’ll be interesting to see how they have turned around to hit a $450 million valuation? That’s what we thought and it is, indeed, pretty interesting. See for yourself.

Becoming the Insider Inc.

Forbes Inc.

When Forbes.com went live, it didn’t have the audience or the content prowess, as we know today.

It was yet another print publisher ended up launching a website, at least that’s what it looked like at first. Soon, even with bouts from the TIME (Fortune Inc.) and Bloomberg’s BusinessWeek, The Wall Street Journal, and The Financial Times, Forbes managed to stand out and become one of the best publishers for business news.

There was a time when Forbes employees worked one week each month without remuneration and sent on leaves because of the scarcity of resources. But recently, the publisher announced a special bonus to its employees which amounts to 4.5% of the total income of their annual salary (Src). Forbes stood the test of time and in fact, won in all aspects of the media business – Reach, Revenue, and Remuneration.

Agreed, it had its fair share of flops. And, that’s why we’ve decided to study the growth of Forbes. After all, no one pulled it off successfully without some failed experiments.

Without any further ado, let us show you how much the publisher has grown – in terms of both reach and revenue.

Becoming the Forbes


We all know that the recession started in 2006 and most of the premium publishers, including The New York TimesThe Guardian were grappling with the sloping economy.

BuzzFeed was launched as a side project, exactly at the same time, by a media veteran and co-founder of The Huffington Post – Jonah PerettiWe believe it’s more than enough for us to see how they managed to become a $2 billion media giant. Besides, it moved against the grain, right from the start.

Online publishers have been known to define and publish content in a specific structure/format. But BuzzFeed stayed away from all the traditional journalistic methods. It created listicles, viral stories, and covered news and didn’t confine itself to a specific topic.

Because BuzzFeed opened a platform that focused on sharing most viewed pieces of media across the globe and it knows people share when they like something, regardless of the topic. Many of the top-performing publishers thought the emoticon-website wouldn’t last that long. But the publisher did it anyhow.

See the story of BuzzFeed.

Becoming the Buzzfeed


Cheddar Inc. is just a three-year-old startup established in 2016. We could have chosen any other publishing behemoth for our next becoming story. But here’s why we wanted to cover Cheddar.

– Cheddar Inc is a quasi-CNBC channel and it means the publisher had to compete with the well-known business news network right from the start. Doesn’t it sound difficult and interesting at the same time?

– Surprisingly, the publishers relied primarily on licensing fees. That being said, it embarked programmatic advertising and sponsored events/ads after a year. The revenue is diversified as opposed to depending on any single source.

– Cheddar’s annual revenue hit $27M in a short span of 2.5 years (Src). That’s a growth we all would like to replicate. Without any further ado, let’s dive in.

Becoming Cheddar

Men’s Health

Mark Bricklin introduced the print version of Men’s Health in 1986 and just after 10 years, the magazine made its online debut @menshealth.com. Since its debut, Men’s Health has surpassed many great traditional men’s fitness and lifestyle magazines including GQ and Esquire.

Despite facing competition from behemoths in the market, Men’s Health managed to exist and thrive for more than 2 decades. So, we wanted to know how they’ve grown and especially, outpaced their established rivals. What are all the strategies they have been working on since the launch to become the #1 fitness destination for Men?

This study aims to include some of the interesting tactics the publisher used to grow its audience and revenue (not restricted to digital).

Becoming Men's Health