Publishers, Hedge Your Bets On Facebook And Snapchat

christianbaeslerThe Sell Sider” is a column written by the sell side of the digital media community.

Today's column is written by Christian Baesler, president at Bauer Xcel Media.

At a recent conference, David Jakubowski, Facebook’s head of ad technology, called Snapchat a hot product that might turn off advertisers if it doesn’t start offering more targeting and measurement.

He emphasized that as Snapchat emerges from its experimental advertising phase, marketers will inevitably want to compare results on various platforms. He noted that Facebook needed to change as it grew, and Snapchat will likely have to as well.

His words were not directed at publishers, but they provide important insights for publishers to consider.

Premium content publishers know they need scale and flexibility to appeal to marketers, and so many have embraced distribution on Facebook. Facebook has become very important to many publishers’ bottom lines. Almost like the aftermath of an earthquake, any tweak that Facebook makes to its algorithm to appease both advertisers and consumers creates a fundamental disruption in the way they do business. Facebook’s recent announcement to highlight more personal data in the news feed shows that publishers are still treated as bystanders in the dance to court advertisers and consumers.

We’re at an inflection point where Facebook engagement potentially is peaking while new platforms are on the rise. Consumers don’t share as much on Facebook as they used to and have migrated their sharing to Instagram and Snapchat, among others. Yet Snapchat will likely be no different for publishers than Facebook. As advertisers urge Snapchat to improve its offerings, it will start to change.

For a while, it’s possible that these changes will actually appeal to publishers. Discovery will likely grow to include more publishers. Like advertisers, they will probably be offered targeting and measurement, which will entice them to invest in distribution strategies on Snapchat.

Before rushing to establish a presence on Snapchat, or any other platform, it’s a good time for publishers to step back and reassess their distribution strategy. Publishers should look at the risks and benefits of including various platforms based on four factors: risk, fit, innovation and global footprint.

First, they must recognize that consumer behavior is fragmenting at an accelerated rate. Content discovery will change rapidly across channels. While a handful of platforms will still likely have the most scale, the options continue to grow. From TV companies to messenger apps, it is hard to say who will garner the most consumer attention in the next few years. Publishers must embrace a diversified distribution strategy. Far better for a publisher to hedge its bets across several promising new partners than to go all-in with one that doesn’t have scale or has not proven to be a true friend of publishers.

Second, different platforms provide value in different ways. Snapchat has not shown that it’s very good at longer-format video, for example. Publishers need to distribute content in the places that marry best with their own business model and target audience. Video producers will more likely focus on YouTube and Vimeo while gaming companies might prefer Raptr.

Third, very new technologies will drastically change the way publishers profit from their distribution strategies. It’s important for publishers to consider how innovations will alter their strategies. Chatbots and other artificial intelligence-driven interactions could destroy apps. The platform that entices US consumers to use mobile payments at scale could force other platforms to make a sharp turn. Partnering with very new companies, such as Kik or Slack, will put publishers at the forefront of these changes and give them more ways to experiment than if they go all-in with Facebook Messenger alone, for example.

Finally, publishers need to think globally. A huge percentage of US content is accessed by people outside of the county, and that’s where spending power is increasing the fastest. In fact, one out of every 10 online purchases from someone in Europe is made on a US website. Snapchat has an estimated 150 million daily active users, while WeChat has at least 570 million daily active users and 700 million monthly active users. Foreign platforms also have a head start on messenger apps, chatbots and mobile payments, as well as gaming and geolocation targeting capabilities. It’s possible that WeChat or another foreign platform will finally crack the US market.

Publishers know that they aren’t always in control of their audience or their relationship with marketers. However, they can be in charge of their distribution strategy and can evaluate partners across these factors: risk, fit, innovation and global footprint. These factors can help publishers protect themselves from the changes that inevitably occur as new platforms change to keep up with the pace of consumer and advertiser expectations.

Follow Bauer Xcel Media (@bauerxcel) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

 

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