3 Ways to Achieve Sustainable Revenue: Why Gigaom and Re/Code Are the Tip of the Iceberg


Eric Wheeler

The revolving door of media publishers incites questions about the sustainability of the current publisher business model. Here are three suggestions that can help encourage revenue.

Social media circles were all abuzz when Gigaom closed and Vox acquired Re/Code. Adding to the latest round of publisher musical chairs is Verizon’s $4.4 billion ad-tech and content play for AOL, and the resurrection of Gigaom on August 15, thanks to acquirer Knowingly Corp. Also, the music recently stopped for mobile content pioneer Circa News.

From the outside looking in, these promising media entities were redefining the online content model. They attracted healthy amounts of clicks and shares to their sites, and live bodies to their events. So what gives?

While there is never a clear-cut reason why some publishers fail to crack the profitability code as others succeed, the latest moves do highlight questions regarding the sustainability of the publisher business model once again.

We won’t solve the entire online publishing industry’s woes in this article, but there’s one area – quality – that if addressed more aggressively, could have a significant impact on revenue.

By taking the following three quality-centric actions, publishers can be on the path to more effectively monetize their sites and build sustainable revenue models.

These are three routes to sustainable revenue:

1. Take Steps to Minimize Low or No Quality Traffic

Three things publishers can do to stem the impact of questionable traffic to their sites are:

  1. Raise concern if any company claims they can significantly boost your site’s traffic. Chances are, these companies will do more harm than good because the traffic boost is most likely fraudulent.
  2. Find out how your vendor partners address fraud. Research to find what types of measurement and controls the industry recommends, and make sure those controls are in place by your vendors and also on your site.
  3. Trust expert’s advice on how to keep ahead of fraudsters.¬†Work with third-party vendors to monitor your site’s behaviors and validate its traffic.

2. Raise the Bar for What’s Deemed as Viewable Ads

Today, the minimum industry standard – as set by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) – is if 50 percent of a desktop ad’s pixels are in view for a minimum of one second, it is considered viewable. But is this really enough time for someone to absorb the message and take action?

While it’s important to meet industry standards, certainly we all want maximum advertiser effectiveness and revenue with greater ad impact and longer times in view. The industry needs to rally and raise the standard of what’s viewable to be closer to 100 percent.

Meanwhile, you can raise the bar for what you consider viewable by making every aspect of your website more viewable by design. Start by including in-view ad products. Also, make sure you’re working with vendors with high viewability standards in place. These actions may require extra steps, but they’re important steps to take.

3. Embrace Private Marketplaces

In the last year, indirect monetization has dramatically improved. This enables publishers to effectively use the space between open real-time bidding (RTB) and direct-sold so they may offer their inventory to quality buyers. If you haven’t yet, you should consider private marketplaces.

These give publishers the opportunity for another venue, allowing them to fill their inventory and earn higher CPMs in a safer environment. This isn’t to say that private is the only safe environment and open exchanges are fraught with fraud. The reality is that it’s technology, not the exchanges, that can identify and block fraud, as well as boost viewability.

The challenges facing today’s publishers won’t be solved overnight. We will continue to see the rise and fall of publishers of all sizes, across every industry. However, it’s clear that what’s worked in the past will no longer work as well in the future.

Visionary publishers that take aggressive steps to minimize low quality traffic, raise the bar for viewability, and can take advantage of innovations in technology, as well as the evolution of private marketplaces, will find themselves reaping the benefits from creating more sustainable revenue models.