By Danielle Desjardins
“Google, Facebook, and Twitter — Are they media companies disguised as technology companies?”
This is the question at the heart of “Publishers Will Need Independent Tech to Level Playing Field,” by Kirk McDonald, President of PubMatic, and although the answer to this hotly debated issue isn’t quite clear, one thing is: regardless of whether these outlets are media or technology companies, traditional publishers will need to up their game, and rethink their roles, to compete.
Premium content is no longer the failsafe recipe for success that it was for publishers for decades. Instead, technology and data are upending the monetization strategies that publishers have relied on for so long.
The world of publishing has changed dramatically over the past several years, and according to McDonald, this has created a new paradigm for publishers. “Premium content is no longer the failsafe recipe for success that it was for publishers for decades. Instead, technology and data are upending the monetization strategies that publishers have relied on for so long.” And these changes show in user behavior.
According to a study by Publishing Technology, a leading supplier of data and content solutions, 43% of mobile phone users (both in the United States and United Kingdom) use their phones to read books. The remaining 57%, however, find the experience of reading on a mobile phone unpleasant (36% in the US; 29% in the UK) or found the mobile platforms designed for reading too difficult to use (26% in the US; 21% in the UK). This indicates that unlike game developers, social networking sites, and other media/technology hybrids, publishing companies are not concentrating on continuously refining the user experience of their digital content — a necessity when users can, and will, easily switch loyalties. And considering that an estimated 2.4 billion smartphones will be sold in 2015 alone — approximately 120 times the number of Kindle e-readers sold from 2007 to 2014 — this represents a lost opportunity on a huge scale.
But that is only one technology. As millennials and other digital natives increasingly affect the marketplace, this need for excellent user experiences, and more convenient print/digital hybrid solutions, will only increase.
But the task of developing new monetization strategies and redirecting focus requires publishers to rethink their roles entirely. No longer will they solely be responsible for acquiring, producing, and disseminating content; instead, the average publisher will also need to consider the development or acquisition of specialized technologies built around their unique products — and their unique challenges.
Although some may rush to partner with the Facebooks and Twitters of the world to gain access to these groundbreaking technologies without a substantial internal investment, this strategy may prove short-sighted, especially as the partner technology company moves (often lightning fast) to change the offered technology to fit their own needs, not the publisher’s.
These marketplaces are no more invested in a publisher’s success than the NASDAQ is invented in the success of a particular mutual fund that makes trades on its exchange.
Instead, according to McDonald, the secret to adapting is to locate and partner with independent technology companies — or create individualized technology perfectly suited to your requirements in-house — to solve problems such as the need for greater market automation and real-time inventory management. In a sense, it is only by redefining themselves as both media and technology companies — effectively blurring the lines between each segment — that publishers will survive.
“It’s time for publishers to stop asking, “Are Google and Facebook media companies or tech companies?’” says McDonald, “And start asking themselves, ‘How am I using technology to build the media company of the future?’”