Content Investment: Measuring The Unmeasurable

The Sell Sider” is a column written for the sell side of the digital media community.

Today's column is written by Ryan Fuss, chief revenue officer at Sortable.

Remember going to video stores? You had to leave your house and drive to the video store with at least one movie in mind. And more often than not, you probably had to settle for your second – or third or fourth – choice because the most popular movies were already rented for the evening. You were at the mercy of basic economics: not enough supply to meet demand.

Technology has changed the way we consume media. Consumers no longer need to seek out destinations; content comes to them. The supply overwhelmingly exceeds demand, and now the tables have turned. Consumers no longer compete for scarce content resources. Instead, content creators compete for the attention of consumers.

Before technology and social media exploded, publishers distributed content through defined, controlled channels. Social media created a seismic shift, and now consumers have all become publishers. They can capture, create, publish and distribute content in seconds.

This is all complicated further by their increased control over the content that they consume. They can curate and prioritize their own media consumption with more control than ever. Consumers’ online selves live in echo chambers, where they’re only exposed to the content they want to see. They could go days scrolling through Twitter or Facebook without seeing something that’s not of personal interest to them.

The walls of the social media echo chamber have proven to be the hardest to break through. Publishers can create great content, but how do they align themselves with audience tastes?

The best tool publishers have to chisel away is data. Using data will help inform content and drive it to audiences. To survive and thrive, publishers need to adapt to industry and technological shifts, and data is the key. The role content is playing in digital publishing is changing constantly, and publishers need to adapt how to track and measure it to protect its value.

So how can publishers tell what’s working? What content type, author, theme format is generating the most return on content investment? How does an organization even define return on content? Is it ad sales? Syndication? Consumption? Licensing? Sponsorships? The list goes on.

The first step is to get everyone on the same page. Publishers must rally their monetization, content and marketing teams around the data. Everyone needs to work together to better understand the challenges, find the right solutions and uncover new opportunities.

Once everyone is unified, it’s about getting answers to questions: Do we have the right technology? Do we have access to the right data? Publishers need great content to drive revenue, but they can’t monetize without understanding how it behaves.

The adage was “content is king,” but I don’t know if that’s true anymore. Maybe audience is king, and content is the court jester? Consumers don’t necessarily seek out content, they want relevant content to come to them.

Consumption habits are changing, and publishers must evolve to continue to be successful. The publishing industry is changing faster than it ever has before, and the challenge is to get ahead of the curve. And it’s on the right path to figuring it out.

Measuring content effectiveness takes time – publishers need to dive deeper than clicks, shares and likes. Matching revenue data to content data will help see what resonates and, in turn, provide tangible value that all levels of an organization can understand. Prioritizing a data-centric approach to content will help publishers make more informed decisions, dispel hunches and drive content efficiencies.

I can’t say I’ve got all the answers, but I am confident that using real data to unify content, marketing and sales teams to get them working collaboratively should prove invaluable in a time when it’s never been harder to extrapolate and prove ROI from something that is effectively becoming commoditized.

Follow Sortable (@Sortable) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

 

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