Transcendence: The Power of Publishing is Marketing


This is getting tired. Recent comments by Jim Spanfeller and remarks at yesterday’s hearing on The Future of Journalism are just the latest show of disregard for the major changes that have taken place in the digital medium over the past five years.

As Grove said about technology, only the paranoid survive. Publishers haven’t been paranoid though, they’ve been sleeping through the transformation of the digital media landscape. Wake up! You can’t operate strategically the same way for 5 years in a row in digital. The technology moves too fast.

While content channels like search, mobile and social continue to rise and technology like APIs, JavaScript, XMP & RDF continue to advance publishers have made little to no investment innovating to provide better experiences with their content or revenue generation for themselves. Instead, they sat there like fat cats measuring all the free search traffic and impressions of countless display ads on their pages – and God forbid they do anything with that data.


What’s become clear in the morass of low CPM and poor performance is that publishers can no longer rely on third parties to deliver revenue. The plunge has magnified an online ad ecosystem fraught with multiple inefficiencies – creative agencies, media buyers and planers, ad ops, networks, and on and on. Recent innovations like yield optimization and real-time bidding are only anesthetic on a wound bleeding from both sides.

Solving the revenue problem requires publishers to look in the mirror and take matters into their own hands. There have been small moves in this direction with marketing technology/services acquisitions by Cox, Glam and Meredith. Still, too few publishers understand to survive they need self-reliance.


Ironically or not, the best example of these ideals for publishers springs from the same area as Emerson himself, TechTarget (full disclosure: TechTarget is a previous client while I was at Offermatica).

If you don’t know Tech Target your sys admin does. They operate over 50 websites in the IT space. Here’s a brief description of the company:

TechTarget Inc. is a provider of online content for buyers and sellers of corporate information technology (IT) products. Its product offerings address both lead generation and branding objectives of advertising customers.

That’s right, TechTarget has its own product solutions for advertisers. They are marketers as much as they are publishers, an agency as much as they are authors. They understand the traffic on their site, there to view their content, is theirs and the onus is on them to find the best ways to monetize it.

Really, who better to do it? Who knows more about their audience than they do? It makes perfect sense then to discover and then help meet the goals of their audience. With all the explicit and implicit data about their audience shouldn’t they be able to do this better than anyone else?

Once you have that mindset everything changes. You focus on the goals of your visitors, not the goals of your advertisers. You focus on gaining expertise on page optimization to derive the highest revenue per visitor. You focus on loyalty by knowing who your visitors are and what interests them. Your buyers become partners, not faceless networks and agencies. You do it yourself and you keep all the rewards, never for a moment aligning with revenue streams that don’t properly valuate your visitors and the content you created for them.


Don’t tell me this will not work outside of B2B. While content may differ the user goals of information recovery and discovery and the ways to optimize and monetize them are agnostic to verticals.

I shed no tears for publishers. I’ve been beating the drum for three years that every page is a landing page. We even had a name for it at Offermatica, Content Merchandising. It never really caught on like we expected but then again it didn’t matter. There were lots of performance-based businesses that needed our services. Not surprisingly there are even more of them now (both optimization tools and performance marketers). Publishers can’t continue to be run into the ground by these savvy marketers exploiting the delta between the value of the publisher’s content & audience and what they are paying for it.

I see no other option. Use your content as the basis for your own advertising and marketing services. Be innovative, control your destiny, own the page, own the next page and deliver relevance, great experiences and utility with every pixel. Most of all help your visitors to make decisions and take actions with your content. Inherent in those actions resides the value of your content.

Related Posts:

Platforms, Applications and the Future of Digital Marketing

Mashing Up the Value of Ads & Content

How Semantic Apps Can Deliver Relevance to Implicit, Explicit & Latent Intent


2 responses to “Transcendence: The Power of Publishing is Marketing”

  1. Britta Meyer Avatar

    great post, Jonathan. there has been so much written about the publishing industry recently, plummeting revenues, layoffs, and the death of display advertising, when really it presents an amazing opportunity for innovation. completely agree that if they just trusted the value of their content and marketed it to their users in a highly relevant fashion, the days of remnant advertising would be over. love your term “content merchandising”, in fact where i work, at Loomia, we provide solutions to publishers that do just that. again, great read, will tweet. @Britta_SF @loomia


  2. claudio alegre Avatar

    Right on Jonathan, this article gave me a push toward something I’ve been trying to wrap my head around….healthtarget (ex) concept modeled after techtarget, at a much humbler level granted. Gonna need to dig in to model that out though, where to start?
    …and I totally agree this should work outside of B2B.


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