Between robots consuming 60 per cent of your valuable page views and actual humans eschewing your promotions, what’s an ad-supported media company to do? The only answer to today’s twin threats of robots and ad blocking is to double down on audience development of the old-fashioned kind: Subscribers.
A return to a subscriber-based mind-set and business plan may be the only way that a modern multi-modal publisher can survive in the new era. After all, there is an arms race happening within the bidder and browser ecosystem, which makes up the core of the digital publishing and marketing landscape.
But what exactly is a subscriber-based mind-set and how would this help? A subscriber-based mind-set is the idea that a publisher focuses on their committed subscriber community, not the passer-by. Publishers simply need to start to reduce their reliance on anonymous ad-serving via display ads on their website and migrate to a logged-in audience approach.
Today it is just too easy for consumers to read the news that publishers produce without compensating them. Most publisher sites are free (or nearly free) to browse. The small price that visitors pay is to have cookies dropped in their browser so that retargeting companies can bid for these audiences using data gleaned from other sites the audience has visited. A few sites put page limits on visitors, but when faced with the difficult choice of either showing some more ads or denying that one last page view, most publishers will choose the former and allow for unlimited browsing.
The problem with this approach is that as the page views multiply, the costs to the publisher in terms of bandwidth stay the same, but the revenue per page view is reduced. This happens because bids decrease throughout the user’s journey on the site. As a result, an odd asymmetrical situation is created whereby a loyal (non-bouncing) visitor – who may be just as likely to be a robot as a human – becomes less valuable the longer they are on the site.
What can be done about this? Old-fashioned light boxes may be the answer.
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