Three Ways Online Publishers Are Becoming Technology Companies

For progressive digital publishers, it’s no secret that technology is the key to competitive advantage. It allows publishers to differentiate content while also making it possible to endeavor beyond that, exploring new opportunities to satisfy users or to drive revenue outside of traditional advertising.

This is why smart publishers are investing in technology as never before, understanding its ability to deliver insight and value in multiple ways. Here are a few of the most common strategies they’re embracing on the technological side to drive success.

 Data Organization and Analysis

Data is fast becoming the epicenter of the publishing industry. By capturing and evaluating online data from their audiences, publishers can provision user-intent modeling to create better content, identify potential consumer trends earlier, and build a more appealing, user-first on-site experience uniquely tailored to the reader. Data enables publishers to decipher fundamental questions about who visitors are to deliver an experience favorable to that profile.



Only in recent years, however, has the publishing industry invested in the technology required to track and make sense of data's complexity. This is out of necessity given the benefits, but also because the advent of the cloud, and a more software-driven IT approach, having made investments cost-effective and scalable. There’s also no shortage of user-friendly analytics offerings, making it possible to more easily peg trends and patterns within a dataset.

Most importantly, though, publishers aren’t just partnering with third-party vendors to bring on these capabilities. Instead, they’re developing tools in-house with their own dedicated teams. That’s key. And this is where forward-thinking publishers separate themselves from the pack. These publishers aren’t paying lip service to data’s potential. Instead, they’re committing and investing in data’s value to truly activate the insights gleaned.

For years, aggregated data has been frighteningly underused, failing to support the publisher in a way that stimulated their overarching goals. Today, though, that’s changing and smart publishers are leading the charge. 

Programmatic Adoption

Publishers initially approached programmatic with a fair amount of skepticism. There were early fears that it would drive down ad prices, commoditize inventory, and radically change the traditional I/O-based RFP market approach that has dominated the media industry for so many years. Those fears are quickly dissipating, however, once brand dollars were being spent there. Now, publishers are flocking to it, touting their approach. In fact, publishers have embraced programmatic to such a degree, according to our own survey data from 2014, advertisers now prefer to deal with them directly for programmatic campaigns.

This shift to programmatic has changed the way publishers think and operate technologically. Not so long ago, publishers really had very little need for digital expertise outside of content management and analytics software. With the advent of programmatic, however, in-house technology needs have rapidly expanded, since  as publishers are now faced with closing deals and maintaining relationships with ad-tech companies, managing inventory, and more. 

Programmatic may still be in its infancy, but with its rapid adoption will come an increased emphasis on the technology needed to facilitate it effectively.  

E-Commerce Integrations

Global B2C e-commerce sales are expected to eclipse $1.5 trillion this year. And savvy publishers, who have traditionally been hesitant to jump into the category, are becoming major players in it. With an influx in audience data, they’re adding full digital storefronts on-site that are more informed by the behaviors of their readers. The data, plus cheaper, more scalable technology, has made publisher-led e-commerce more of a reality than ever before.

For many publishers this is playing out indirectly through advertising formats and lead-gen capabilities that aptly connect buyers with sellers. As publishers have built out data capture and analytics capabilities, they’re fueling smarter, more personalized advertisements. So, even if there is no direct sale being generated on a site, publishers can better connect visitors with a brand than ever before, influencing buying decisions without a storefront or affiliate link.  

In these ways, technology is pushing publishers into a new era, where they’re successful not because they have the best content, necessarily, but because they have bleeding-edge tools that can differentiate that content (personalization), anticipate consumer intent, and supplement it with another value proposition (e-commerce).

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