A dispatch from a once gilded abbey, now in a state of disrepair:
My Dearest Publisher,
Over the past couple of decades, we have weathered wave upon wave of challenges -- and, frankly put, it shows. Our carefully built walls of distribution have all been washed away by Search, and we can easily see the tides of Social building on the horizon. A few of us hold out a distant hope for tablets, but in my heart I fear these walls may never be rebuilt.
Truth be told, the constant barrage of the ad networks and their data-driven cousins have also taken their toll. I am informed the once-great margins of Adton Abbey’s content business stand nearly empty.
But most distressingly, our authors -- once our loyal servants -- have of late been absconding with our audience, the very lifeblood of our institution. The other day I heard one of them tweet: “We are all publishers now!”
The times appear to be changing. Still, we must carry on. Write back, and sell direct (when you can).
The Online Publishing Insider
My Dearest Insider,
Thank you for your kind note.
I have some news that I hope will not be too distressing: We have left Adton Abbey.
Do you remember that neglected little outpost we used to call Custom Publishing? Well they have made quite a few improvements; and they are now calling it “Content Marketing.”
When the distribution walls came crashing down in last year’s dreadful Panda incident, a handful of brands entertained a scandalous notion: that they might actually become publishers themselves.
A few brands like General Mills, Nike, and Amex seem to be making a solid go of it.
But you will never guess who wound up bringing them the audience: the same authors who used to provide service to us at Adton Abbey.
At first, I was shocked to see a collection of mere bloggers do a proper publishing job (normally I would leave that kind of dirty business to Arianna and Henry), but the brands seem to find them effective.
A few of us publishers have made our way here, as well as some young newcomers like Movable Media and Kapost who are helping the brands get started.
It is nice here -- and the Brands actually seem to appreciate us -- but I haven’t even mentioned the exciting part….
Dearest Insider, if you could only see the margins! Some brands are paying 10 cents a click to link to their content on Outbrain. This isn’t apples to apples, mind you, but some are arguing that works out to a $100 RPM. Not to a landing page, but to a content page.
Well, that means a decent wage for writers to create researched, deep content -- and even editors. Do you remember editors? Weren’t they wonderful?
Of course, we don’t control the audience anymore, and there are plenty of new obstacles to overcome -- but there is plenty of work helping brands figure this out.
Write back soon, and best of luck with those DSPs. They are, of course, quite beyond my understanding, but I am confident you will sort them out soon.