‘We’re wondering what’s next’: European publishers’ candid thoughts

Top European publishers gathered in Monaco this week at the Digiday Publishing Summit Europe to discuss the latest trends in publishing. More than 240 media executives addressed common challenges ranging from adapting to Facebook’s latest algorithm changes, tackling ad fraud and whether they can trust Amazon as it moves further into media.

Here are takeaways from the discussions during the town hall and working group sessions.

Re-evaluating platform strategies
“Two months ago, we were getting organic reach of a billion a month on Facebook. Now in the wake of Facebook’s changes, I’d be wary to tell you the exact figures. We’re still wondering what’s next. Things are changing.”

“After Facebook made a change to the way it measures organic reach to only count when [posts are] in view, those of us that have been trading on reach realize we have been giving erroneous reach statistics.”

“Three-second views on Facebook are like a bomb that’s about to go off. We love it right now, but one day clients will say, ‘How long were people watching for?’ It’s in the post.”

“We have seen an uplift on our video views on Twitter in a way that surprises us. We’re seeing a return on that I wouldn’t have predicted a year ago.”

“Platforms in many ways have a positive effect. The way people consume content has changed so much, it has made publishers transform. Platforms help get a newsroom to think in a myriad of ways.”

“We’re not investing enough in our own brands. Publishers have been overreliant on social platforms so that the consumer has no idea who they are consuming content from, but we can reignite organic traffic if we reinvest in ourselves rather than try to be everything for everyone.”

“Platforms have a lack of accountability. They are now starting to behave like publishers, but still not adhering to the same standards we have to.”

“The platforms have an underappreciation of content: If we continue to supply content for little revenue, then where will it lead? Just cat videos?”

Tackling ad fraud
“I’m still trying to figure out why ad fraud is a publisher problem.”

“Issues with fraud have all but disappeared since we started using ads.txt.”

“I want to understand more about what we know is fraud and what we don’t know is fraud.”

“There is a responsibility on the demand side to buy accurately, not just buy inventory as cheaply as it can. That’s why we’re finding ourselves in this position. It’s no longer a narrative between publishers and client and agencies. The narrative has been formed by platforms and tech companies with their own agenda, and that agenda has got twisted, and that’s led to the creation of this whole ecosystem that is based on nothing.”

“The majority of media companies are under pressure to make revenue all the time, so if you suddenly change your programmatic strategy in a major way and get rid of, say, a lower-value open exchange format near the bottom of the page where we know viewability is low, does everyone have the balls to go to the senior people and tell them we’re going to eliminate that overnight because it improves viewability and will reduce what goes into the open exchange, but that revenue disappears overnight, and that we may have to take that dip before you see the revenues rise back up?”

Amazon’s move into media
“What I’d like to know is whether we as publishers should trust Amazon now that it’s making a move into media.”

“We can trust Amazon as long as we recognize that Amazon has its own agenda and cares about Amazon, and ensure that we diversify.”

Publisher collaborations
“What’s positive about Facebook’s latest algorithm change is it’s a wake-up call to all publishers. It shows us the sands have shifted, that we can now bury the hatchet and work together — because we must.”

Closer relationships with brands
“There’s been a spate of briefs in the last two months of one winner takes all of one big pot of money, and if you’re not that winner, you don’t get the opportunity to work with that advertiser. If you are that winner, you rule out working with other partners from the same category who feel like you’re working with a competitor.”

“If clients see you as an agency, as other publishers are trying to replace the agency with branded-content studios, that’s how they treat agencies, with exclusivity. If it’s a large contract, they think exclusivity is being to their benefit, when it’s not much of a benefit. But if they look at you as a partner, then they can share more data, more information, but you don’t need to accept that exclusivity. Exclusivity can impact the business.”

Jessica Davies contributed reporting.


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