‘Real change needs to happen:’ Publishers shrug at platform overtures
By Lucia Moses
The platform giants have made a string of visible steps to improve their relationships with publishers lately. But apparently not all publishers have gotten the memo.
Facebook recently hired former TV journalist Campbell Brown as head of news partnerships and announced the Facebook Journalism Project to bolster its ties with news organizations. It has also begun expanding the types of ads it lets publishers run in their video and Instant Articles. Google has upgraded its fast-loading mobile articles initiative, AMP, to support native and video ads and expanded its Digital News Initiative fund to encourage high-quality journalism. Apple is seeking to sell more ads into its news aggregation app, Apple News.
“Over the last few months, we’ve seen a little bit more of a concerted effort by the platforms to work more with the publisher partners,” said Michael Kuntz, svp of digital revenue at the USA Today Network.
Still, he and other publishing execs say that effort hasn’t resulted in tangible revenue opportunities. It’s a concern that will permeate the air as publishers and other stakeholders in digital media (including the platform giants) gather today at the IAB’s annual Leadership Meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
“There’s real meaningful change that needs to happen. It’s fundamentally about monetization,” said Mike Dyer, president and publisher of the Daily Beast. “More than product array, more than relationships, more than hires.”
A report out last week from premium publisher trade group Digital Content Next showed that just 14 percent of publisher revenue was coming from distributed content. It’s a revelation that comes on top of the equally uncomfortable knowledge that the majority of digital ad revenue is going to Facebook and Google.
There have been new revenue initiatives, but each comes with a catch. Publishers have the most frustration with Facebook, with its sheer scale and focus on user engagement that often conflicts with their own interests. Its new mid-roll video ads have to be on videos that are 90 seconds or more — too bad for publishers that have perfected the 60-second clip. There’s a risk of engagement dropping off when people hit an ad.
Then there’s Google, which publishers see as more of an ally. But despite improvements to AMP, many publishers still can make more money from their own pages than they can on AMP pages, which by design don’t support all ad formats.
“The dominance of the duopoly is breathtaking,” said Jason Kint, CEO of Digital Content Next. “Their influence at events, industry coverage and Washington is powerful. Consider the simple fact neither company is MRC-accredited right now. They play by their own rules and reap the benefits.” (Google had two metrics suspended by the Media Rating Council last year; the MRC says today that Google is accredited for certain of measurements but that the suspension is still in place for certain DFP-related metrics and some ActiveView viewability-related metrics.)
It’s not just platforms’ payment terms that madden publishers. It’s the sometimes erratic way the platforms (especially Facebook) change tack, so media companies that have organized themselves around one feature …read more