Publishers looking to diversify revenues have discovered that comes with its own challenges. Publishers looking to improve their existing streams are finding they have to fight harder — and offer more — just to keep advertiser investment where it was.

During Digiday’s Moguls and on day one of the Digiday Publishing Summit down at the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, attendees discussed the struggles they faced on both fronts. Both events are conducted under Chatham House Rules, which allows reporters to share what people say without identifying them by name.

Diversifying revenue is harder than it looks
“It’s like starting a net-new business. People look at it as, ‘You’ve got 10 million monthly uniques, that’s 10 million possible customers!’ But it doesn’t work out that way.”

“How do you identify talent who can move the needle on something you don’t have expertise in yourself? I don’t feel fully qualified to interview a VP of analytics because it’s not something I know a lot about.”

“It’s hard to get our editor in chief to sit in a room to talk about t-shirts when news is breaking.”

“We can’t get someone who’s just done retention or just done acquisition at a larger shop. We need someone who can come in and do everything.”

“Customer service was such an afterthought. ‘How many emails could we possibly get?’ we thought. We get a lot.”

“That’s one advantage to starting with an app. You don’t have to worry about billing because you don’t touch it. You don’t have as many issues.”

“You get to a place with some of this stuff where it just comes down to customer service: Who’s responsive, who’s easy to work with.”

“It’s hard to staff up for programmatic. There’s so many things that can go wrong because they’re not comped as much as they could be.”

Media’s middle class is getting squeezed
“The threat is not getting consolidated. The threat is competing with the companies that have been consolidated.”

“It’s getting harder and harder to be an indie media company.”

“We’re seeing a lot of deals happening where we know it’s not going to be profitable for the publisher. It’s hard for our sellers to go up against it.”

“Every year brands ask for more and more for the same price.”

“My biggest challenge is Google taking everything. I don’t like all my eggs in one basket.”

The death of the third-party cookie brings collateral damage
“We’ve been running hypothetical models on Chrome where [the loss of open exchange revenue] drops revenue 20-25%. You have to have a weird conversation with your CFO where you say, ‘I would take this number by 25%’ and nobody wants to hear that.”

“Every user research study we’ve ever done shows people are freaked out about why that shoe they bought two weeks ago is still following them around. And they blame us.”

“If you can entice great talent to come in, you truly have an advantage. A lot of your competitors are not doing that.”

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