On 7 December 2021, CloudSense hosted an exclusive roundtable event led by LiveIntent CMO Kerel Cooper and CloudSense VP of Media Solutions Stuart Schauman. Together they explored the many challenges and changes facing the publishing industry, particularly as they impact return on investment and profitability.
As a follow up to that event, Stuart outlines his thoughts and learnings from the event, and highlights some of the key moments of the event:
Not an easy industry to navigate
Considering the challenges the media industry has faced over the last two decades, it has been working hard to keep its position as a mass communication channel, while having to generate the revenue streams necessary to support the overall operation.
Reaching, developing and sustaining readership audiences is critical to the health of any media organization, and with social media networks becoming part of the fabric of news gathering, it remains an expensive and challenging task to develop fresh and engaging content.
Last December I explored a number of questions that plague media SMBs in a roundtable discussion with LiveIntent CMO Kerel Cooper, discussing programmatic in an SMB world, ad revenue decline and employee productivity.
The topics we covered both impact top line and bottom-line results thereby addressing the question of how media SMBs should be looking at their operations from an advertising and operational perspective.
The Struggle for Advertising Dollars
The struggle for ad dollars from local businesses has become a unique challenge. Advertisers have significantly more options today, including niche players along with a vast array of search and social marketing outlets. One of our core discussions at the roundtable was around the future of programmatic and how it can help to offset the loss of local ad dollars.
Programmatic ad spend is projected to reach $100 billion by the end of 2022, accounting for 72% of digital display ad spend. Part of the explosion has to do with the improvements in technology, as well as the improvements that DSPs, SSPs and publishers have made in terms of their strategies, given the post third-party cookie era we are approaching. It is important for the media industry to think about what their first-party audience strategy is going to look like; whether that's focusing on email to build up a first-party strategy, or focusing on a combination of channels.
Moving away from third-party cookies is an awesome opportunity for publishers to re-energize direct relationships with advertisers that have gotten lost over time due to technology being put in the middle from a programmatic perspective. There is an opportunity for advertisers and publishers to build stronger connections under the umbrella of first-party audiences.” - Kerel Cooper
It’s not enough to just change your programmatic strategy, you have to find a way to provide a positive reader experience which you can monetize. Looking at inventory and taking advantage of programmatic is critical given that it's the source of ad dollars.
Not only does looking at inventory become essential, but an organization’s product suite is critical, as it takes more than just inventory to sell to customers. Organizations operate as an agency for customers, getting a 360-degree view of a customer and how they market and take in business offerings. As such, it is essential to have the ability to sell into email, newsletters, content and any kind of specialization to extract those unique dollars from satisfied customers.
“Understanding how to benefit from a programmatic strategy and how to make it work for you, and how to get the best dollars out of your programmatic initiative is crucial. Programmatic again, like many things, is not a set it and forget it.” - Stuart Schauman
Ad revenue Decline
While digital has bounced back from 2020, print revenue continues to trend downward. Most segments are driven by a lot of programmatic business. To fend off revenue declines, SMBs have to offer a diversified, aggressive and comprehensive suite of product offerings to enhance the customer experience, increasing their top line. The essential lesson for SMBs is learning how to get people to spend more time with their brand, reducing customer churn.
“You've gone out, you've sold that customer, you run their campaign, but you didn't pay as much attention to it as you should have. And that customer churns out.” - Stuart Schauman
Customer churn accounts for a certain amount of business, and it is unavoidable - regardless of a companies’ strategy, customer churn occurs in every business resulting in millions of dollars in lost revenue. The key to minimizing customer churn is developing a very strong customer success strategy. We have seen organizations create new email newsletter programs, enhance current programs and even bring different perspectives to their email programs to get their audience to spend more time with them.
So, whether through greater optimization, general hand holding, or a better suite of products that you're offering, it is amazing how much you can bring to your top line by paying attention to your existing customer in every way possible, focusing on the longevity of a customer relationship.
Employee productivity usually falls into the top three expense line categories for any media operation. Automation and outsourcing are key in ensuring that companies excel when it comes to their employee productivity. Before a company dives into automating their processes, it is essential for them to outline their goals, what they want to automate and what they plan on doing with the saved time and resources gained from automation.
Automation can have negative connotations from employees, as they operate on the fear of being replaced by automated processes. In order to ensure that employees are satisfied with the implementation of automation, it is critical that companies communicate with employees and have a plan of not only where they are going to direct the saved time and efforts of their employees, but also have a plan of automating processes that employees find mundane.
Employees absorb things in work processes that could easily get lost in the automation process itself, reinforcing the value of their participation in automation. The more an organization is able to be transparent with their employees, the more they will get out of automation, and in turn, productivity.
Steps for outsourcing:
1. Determine an internal point of contact to manage the outsourcer
2. Hold them to the same expectations as you do to your own internal team
3. Clearly define roles and responsibilities
4. Keep your outsource partner in the loop as to the workload forecast
5. Develop scripts, if your partner will be contacting sales or clients
6. Your partner should develop the processes to monitor, report, optimize and publish the KPIs and metrics that you both agreed to during the contract process
7. Leverage your outsources experience
8. Check in often, as outsourcing does not run on it own
Self-serve sits at the intersection of automation and outsourcing, creating a way to grow a specific product line. Self-service can be perceived as a combination of the two; handling the keys to advertisers, or whoever is using the self-serve platform, to execute deals because the client is too small to have a full-time employee service them.
With today’s social media and search capabilities, it is extremely difficult for an organization to operate without some sort of self-serve capability. If done right, it can change operations, allowing for an organization to grow their target market, becoming an excellent solution to target long-tail business. The ability to change customer service interactions with customers, and give them other avenues of communication on its own changes operations. The ability to come in and self-serve is valuable for an organization that is trying to reach a broader clientele such as small town newspapers and geographically limited publications.
Like automation and outsourcing, self-service has to be thought about differently than just replacing feet on the street. Simply putting a product online is not enough to get consumers to come: self-service is a change of perspective for retailers, forcing them to do something interesting to make consumers want to do things on their own. When changing the direction of what’s happening i.e. doing self-service, thinking outside the box is critical. With more product suites being buttoned down, and self-serve tools being more buttoned up there is a future for self-serve, especially for SMB and nice publications.