The Rundown: Search-focused publishers make for attractive acquisition targets
Anybody trying to figure out what will drive the next wave of publisher acquisitions this year should probably look to Google, rather than Facebook. On Wednesday, Dotdash and Condé Nast announced that the former had acquired Brides, the 85-year-old magazine that Condé had put up for sale late last year.
The move further reinforces Dotdash’s focus on Google (and its increasingly important affiliate commerce partner Amazon) as key drivers of its business. Unlike the crop of publishers that rode social distribution to easy scale several years ago — and subsequently found their audiences yanked from them by algorithm changes — search-focused publishers rely on a much more stable and sustainable source of traffic.
What’s more, publishers can benefit from intent-driven search traffic when delivering value for their advertisers. People searching for wedding, health or finance-related queries are in a different mindset to those tapping through from links in their social media feeds.
That’s made search-centric publishers increasingly attractive targets. Even Mic, which Bustle Digital Group acquired for a fire sale price of $5 million last fall, spent years building infrastructure and content focused on search.
The acquisition is Dotdash’s second of 2019 — it bought the Clique-owned titles Byrdie and MyDomaine for an undisclosed price in January — and confirms Dotdash CEO Neil Vogel’s vow that Dotdash would be acquisitive this year.
Following the acquisition, Brides will reportedly scrap its print product and rebuild its website, while keeping its editorial staff. Once rebuilt, Brides will slug it out with WeddingWire and the Knot, two search-focused wedding titles that merged in 2018, for the clicks of the soon-to-be- (or just recently) wed. — Max Willens
Agency search consultants are feeling the pinch
Search consultants, working on behalf of marketers to run agency reviews, used to have a certain cachet and status in the industry, especially among agencies. But as the marketing and advertising industry continues to face an array of challenges, they’ve become one unwitting casualty.
“Commoditized,” said one major consultant, describing their role and position in the ecosystem.
That’s partly due to the same pressures affecting agencies: There are fewer agency of record relationships, which means there are fewer relationships that need to be vetted. Most brands are now either doing more work on a project-by-project basis, or doing it themselves in-house.
In other places, as compensation has decreased for agencies, so has the amount of money a brand will pay a consultant. “There are very few search consultants left,” said Avi Dan, a long time search consultant who now does more work on the traditional consulting side.
But even there, it’s not like these companies don’t have competition. Big consultancies are already deep in the marketing services industry — and they’re better positioned to advise clients on positioning, partners and strategy. Plus, one-stop shops like MediaLink, which have built businesses being brokers and relationship-makers for all sides of the industry, are also doing an increasing number of agency reviews.
“I’ve got almost no business left,” one small search consultant company owner said. — Shareen Pathak
NBCU, WarnerMedia make a play for ads in new streaming era
The biggest story during TV upfronts week is streaming video. NBCU and WarnerMedia are both getting set to launch major new streaming services in 2020. Disney, meanwhile, will drop Disney+ in November. But while the streaming video conversation — and big media’s looming battle with Netflix and other tech giants — has largely been dominated by subscription video, NBCU and WarnerMedia spent their upfronts insisting that advertising will be a core part of their streaming services.
“We strongly believe in the two-sided business model that supports both subscriptions and advertising,” said John Stankey, CEO of WarnerMedia, during the company’s upfront presentation at the MSG Theatre.
“While other companies are pushing advertisers out, we’re bringing them in,” said NBCU’s ad sales chief Linda Yaccarino during the company’s upfront at Radio City Music Hall. (NBCU’s service will technically be free to those already paying for cable or satellite, but will come at a price for those that have fully cut the cord.)
NBCU and WarnerMedia want the best of both worlds, and it’s easy to see why: the OTT ad business is expected to reach $5 billion by 2020, according to Magna Global, and will likely skyrocket as these streaming services amass more users. Disney already has a commanding lead with its full control of Hulu, which generated $1.5 billion in advertising revenue in 2018, but NBCU and WarnerMedia want to ensure they can get in on the action. — Sahil Patel
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