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Are You a Publisher, Tech Company, Platform, or All Three and More?

Several execs discuss publisher/tech company debate; plus, Paper, Slant, and Upworthy’s approach to content and audience

If you’re a publisher, tech considerations have emerged as a crucial component of your day-to-day decision-making. This likelihood increases exponentially if you’re creating mobile apps and dedicating resources to serious multiplatform publishing.

Then, there are digital publishers who are not only producing content, but … well … tech products, also. Results have been mixed for these would-be vendors, but there’s no denying that it’s a trend to keep tabs on.

But it’s not like the publisher-tech model is mutually exclusive. Media companies can do both, and then some. They can make content to serve tech or use tech to serve content.

But there’s no doubt that content still drives the cart for publishers, and that in most cases, it’s the latter that rules the industry: Typically, tech advances drive content distribution, especially in the cases of the companies discussed below.

But AdExchanger also checks in with some industry leaders who might see the tide turning. Let’s wrap the week with what they found out!

Publisher? Tech Company? Both? Neither?

AdExchanger talked with some heavy hitters about the publisher-tech business models and whether they can coexist.

“These things are not in conflict with each other. A digital publisher is both a content creator and a technology platform, whether they like it or not. … It may be somewhat counterintuitive, but having a really creative editorial team helps the technology and platform become more creative and powerful as well,” BuzzFeed Publisher Dao Nguyen told Sarah Sluis.

“Too often ‘editorial’ and ‘technology’ are pitched as opponents. When this happens you have a vicious cycle of teams not being aligned.”

But Hearst Digital Media President Troy Young had another, more  take:

“All publishing companies need to have a deep technological expertise, because technology is required to manage distribution. Historically, all publishing companies have had the ability to do that. To me, distribution equals technology, and technology equals platform,” he said.

“We need to be data scientists and technologists, but we also have to do what we’ve always done, which is create the kind of content that’s filled with tension and wonderment and delight that brings consumers back to our brand. When … brands [have] to distribute content in many different places, technology becomes really important. …  At Hearst, we have a concept called Media OS [operating system], which makes the curation, creation, syndication and analysis of the business of editors much easier. The platform makes editors competitive. … If you write a post, you need to understand: How it will look on all environments? What kinds of posts are successful? When they are successful, how do you make them more successful? How do you change the experience if the person arrives from Facebook or Pinterest? And how do we present the right next piece of content to consumer?”

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The Secret to Paper’s Smashing Recent Success

Paper Magazine is on a roll. Traffic has increased 900%, and digital revenue is up 400%, AdExchanger reports, due largely to a refocused approach to audience development.

“When we stopped thinking about things in the old way, and driving people directly to the site became less important, we became more popular. … Our site is the most ‘pure’ way to view things, but we want to be where our audience is,” Paper Chief Creative Officer Drew Elliott told Sluis.

“That’s in social, that’s in video, that’s in the magazine. Our audience wants us to be in all of those places. I’m not married to [a specific] distribution or worried about subscribers; I’m worried about reaching people with content that they love.”

Slant’s User-Generated Platform Is Growing …

Slant is doing the user-generated content model right, succeeding with “crowdsourcing” and paying the contributors what their work is worth, with 70% of digital advertising revenue going to writers, AdExchanger reports.

“Every writer on Slant is a salesman of his own creation,” Gutterman said. Writers learn how to utilize their own social networks to distribute the content. Although Slant News has its own Facebook page, “Sometimes the largest distribution comes not from us but the writer.”

… And so Is Upworthy’s Original Online Content Strategy

Upworthy, meanwhile, has shifted their efforts from traffic-generating headlines to attention minutes and true engagement, AdExchanger reports

“There was a day last week where all top three native pieces on the site were sponsored. That’s great, because it’s delivering for our audience and our partners,” Upworthy Founder and CEO Eli Pariser told Sluis.

“That’s what you want as a brand. Something that’s memorable, emotional and sticks with you.”

Must digital magazines be publisher tech companies, too? Let us know what you think in the comments!

To read more about publisher tech, platisher advances, and content distribution strategy in the news, visit Ad Exchanger.

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One thought on “Are You a Publisher, Tech Company, Platform, or All Three and More?

  1. Jay Jackson says:

    Must digital magazines be publisher tech companies, too?

    Never considered a digital magazine as a tech company. Interesting concept. I love it! Thanks

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