Find Your Waldo

There are many days when we all feel like we’re searching for that silver bullet or magic wand that will solve all our digital woes. It’s a lot like finding Waldo! All too often it feels near impossible. We all read the headlines that speak to the double digit increases in ad spend but then you look at the books and wonder why aren’t our revenues growing by the same or more? In some cases publishers are actually seeing shrinking revenues in their once rapidly growing business. How can this be? The top five media companies Google, Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, and Microsoft are capturing two-thirds of all digital ad spend (including search), according to the latest report by eMarketer.

Turns out scale isn’t everything. Aggregation of inventory and audience isn’t enough anymore to drive revenue. The market is more sophisticated and expects more from its media partners. This means not only do you need scale, but you also must have the “special sauce” that attracts marketers and makes them believe that by investing in you they will get something that is new and unique – with great service. Let’s take a look at what the big five offer that gives them such a clear advantage and then review a few things that you can do as a publisher to defend your position and hopefully drive some revenue.

  1. The big five are big! They have scale and are only getting bigger.
  2. They have each built their own version of an ad ecosystem.
  3. They own content and are creating or acquiring more every month.
  4. All have multiple revenue streams and search is at the core (Google having the clear advantage there).
  5. They support all this with enormous sales, client service, and marketing teams that make big marketers feel special and also small by comparison.

How can an individual publisher compete?

  1. Focus on differentiation. Today publishers must have a clear and obvious USP. No longer can you simply rely on your brand to attract dollars. You need high-quality content, the right audience, and something that makes you stand out.
  2. Participate fully in programmatic buying. Align with a large partner but never give away your most valuable inventory. That is what makes you special and keeps marketers engaged.
  3. Do everything you can to own and control your own data. You should know your consumers best. Why give that data away to the benefit of another company?
  4. Be creative! Marketers will work with a small to mid-sized publisher if they offer an idea that is well-integrated. Pandora has done this extremely well.
  5. Be first to market – launch new technology and formats, even if it’s a beta test. It will position your brand as a knowledgeable and go-to company for the next big thing.

Life as we know it is probably over. The good news is that there are a tremendous number of tools that we can use to generate revenues.

So take your head out of the sand, stand tall, and find your Waldo.

Waldo image on home page via Dooley Productions / Shutterstock.com.

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