Missed #SXSW? Here’s a Recap of Publisher-Relevant Sessions That Rocked

Don’t fret if you weren’t able to make it down to Austin for the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) conference this year. It’s a hectic scene with thousands of people buzzing around with brand marketers trying to capture any ounce of attention that attendees will afford them. However, in the middle of this chaotic scene were some nuggets of wisdom that emanated from the session rooms of SXSW Interactive.

For publishers trying to understand the frenzied and changing digital media landscape, here are three sessions from SXSWi that nailed it:

1. Back to Media

The first day at SXSW, Thrillist Media Group founder and chief executive (CEO) Ben Lerer hit the stage asking, “What does the media company of the future look like?”

Given the changing landscape of media that is now digital, “mobile is the first screen; content distribution tools are available to anyone and publishers are born overnight; audience scale is a commodity; brands are now publishers; social communication continues to evolve; data and research tools are easily accessible, and traditional revenue models are becoming harder and harder to scale,” he said.

He made the point that, “17 percent of U.S. ad spending in 2017 will be non-programmatic. This trend is terrifying for media businesses.”


To stay relevant as an online publisher and media company in the next 10 years, publishers need to embrace commerce. “Media companies should stop renting their audiences and monetize them by owning the transaction.”

He also provided this online publishing tip: “Holding yourself to editorial standards is key. But to trust readers, know and believe the publication’s mission statement.”

For the chatter and other takeaways from this session, check out the #Back2Media Twitter stream.

2. Booming Media Brands Holding Onto Identity

On Sunday, March 15, Mashable chief marketing officer (CMO) Stacy Martinet, Refinery29 executive vice president of marketing and strategy Patrick Yee, and global vice president of marketing at Vox Jonathan Hunt spoke with AdAge‘s Michael Sebastian to discuss how media companies maintain and monetize an evolving brand. They asked, “How do the keepers of the brand maintain its core identity while expanding and growing, both editorially and from a business perspective?”

When discussing how digital brands work with advertisers, Yee pronounced, “Old media lunch is tasty, new media lunch is tastier.” When asked, “Do average Web readers have the media literacy to tell native ads written by editors from regular features?” Yee answered, “Native advertising isn’t a problem because Millennials and women can sniff out inauthenticity.”

To catch the stream of consciousness from this panel, nab the #NextGen Twitter feed here.

3. Lessons From BuzzFeed

On one of the last days of the SXSW Interactive conference, BuzzFeed co-founder and CEO Jonah Peretti presented his keynote address at the Austin Convention Center about how the publisher emerged from the early Web scene of meme-makers and bloggers and grew into a global news and entertainment company.

Peretti told the audience that BuzzFeed “continually adapted as the Web changed and new social platforms emerged” and showed his internal strategy document that BuzzFeed is currently using to drive their next stage of growth in a world where links, browsers, and desktop computers are increasingly less important.


Some nuggets of wisdom:

  • “We never focused on clicks and page views. Sharing with another person means so much more.”
  • “Sometimes emotion is more important than content.”
  • BuzzFeed doesn’t make a product. We’re a service that gets better and better at creating content.”

And then he showed the dress. Yes, the ugly black-blue/white-gold dress that was the media sensation sweeping the Internet and almost breaking BuzzFeed servers. Half the audience raised their hand when asked if they saw black and blue. Half raised their hands claiming to see gold and white. The dress was a perfect example of Peretti’s takeaway for publishers to focus on “shared statements. What people say when they share, is more important than the headline.”

Peretti’s key points made an impact on the audience. However the one that stuck out to me was this: “Sharing is meaningful. Impact is even more meaningful. Make a bigger impact by building a great business, scaling, and becoming more distributed.”

Adios, Austin!

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