The event boasted the CEOs of the Guardian Media Group, News UK, Trinity Mirror, Financial Times Group, Future, Dennis Publishing, Immediate Media and Top Right Group plus C-suite people from BuzzFeed, Twitter, Axel Springer, Hearst, Gruner + Jahr, Business Insider, Bleacher Report and UBM.
It was a pretty formidable line-up of the leading digital content companies from the US and Europe. Yet the only characteristic companies had in common was that they were all pursuing different strategies from each other – free content v a paywall, prioritising device over sharing etc. But all the speakers were first to admit that they were building new business models, rather than reinforcing old, print ones, and did not necessarily have the answers for any other business than their own.
So what were the common observations on the development of digital content that could be gleaned from the speakers despite the variety of views.
One: Consumption on mobile growing faster than number of users
- Mobile users (both on phone and tablet) and revenue are growing faster than predicted.
- Users are consuming increasingly more content on mobile than deskop, according to Enders
- with video on mobile (of all things) growing fastest of all, according to Enders and Business Insider.
Two: Only one approach to design
- What your site looks like on a smart phone should be your only concern and that means a design that imitates a feed from Twitter for example.
- To work, it needs no distractions such as banners or any other advertising or functionality.
Three: Native advertising
- The solution to the banner-free environment is native advertising – what we would have called advertorials in the past.
- The difference, according to BuzzFeed, is that the content needs to be a perfect alignment between the sponsor’s brand and users’ interest and as good as any content that has not been paid for.
- For example, see BuzzFeed’s native advertising post sponsored by a health product.
- And, according to Twitter, “having a Tweet from a brand in your feed is not intrusive – it feels informative”.
- Google, Facebook and other digital platforms are highly capitalised
- Pressure from shareholders for a return on their capital means huge competition for the traditional inventory dollar
- Google saw a 11% decline in advertising spend in 2013
- One response is to put content behind paywalls
Five: how to judge the quality of content
- Use retention of subscribers as a tangible KPI for the quality of content
- We all need to be skilled at both content and technology, whatever our job or role
- plus one skill set or experience in addition that provides a business with real competitive depth and shows off your uniqueness
Seven: Share, share and share again
- Focus like a laser on how to make your content as easy as possible to share and being really integrated into those platforms
- not just on Google or Facebook but also Oracle and SalesForce
- Leave these technology platforms to worry about how your content appears on which device
- they’ve got teams and investment to deliver great mobile experience
- don’t obsess about users reading your content on your platform
- Look, below, at how a story on the Guardian’s website (blue) gets picked up by social (other colours) and is shared in jsut 24 hours
Eight: DIY innovation v partnering with innovators
- Great ideas already exist and are probably already partly worked up – but the work is being done by a start up rather than inhouse
- Why put the time and effort into developing in-house when you can put the time in to working as an accelerator identifying key partners with which to partner, such as German publisher Axel Springer.
Nine: don’t overlook acquisitions
- Axel Springer is as proud of its digital content brands gained through acquisition as those grown organically.
Ten: eCommerce is growing
- Technology is making eCommerce more and more feasible so Gruner + Jahr, among others, are beginning to sell food products from its cookery website.