Why publishers are taking a user-first approach to monetization

The header image shows a robot hugging a newspaper.

Sal Cacciato, managing director, North America, Video Intelligence

What’s the measure of success for publishers? Is it total visitors, session duration or time on page? For most, it’s revenue — at least for commercial teams, but editorial teams too if they want their Christmas bonus.

But in reality, this distinction is not so clear cut. At the end of the day, loyal readers and longer visits create more revenue opportunities. The driver of all of this is quality content and user experience.

Publishers are walking a tightrope between elements that bring in revenue and elements that attract and retain users. Keeping readers on the page longer and encouraging them to come back to the site improves revenue gains. The key is not only creating the written content that meets reader needs and expectations, but also easing the path for them to discover more. In the middle of all this is the format that delivers on both revenue and user experience — video. 

Video is a vital component of the user experience

When smoothly integrated video meets user needs, it becomes a vital UX component: A tool that improves editorial quality and keeps users on site for longer. Publishers who become renowned for relevant, quality video will find that users will come back to their site, too.

While user retention is of utmost importance for a publications’ success, so is their revenue generation strategy. Yet, finding internal harmony between the editorial and revenue teams can be a challenge. Thankfully, editorial teams know the power of video storytelling is often unmatched and revenue teams know that in-stream video ads are often the highest-yielding advertising unit. Finding a partner or product that delivers on both is the trick. But not all video content is created equal. 

Platforms that enable videos to be created by stitching together images with text and music have become popular. With fast turnaround times and increasing numbers of editing functions, these can seem appealing. But a frustrated viewer who sits through an ad only to discover the video is a rehash of the article or that the video is of poor quality is not going to return.

Improve UX with quality content — and context — and revenue will follow

At the other end of the scale is quality content from renowned sources. And this is where the bar is really being moved in 2021; household names in news, sports, entertainment and lifestyle are now syndicating their content to quality sites. Needless to say, these also provide an in-stream opportunity for publishers, encouraging the all-important repeat and multi-page visitors.

Content is only one part of the puzzle — it must also appear in the right place — the context of the content is crucial. Ideally, video content should enhance the information presented on the page around it by providing new information, an alternative take or moving image footage bringing the text descriptions to life. Automation and machine learning is now able to do this instantly.

But even that’s not enough to impress the seamless needs of today’s casual web browser. Video UX isn’t just about quality or context, it also encompasses aesthetics and functionality. A video player should appear native, naturally blending in with the site regardless of whether it’s a third-party player — and it should function smoothly and unobtrusively.

Finding a balance between quality and speed 

There’s also an elephant in the room — video players can be heavy and awkward. For publishers, slow loading players hit where it hurts, as Google’s Core Web Vitals analysis drastically punishes pages that load slowly. Install the wrong video player or add too many monetization platforms and search traffic will plummet. Core Web Vitals are designed to respond to better UX, so the traffic will follow once that score is improved.

Clearly, maintaining an equilibrium of a great UX while generating in-stream revenue is no mean feat. Here are some tips to help in choosing the right partner:

  1. Video quality: If a publisher’s video library is lacking, does the prospective partner have a large library of professionally produced, brand-safe video content? How deep is the video library when it comes to categories and evergreen versus time-specific content? 
  2. Relevancy: Ensure the content being delivered, whether it’s owned or third-party, is matched to the content of a page. How sophisticated is the contextual matching AI? Does it work instantly, adapting to the newest content available?
  3. Revenue: Does the partner have direct demand relationships to help monetize the newly created in-stream inventory? How can publishers add value to the understanding they have of their readers by enhancing their data sets?
  4. Ease of implementation: Does the partner provide an easy to implement, lightweight video player? Does the partner provide an automated solution, or does the publisher need to manually place videos?  

With the pressures of revenue hanging over them, there’s a danger that commercial teams at publishers can lose sight of user experience in the pursuit of KPIs. Yet, revenue focused teams shouldn’t underestimate their users’ intolerance for low quality and irrelevant video content.  

User experience itself can’t be quantified, but its effects are seen across every metric, from page analytics to revenue. So, whether on the editorial or commercial side of the water cooler, finding a path that works for everyone is key.

https://digiday.com/?p=424630