Dennis Publishing’s flagship technology brand Alphr.com was barely online for a year when Wannacom started talks aimed at a licensing agreement. “It took little research to realise there was a large gap in the Spanish market for technology content. There was simply no large websites or publications focusing on this niche,” says Pablo. “The question was: ‘should we do this alone or should we find a partner who is already producing tech content?’”
They decided on the latter and reached out to Alphr.com recognising the quality of their content and the fact that the site was already a well-trusted brand.
It was an easy marriage. “They were more or less also new – like us – and really open-minded in their approach. It felt more like a collaboration than acting out a licensing agreement. We feel part of the team… Even though Dennis is a large company in the UK and we are only a small startup, we share content plans as well as ideas. They have also been helping us position ourselves in the market and build awareness with tech brands. We are learning a lot from them and like to believe that they are also learning from us.”
Dennis launched Alphr.com in 2015 with the aim to “go beyond the news and reviews-driven formula of most technology sites”. The focus was on innovators and leaders who use technology to revolutionise our world. The site is not solely focused on the geeky technology stereotype but any person who recognises that technology is changing the way we work and live.
Pablo and his team shared this approach. “Never has the Spanish market been so ripe for this type of title. Technology is everywhere and it has no end. This is different from working in a market focused on motorcars, motorbikes or only one aspect of technology, which is where many of us at Wannacom used to work as journalists. Technology as the central brand engages infinity – everything to do with our future.”
He argues that even those who are ignorant or fear technology realise that they need to engage with technology. “For us the challenge is to find the best ways to speak to these people. ‘How can we help them to understand technology in an approachable and easy way?’ This is the question we constantly ask ourselves.”
At one end they need to engage with the so-called geeks who make take decisions on which kind of devices and technology they need to buy for the companies they work for, and on the other end of the spectrum is the need to engage in a meaningful way with those who have little or no knowledge of technology. “Most people want to learn. They want to be up to date on trends and devices, products that can increase security and productivity. We want to be the hub for this.”
With a potential 400 million Spanish speaking market, Alphr.es’ growth in the early months has been modest but in line with expectations: 300,000 page views a month with 100,000 unique users.
“We have reached our initial goals and we’re pleased. The main focus is not on page view numbers but the engagement we are creating with our users. We know that we can get traffic. There are various ways to increase this. But what we really want is quality traffic: users who rely on us to expand their tech knowledge, helping them to pick up on new trends, devices and discoveries. Our aim is to grow slowly, because we want regular site users, not merely eyeballs.”
To achieve quality engagement, the team invests many hours in creating content they are proud of. “The key here is good storytelling. We need users to engage with content for us to be able to build trust. This is our main goal. If you win the trust of users, you also win the trust of companies and advertisers.”
Developing a new website comes with its share of learning and conventional wisdom does not always work, warns Bueno. “When we started out we were constantly thinking how this will look on your desktop or laptop. Then, within the first couple of months, we realised most of our traffic came from mobile. Now we develop and view our content for mobile first. In fact, 85 per cent of our audience consume our content via mobile.”
While that came as a surprise, the power of social media to aid content discovery did not. Just over 75 per cent of new visitors were social media referrals. “We cannot ignore the power of social media. This is where the members of our audience are. We do live broadcasts on Facebook of presentations and events and try to be as active as possible on all platforms. Our strategy is to share evergreen content – not merely content which users share today but also in three month’s time…Unless, of course, when new products are launched, then we are obliged to post content which is more consistent with the news model.”
As a site that collaborates closely with Alphr.com in the UK, 30 per cent or more of the site’s content is created locally. “At times we need to cover issues in what I call ‘the Spanish way’ – when the audience expect a certain flavour and flair to relate to the story. Approaching our readers from a more original point of view adds to the feeling of proximity in what we are covering. This flair for telling stories in a local way increases content in a unique way because the audience engages more and actually share ideas for future stories.”
The site still monetises largely from traditional display advertising, but other marketing tools like native advertising is developing quickly, says Pablo. “Display advertising is decreasing and branded content campaigns are increasing. The most interesting challenge for us is to try to get brands to help us create really good content that is interesting, engaging and relevant. If the content is good and interesting I don’t think users mind if it is paid for. The audience wants cool good content and if you get the (financial) assistance of a specific brand to create this, why not?”
It is, however, a “battle that needs to be won”, warns Bueno. “It is hard to get brands to be confident enough to allow us to create content that is branded but not blatant advertising. It needs to remain interesting. It is really expensive to create this kind of quality branded content.
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“While we are trying to break down the silos between editorial and advertising, it is hard. It is hard to lead advertising agencies towards a new world of advertising. Companies need to stop thinking ‘we need to sell this product tomorrow’. They first need to create value. They need to convey information about the spirit of the brand. We can do this to reach people and tell them what the brand is about; the philosophy behind the brand – and then the sales will follow. They will get their results.”
Pablo continues: “The problem is that many companies view the internet as a place to sell things fast. But there are too many platforms competing in this domain. It’s more critical to get into the mind of the users so that they remember your values. “
As a consultancy gateway for international brands to establish a foothold in the Spanish market, Wannacom has ample experience of exactly this. “We have been the Spanish partner for the Red Bull brand for a couple of years now. With the content we provide we don’t sell cans of energy drinks. We sell a lifestyle: freedom and adventure. And this is the way other brands should view the future of advertising. People first need to understand what a brand is about and what it stands for – then the sales will follow.”
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