Winter has arrived for digital media

Dear Readers,

Greetings from Digital Content Next’s publisher summit in Orlando, Florida, where the chilly weather is a fitting metaphor for the publishing industry.

The gathering of a who’s who of companies (DCN members include Bloomberg Media, the FT, and New York Media, among many others) took place after a brutal couple of weeks for the industry, with layoffs hitting publishers from Condé Nast and Gannett to HuffPost and BuzzFeed News. To some, a sustainable model for online news seems even more elusive than ever.

“It’s bad all over,” one person confided in me at the hotel bar.

Things look little more upbeat for publishers with well-developed subscription businesses. But even they aren’t without worry. If they’re not wondering where their subscription growth will cap out, they’re worrying about rival publishers cutting their prices, making it harder to get anyone to pay full price. More to come later on my conversations with publishers at the event.

— Lucia

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Here’s what else we reported on this week.

Brands embrace purposeBeing purpose-driven isn’t just an option for brands these days. Our colleagues sat down with the marketing chiefs of packaged-goods giants P&G and Unilever in Davos, where they talked up the importance of having brands stand for social values, even if it means risking blowback from consumers.

Marketing to ad-avoidant consumersSpeaking of P&G, the company says mass marketing is being disrupted, so it’s having to reinvent the way it reaches consumers.

  • It’s doing more in the way of content creation, producing news programs with Katie Couric that serve as product placement vehicles for brands like Pantene and Secret.
  • In another example, it’s adding a technology layer to products like Olay that interacts directly with the consumer.

Following the ad-tech moneyNot all the money has dried up for ad- and mar-tech firms. Startup Knotch just raised $US20 million, for a total of $US34 million. The firm provides software that helps brands measure campaigns as they increase the number of places they distribute them. Two trends are driving the funding:

  • The in-housing trend by brands; half of Knotch’s business deals with brands’ own content.
  • The bloom is off the rose for branded content, and brands are demanding to get more value out of their content by distributing it in as many places as possible.

TV struggles to adopt digital’s waysTV companies want to bring digital-like targeting and measurement to TV ads, but the pace of change is slow, execs from NBCU, Turner, and Viacom said during AdExchanger’s Industry Preview conference. Advertisers are stuck in legacy ways of buying and don’t get the level of data needed to pull off such buys.

  • Creative agencies are still making the single ad instead of coming up with multiple versions, like digital marketers do.
  • Finally, DTC companies are moving into TV, but don’t have big budgets and demand precise performance metrics.

Viacom’s Pluto TV deal

Pluto tv

In a catch-up move, the parent of MTV and Nickelodeon bought the leading free streaming TV service for $US340 million.

  • The dollar amount is relatively small but it was still seen as a shot in the arm for digital video after the fire sale of Awesomeness TV (also to Viacom) and shutdown of Verizon’s Go90.
  • As a free, ad-supported service, Pluto’s growth underscores the idea that subscription fatigue is setting in, even as Netflix is grabbing all the buzz for its meme-making originals.

Publishers’ latest idea to raise revenueCondé Nast is planning to charge advertisers more to reach digital subscribers, arguing they’re more valuable than freeloaders.

  • The publisher says subscribers spend as much as nine times as long reading its sites as non-paying readers.
  • It will be a tough sell with ad buyers who feel they can reach that audience elsewhere, though.

Feel free to send tips or thoughts to me at [email protected]

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