July 6, 2017 Last Updated 8:59 am

How publishers can use cultural climates to their advantage

Guest Column: Scott O’Neill, Senior Vice President of North America for MPP Global, says publishers have something to gain by promoting themselves as non-programmatic partners — ‘It’s more work, but reflects a human touch’

Publishing is funny: You must prepare for the future while remaining sensitive to cultural moods—a maddening tightrope.

In seven months, the political climate changed, and with it publishing. After the US Presidential election, newspaper subscriptions rose, with the New York Times generating 41,000 more subscribers in November. It’s a hot moment for publishers, now incentivised to produce qualitative content.

But market forces are volatile determinants of destiny. Emotions (and payments) may wane once urgency, driven by politics, does. For stable growth, publishers should harness motivation even in periods of calm. They can achieve this by monitoring shifts in habits, topics critical to the public and trends in publishing.

Below are three movements, combining all those points, that publishers can build on while the tide is high.

Video is the new blogging

This was the title of a Convince & Convert article, citing Vidyard research that found businesses create 18 new videos monthly, on average—like a blogging schedule.

56 percent of business videos made in the past year were two minutes or less, making them easier to share on social networks (Facebook favors video) and more likely to be viewed in its entirety. A video of less than 90 seconds can lift view completion odds to 53 percent!

Per CEO Brian Halligan of Hubspot, 50 percent of a company’s content marketing initiatives should be video. It’s less work for users and conveys information faster.

Let’s touch on when to consider loosening meters

A publisher that approaches content sharing intelligently can change feelings. A free democracy relies on educated populations, and the role of the media in cultivating that should be taken seriously. In moments of social import, like an election, it can “liberate” content aligned with cultural concerns—an act both responsible and generous, and one that can even be promoted. It’s the data that makes it possible to see what customers are most interested in, allowing for customization. Paying for customized, qualitative content is a delicate balance. You want to remind people how often they’ve consumed your work in a way that will leave them wanting more and even learning something new, not frustrated because they’ve hit a paywall during a time they need your quality content.

It’s about people, not programmatic

“Fake news” is a heated topic. A whole organization was mounted to siphon fake news coffers—Sleeping Giants, which encourages people to tweet to brands whose ads appear on inflammatory websites, hoping this pressure will drive brands to exclude them from programmatic lists.

It’s taken for granted that brands don’t pick up the phone to call publishers; instead, they use complex algorithms to do the job. It’s efficient, but sows trouble. In March, Google’s EMEA head apologized when ads for brands like L’Oréal and HSBC appeared alongside extremist content. Numerous brands pulled their ads.

When such things happen, users trust brands less and, in turn, brands trust programmatic less. Trusted Media Brands’ Rich Sutton said, “If it doesn’t have human intervention, you can’t guarantee it will run with brand-safe content. I don’t think you can stop [the problem] with tech alone.”

He cited research that found 50 percent of advertisers and agencies don’t believe programmatic does a better job of delivering brand safety.

Therefore, publishers have something to gain by promoting themselves as non-programmatic partners. It’s more work, but reflects a human touch. The subtext is that your content is valuable, you care about relationships and ad pairings are thoughtful.

These are just a few things publishers can leverage today. They account for trends in publishing, behavior and social preoccupations to keep winds blowing favorably. Granted, this represents work that must be repeated religiously over time—but the cost of doing that is far less than leaving your fate to shifting sentiments.

Scott O’Neill is a strategic and media technology professional with over ten years of U.S. & U.K. client service and leadership experience. As Senior Vice President of North America for MPP Global, O’Neill is responsible for leading a cross vertical organization by assisting media and entertainment companies with identity management, CRM, and eCommerce solutions.

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