How Publishers Can Keep Up With the Duopoly

Jan 23, 2019

Article ImageOne surprising narrative of 2018 has been that the Google and Facebook duopoly has weakened a bit. EMarketer estimates that thisyear the two companies will capture 56.8% of U.S. digital ad investment. That’s down from 58.5% last year. The IAB has also found that search advertising and social media have each taken a slightly smaller share of the market as both categories have matured.

Such data counters the gloom that we’ve been hearing these past few years about the Google/Facebook duopoly’s power. It also indicates that publishers’ efforts to fight back are having an impact.

Publishers have tried various methods to win back share. Not all have been successful. But there are some battle-tested tactics that stand out. These offer hope for publishers that are tired of losing business to Google and Facebook.

Strategy 1: Use Branded Content

Facebook and Google offer distribution, but they have no editorial expertise. Publishers, on the other hand, have the audience and expertise to develop and distribute high-impact branded content. Spending on branded content is expected to hit $16 billion in the U.S. this year, according to PQ Media. That means branded content is growing twice as fast as advertising and marketing overall. One reason for this is that brand recall for branded content is 59% higher than standard advertising, according to a 2016 IPG MediaLab study. The study also found that consumers perceive branded content as being more consumer-centric than standard advertising. Consumers who saw branded content were 14% more likely to seek out more information from the brand in the future, according to the study. Why? Branded content allows for richer and more emotional storytelling.

Strategy 2: Promote Brand Safety

For Facebook and Google (including YouTube), brand safety continues to be a challenge. Despite efforts by both to assure marketers that their brands won’t be exposed to unsafe content, advertisers remain skeptical. A survey this year of 304 advertising decision makers found 58% were more concerned about brand safety in 2018 than in 2017. That explains why publishers are having such success with brand safety pitches. During the newfronts this year, many publishers reported that advertisers were raising their spends for that reason. Digital video publisher Studio71, for instance, has seen a fivefold increase in deals, year-over-year, since it introduced a brand-safety product, according to CEO Reza Izad.

Strategy 3: Invest in Editorial

This era hasn’t been kind to most local media, but A-list publications like The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The Economist—as well as niche high-quality media—have thrived. The reason is that in the current media environment, savvy publishers are investing in editorial to ramp up on quality and stand out. In a time when fake news has become a major hazard, readers have realized that brands matter in publishing too. Publishers, meanwhile, know that their product is under more scrutiny than ever before. Both pressures require an investment in top talent.

Don’t Call It a Comeback 

While Google and Facebook will still be leveraged, readers and advertisers have realized the intrinsic value that publishers bring to the equation. As fake news, questionable content, and clickbait persist, there is a flight toward quality among readers and advertisers.

That’s good news, not just for publishers, but for the public as well. 

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