Major media companies need to figure out how to build audiences online in the same way that they have with their print publications, magazines or TV shows.
These publishers need to look deeper than the vanity metrics of “billions of views” or “hundreds of millions of followers” and study more deeply how to scale their best business: video advertising, especially branded content, which has become the most lucrative form of advertising on the Web (on a per unit basis) for publishers.
Publishers run more banner ads, text and click through display ads but none of these non-video ads help build audience and keep people engaged with your brand. In fact, they can drive users off the publisher's Web page without a promise that more will click back in.
Instead of paying attention to indicators around building audience, metrics tied to “uniques” can lead to an erosion of user loyalty since they have no incentive to build a habit around visiting a specific publisher’s Website or app. In place of that they will use a feed, social channel or social media app for a better user experience.
It took decades for marketers to effectively develop tune-in methodologies for TV, which resulted in loyal audiences tuning in every Thursday night at 8 to watch their favorite drama or comedy during primetime, or the local news at the end of a night of viewing.
Those viewers would stick around, because great programming and lead-ins kept them watching a few programs in a row as they came to appreciate that channel and brand.
What if you could get your audience to stay on site, watch more video content, or branded entertainment, which is valued at a much higher multiple than a typical video pre-roll?
What if in the process turned visitors into loyal audiences much the same way broadcast and cable TV networks built audience decades ago and have maintained them for years?
Not building loyal audiences has a clear economic downside.
If a user visits a publisher's Web page and watches a video ad valued at $0.24 per view, but just that one time, then the total value of that single user is $0.24. And, you’d be shocked to discover that business development teams would pay up to $0.20 to acquire a user to a page that generates only $0.24 per user.
Even worse, in some cases development teams will pay much more if they need to, buying traffic at a loss in order to make good on an ad deal in which they couldn’t hit the required volume for the ad spend.
These developers will take a small loss to ensure they get sufficient volume to their pages so they don’t have to issue a make good or refund to the advertiser for not fulfilling the full ad spend and number of impressions they paid for.
In some cases, publishers get caught in a vicious cycle in which they are behind on their deals and it has led to more fraud and more ad blockers as users rebel against the sub-par user experiences.
With more time spent on your site, publishers are able to better study the content that users consume and learn how to replicate success, by building assets that contribute to growing higher value audiences.
When dependent on third party platforms—where little if any data is shared -- this is not the case and you not only lose your audience, but you also lose the ability to scale your business as a media company.
The fractured attention spans of readers that has led 80% of the readers of this article to stop reading before this sentence, also endangers major media companies and publishers that are not building highly profitable businesses on the web.
If they want to compete and be a channel and source that audiences come to love and respect then they must do so by building audience, not by depending on Google, Facebook or Twitter traffic to somehow come in and save the day.