"Data Driven Thinking" is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.
Today's column is written by Ramsey McGrory, CEO at AddThis.
The media industry was left stunned with this week’s news that The Washington Post and its 135-year-old legacy is now under the watchful eye of Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos.
Much has been written about the intractable issues related to running a newspaper in an increasingly digital world. But what value can this combination bring to advertisers and brands? How will Bezos shake up the status quo, and what will it mean for the future of journalism and the marketers who spend with the media brand?
No one knows for sure.
Amazon’s legacy does give us a sense of how Bezos will marry content and commerce to restore the luster of a declining media property that still has a great brand and loyal core readership with plenty of room to grow.
In order to succeed in a rapidly changing news landscape and ultimately attract more attention from brand marketers, WaPo must make serious changes to its content. The paper has a history in investigative journalism, but the attention spans of today’s consumers are much different than during the age of Watergate and the Pentagon Papers.
WaPo faces aggressive competition with modern news outlets, such as Forbes, Huffington Post and the Business Insider, which counts Bezos among its investors. The paper must take a few plays from DVorkin, Huffington and Blodget’s respective playbooks by making its content shorter and producing more of it by reporters, contributors and even brands.
Consumers now change screens 27 times an hour, according to Innerscope Research. There will always be room for the award-winning investigative journalism that made the paper such a cornerstone of American journalism, but there must be concessions to keep the doors open.
It’s About Personalization
Even if WaPo can successfully shift toward a model that generates more content for readers, they face another problem, albeit one that could be characterized as a good thing. How do consumers find the content that’s most relevant to them?
That’s where the strongest tech elements of Amazon can be put to good use for WaPo. Everybody reads a newspaper differently: Some start with sports, others go for the business section and some may begin with the funny pages. In other words, we are curators of our own news experience.
Amazon is very good at delivering the right product and content to you at the right time based on your personal preferences. WaPo could use these lessons and insights to create a tailored, next-gen news experience for both brands and consumers. If WaPo can figure out a way to create a more personalized news experience for the consumer, they’ll have a better chance of retaining them and increasing loyalty.
Better Personalization Means Better ROI And Viewability
As outlets like Forbes, BI or BuzzFeed will tell you, personalization is not just about the news – it’s about creating better ROI for marketers. As consumers tailor their content experience based on personal preferences, WaPo can create consumer profiles that are just detailed enough to sell more targeted display advertising, and perhaps eventually, more tailored sponsored content.
Personalization could also go a long way to solving the major issues with viewability. Recent comScore surveys reveal that 46% of online ads are never even seen. If WaPo can leverage user profiles to deliver more relevant ads, it would go a long way toward creating a model for how publishers and brand marketers may collaborate to solve this critical issue.
Kindle: WaPo’s Trojan Horse?
While Bezos and his PR staff have done a very good job of keeping this purchase separate from the Amazon ecosystem, there is no question that the Kindle could very well be WaPo’s Trojan horse from a distribution and monetization standpoint.
It’s no coincidence that the timing of the purchase coincides with certain “megatrends” in the world of publishing that are evolving quickly. The blurring of advertising and publishing and the need to maximize content distribution and trends like native advertising are all relevant to this acquisition and will present new opportunities for advertising and ecommerce as WaPo evolves as a news distribution outlet.
In addition, tablet adoption is growing rapidly, as is news consumption on these devices. The amount of consumers using tablets to consume news has doubled over the last year, according to a study by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.
Perhaps more importantly, tablet purchases represent a large share of the m-commerce market, a share that only looks to grow in the years ahead. Tablets’ share of US retail m-commerce sales will increase to approximately 71.5% by 2017, according to a survey by eMarketer, compared to about 65% now.
By offering a Kindle or Kindle Fire to WaPo’s print and digital subscribers, consumers can personalize their news and ecommerce experience, which could lead to better targeted content and greater revenue opportunities for both advertisers and the paper. Who knows, maybe a WaPo subscription may one day come free with Amazon Prime.
Nobody knows what Bezos will do now that he’s the owner of one of the most recognizable newspaper franchises in American history. But there’s one thing that is for certain: The media outlet is primed and ready for change.
Whether it’s sponsored content, more targeted display ads, more personalized content or all three, it’s clear that The Washington Post we visit today is going to be radically different for brands and consumers by this time next year.
Follow Ramsey McGrory (@NYCMcG) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.