How Future PLC’s audience-first strategy grew revenue in 2020
While 2020 was a year of struggle and strife for many publishers, London-based Future PLC ended its 2020 fiscal year up 65% in total revenue from last year, bringing in a total of just under £340 million (approximately $459 million), according to the company’s 2020 annual report.
As a special interest-based publisher, Future PLC has the advantage of having niche, passionate audiences that trust the publications they read. But with over 130 titles, the company also has the scale of a mass media company, with a total audience consists of upwards of 400 million monthly unique users. That extensive database of user behavior, interests and shopping habits is what the company’s CEO Zillah Byng-Thorne said helped the company grow over the past year.
“We’ve invested a lot of money and resource around having a proprietary tech stack, which just makes it easier for us to reach our audiences and to work together cooperatively,” said Byng-Thorne, adding that this decision was first implemented eight years ago.
Today, the company owns four pieces of technology, including a content management system, an advertising tech stack, a commerce platform and, most recently, a first-party audience segment database that streamlines all the data together.
In the latest episode of the Digiday Podcast, Byng-Thorne discusses how Future positioned itself over the last year to grow not only its e-commerce business during the coronavirus pandemic-induced online shopping boom, but also its advertising business.
Here are a few highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.
Strength in global scale
Some of our hobbyist publications are quite small and quite niche. But at the same time, we’ve got the number one brand in the English speaking world in PC gaming. And PC gaming is a big audience. We must not fall into the trap of thinking that because it’s a hobby, it must be small. We very much view ourselves as being about loyal communities and areas of passion for people. That’s what got us thinking about global, which was, you know, if you’re an enthusiastic PC gamer, you’re just as enthusiastic in Australia as you are in the U.S., and therefore, why would we want to limit our reach to just the market we operate in? That’s been a core driver of us pivoting into a U.S.-first mindset, because that’s the largest audience that we have available to us.
Enthusiast audiences have high-intent
We’re really at the point of helping people make buying decisions. However, rather than put that monetization into the ad, what we’re saying is, you can advertise around it. We want to kind of keep [e-commerce] separate, because we want to make sure that the editorial sits in its own right. What we do find is that if advertisers advertise around that type of content, and they’re in the list, then they’re going to get a much better clickthrough rate because there’s a reinforcement of the brand. But we don’t actually put the clickthrough directly into the app.
First-party audience data is key
The third-party cookie’s going away and so the ability to buy an audience based on the cookie is going to be much harder for advertisers. And therefore the bottom of the advertising stack is much less valuable. What we’re adding in is an extra premium layer at the top, which is really well identified audiences using the first-party. However, I think businesses like ours still continue to be able to monetize more the direct-sold element, because people will buy based on brand. If you can’t identify your audience or identify your user, you’re still going to buy brands.
‘I could barely walk’: Some COVID long-haulers radically reduce work hours to cope with symptoms
Professionals who are COVID long-haulers, have had to radically adjust their working schedules in order to cope with symptoms.
Publisher and agency executives scrutinize email-based universal IDs as the third-party cookie’s long-term heir apparent
Email-based universal IDs may improve upon the cookie in some ways, but relying upon the email address can introduce privacy concerns.
Member ExclusiveMedia Buying Briefing: A look at the big topics at the Media Buying Summit this week
Media buyers, planners and clients’ efforts to adapt to a changed world will be addressed in a number of ways at Digiday’s Media Buying Summit in Miami this week.
SponsoredHow publishers can hook their audience like retail’s top holiday performers
Allison Mezzafonte, lead media advisor, Sailthru Media companies are always looking for the hook to grab readers’ attention, especially during the hectic holiday season. As a channel, email has gotten a lot of buzz lately and continues to hold its own as a way of getting directly in front of an audience. For example, during […]
‘It’s an essential story’: A Q&A with The Washington Post’s Krissah Thompson on the outlet’s growing climate coverage
Washington Post managing editor Krissah Thompson discusses the publisher's plans to cover COP26 as climate becomes a "key pillar" of the Post's coverage.
How NBC’s News Group is shaping NBCUniversal’s commerce bets
The nearly 50-person group now oversees two shopping shows, commerce sub-brands across three NBC News properties and direct deal-making for a growing list of sister brands.