In AOL's 2016 Publisher Outlook report the industry got a look at research that backs up a lot of what we already know. Mobile and video are important, and ad blocking is a problem. But off platform monetization was also part of the digital publishing equation this year, and it seems the verdict is in: Third party platforms are a hit.
According to AOL, over 90% of respondents say "off-platform monetization is crucial." But 30% also listed it as a challenge. In other words, platforms like Google AMP and Facebook Instant Articles are becoming an important part of publishers' distribution strategies-but they are, in some cases, still working out the details.
Over 50% of respondents deemed third-party platforms to have had an "extremely positive" effect on business. Syndication, as it turns out, is very important with publishers saying they receive 25%-50% of their traffic from syndication referrals, but monetization is still an issue (as it always is when we're talking about digital publishing). Audience data and lower CPMs also continue to raise concerns.
That being said, Jessica Davies reported on Digiday that "Libération's head of digital, Xavier Grangier, recently told Digiday, that it is currently making the same amount of revenue on Instant Articles as it is on its mobile Web pages, even though the latter have multiple sources of revenue, like promoted links served by companies like Outbrain."
Facebook offers a variety of ways for publishers to monetize Instant Articles. Publishers can opt to let Facebook serve ads for revenue share, or direct-sell their own ads, including pre-roll on video content. Google AMP, on the other hand, raised concerns by launching without header-bidding, or native widgets.
The success of Facebook Instant Articles and Google AMP are also, no doubt, partially responsible for the increase in mobile traffic that publishers are reporting. According to respondents, "73% of publishers increased their mobile inventory in the last year." And 70% reported seeing up to 50% growth in mobile traffic over the past year. The public's increasing adoption (and obsession) with their mobile devices is growing, of course, but third party platforms are also aimed at delivering mobile content to users faster, and on the platforms they already use.
As the challenge of mobile content continues to increase in importance, the third party platforms will become bigger players in the distribution and delivery of content. As such, figuring out the right path to monetization is paramount.
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