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Publishing Deals: Airbnb, Hearst, Billfold, Medium, and More

Airbnb resets its magazine business model with a potential Hearst partnership; plus, other publishing deals and a change for Facebook Instant Articles

They might not rival Major League Baseball’s offseason hot stove of free agency and trades, but publishing deals at the end of 2015 are still making magazine industry news in a business that in recent years has seen only one constant: change.

In today’s roundup, relayed from The Wall Street Journal’s CMO Today, we’ve got one brand circling back on its content marketing strategy to produce a stronger magazine business model and another moving its digital content and operations to a leader of the “platisher” movement.

Meanwhile, Facebook, recently on a streak of publishing deals culminating in Instant Articles, reconsiders its own advertising revenue model as its partners register some early complaints.

The Latest in Publishing Deals: Will Airbnb & Hearst Join Powers?

After a stab at branded content marketing last year with the print magazine Pineapple, Airbnb is changing course after publishing only one issue, WSJ’s CMO Today reports.

“Pineapple faced challenges from the start, particularly from wary executives, according to one person involved with the project. Chief Marketing Officer Jonathan Mildenhall,who joined Airbnb from Coca-Cola after the editorial project was under way but before the first issue launched, slashed Pineapple’s budget to focus on other marketing initiatives, this person said. Plans to expand Pineapple to an online offering were also stymied,” Steven Perlberg writes.

Now, though, Airbnb is in talks with Hearst to produce a more classically angled travel magazine.

“The tech company’s media play comes as many brands try their hand at various forms of ‘content marketing,’ or producing articles that feel like editorial work. Dollar Shave Club, for instance, recently launched a men’s lifestyle destination, while mattress startup Casper started a sleep-focused site. Traditional hotel companies have also long put out magazines for guests to peruse in their rooms.”

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The Billfold Will Migrate to Platisher Medium

The Awl’s personal finance property The Billfold will shift production to Ev Williams’ Medium, WSJ’s CMO Today reports. The motivation? Advertising challenges like ad blocking programs and a decrease in display rates.

The Billfold saw 450,000 uniques in October, and native advertising will likely be the source of revenue on Medium, which has already struck several other publishing deals. How that revenue will be divided is still undecided.

Facebook Instant Articles Responds to Publisher Concerns

The rollout of Facebook Instant Articles has not been entirely smooth, with publishers complaining that ad policies haven’t allowed them to maximize the partnership. In response, Facebook has tweaked those policies to allow publishers to include more ads and sell Facebook-only ads to marketers, WSJ’s CMO Today reports.

“We’re continuing to listen to publishers about what they want from Instant Articles, and we’re going to continue to do this. This is one step forward but we will continue to listen. … Based on feedback we’ve had from publishers, they need additional ads in Instant Articles to match the number of ads they have on their websites,” Facebook Instant Articles Product Manager Michael Reckhow told Jack Marshall.

“People want to give their friends the same experience they had. If you had a good experience you’re more likely to want your friends to experience the same thing. If something loads slowly and there are ads obscuring the content, perhaps they don’t want to subject their friends to that. … Instant Articles earn distribution based on providing a really good experience.”

Which publishing deals have made the biggest impression on you this year? Let us know in the comments!

To read more about publishing deals in the news, visit WSJ.com’s CMO Today.

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