Why are publishers struggling to master paid content distribution?

By Gil Bar-Tur – CEO, PubPlus

The advertising environment is transforming, pushing publishers to find new revenue streams, such as e-commerce, affiliate partnerships, subscriptions or events. And many publishers — us included — have been profiting from another lucrative revenue stream: Paid content distribution on social and native channels. But it’s a path that carries a number of challenges. And as I’ve attended publishing summits and spoken to other publishers, I’ve come to realize that many of them are reluctant to take the leap to paid content distribution, for several key reasons. First and foremost, it requires a significant change in mindset. 

The publishing industry isn’t alone in these challenges. Let’s take a look at how one iconic brand took advantage of a shifting technological landscape — and changed its mindset — to get ahead.   

As technology began to progress at incredible speeds, LEGO, the producer of the famous building block toys, began to lose market share and was even on the brink of bankruptcy in 2004. To remain relevant, the company began to fuse the physical and digital worlds by adopting new work methods, altering their infrastructure and releasing new offerings. 

In order to become the ‘Apple of toys,’ LEGO promoted Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, who took over from the grandson of the company founder Ole Kirk Christiansen. Knudstorp spearheaded the company’s digital strategy with the understanding that kids were spending more time on screens then with traditional toys. This included the launch of the LEGO Life app, a social network community allowing users to play in the online space. LEGO also successfully entered the video game market with the creation of a LEGO themed adventure game.

LEGO has made huge strides from where they were in the early 2000’s. Much of this success stems from their shift in mentality while remaining true to their brand identity. As Knudstorp described it, the company went back to basics and got back to the core of what LEGO had always been about: a process of discovery.

If LEGO got kids to play with LEGO Bricks online, stacking virtual bricks on top of each other on their computer, the publishing industry’s main asset — content — can still be profitable with a revised holistic approach, recognizing the shift in market trends and consumers in order to take it to the next level of sustainability. LEGO in particular focuses on its “KSFs,” or Key Success Factors. These factors prioritize measured actions and a clear chain of command; ideas that can easily translate across industries.

For publishers, this means going back to basics, doing what they do best and creating content, all while mastering the pay-to-play game of distributing content on social and native channels with a clear understanding of how it contributes to the bottom line. 

This is a great opportunity for publishers to take a bird’s-eye view and consider the multiple factors affecting their content distribution potential. They should analyze costs and benefits, and which positions within their organizations can join forces to accomplish this new strategy. It would require the effort of several departments: Audience development to drive traffic, editorial for understanding which content performs well in which channels, and ad ops for connecting revenue generated with its source. With this synergy, decision makers can survive the changes the industry is going through. 

But paid content distribution is not a magic wand. Willingness to make changes in website layout and content performance is key to maximizing the revenue potential of your content. 

There’s no need to start from scratch. With the right mix of content, technology and experience — and with a significant change in mindset — paid content distribution works. 

Gil Bar-Tur is the CEO of PubPlus, a revenue attribution platform for publishers. You can check out their site here.


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