AOP - Association of online publishers

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Digital Data Team of the Year, interview with Ian Dowds, UKOM

Effective use of data should underpin all key business decisions within online publishing - from product development, audience growth, monetisation of audiences, development of new commercial trading methods and communication to key stakeholders.  For this category, the jury will be looking for evidence that the team’s work empowers the business to use data day-to-day, provides actionable insights and innovates new ideas and projects to address business issues. 

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Digital Data Team of the Year, interview with Ian Dowds, UKOM

 

  1. What is your view on the current state of the online publishing industry?

 

The industry is characterised by challenges and opportunities in equal measure, but the former are often far more obvious than the latter. As the capabilities of media technology continue to expand and the pace of innovation accelerates, it is easy to be distracted from the fact that content is ultimately the driver of value to consumers and businesses alike. I sense the advertising industry is reaching a point where it is a little wiser to the limitations of what ad tech alone can do and is rediscovering the value of quality content. It’s not going to be easy but I am cautiously optimistic.

 

 

  1. What challenges do you see that online publishers will be facing over the next five years – and how should publishers be preparing for those challenges?

 

The sheer volume of data available in the market is already overwhelming and is continually growing. Therefore one of the biggest challenges for publishers is having the confidence to block out the noise coming from other, usually self-interested sources and trust their own data – combined with industry standards – to inform their content and their value to advertisers. The real-time society we now live in also presents a challenge to online publishers. They need to balance the expectation of instant news and split-second reporting with the value of informed, impartial comment. The time-window for pausing, considering, and perfecting content grows ever-smaller, but sustaining this process is necessary to maintain quality publishing.

 

 

  1. How has the rise of issues, such as ad blocking, affected the online publishing industry?

 

Ad blocking is not going away and it is causing all constituent parts of the publishing and advertising ecosystem to re-evaluate their approach to engaging with the consumer. Nothing is simple, there is no silver bullet, and it will take a variety of experimental approaches to work through an issue that has enormous potential to impede business success, growth, and investment. I don’t think there will be complete unity in approach – and neither should there be – but I do feel the immediate and continuous sharing of business learning across competitors in the space will be imperative. It may be tough to break the habit of a lifetime, but it is essential for the industry as a whole.

 

 

  1. How do you think the rise of mobile, video, and social media is influencing changes in business models?

 

Overstating the influence of these factors is impossible. All three have seismic implications for the consumption – and therefore production – of content itself, along with content formats and ad formats. They also have a profound impact on content distribution and consequently audience scale and consumer engagement. There is still much work to be done to optimise the consumer experience for mobile content, and even more so for mobile advertising. Video consumption continues to grow at a fierce rate but for most publishers the implementation of video content must be executed carefully in conjunction with the written word. Finally, social media is evolving at high speed, with new platforms taking off at unprecedented rates. Publishers must resist the temptation to work with all platforms and focus on selecting a number of key partners.

 

 

  1. What value do you expect research and insight teams to add to digital publishing businesses?

 

Having their own insight is crucial for digital publishers, not only in creating stories so compelling that agencies and advertisers cannot ignore them, but also in continually shaping the content style and format to suit the consumer. Confident use of industry standard data as a foundation of research and insight is key. When building on that foundation a publisher’s own data is often dismissed by agencies as biased – “no media owner ever shared data that didn’t paint itself in a strong light” – but when the data is used by the publisher to adapt its own business it carries a good weight. Working with agencies on insight for particular clients or specific verticals will always create value. Valuable insight does not come cheap and research teams need to shout loudly and confidently about the value they deliver, rather than relying on sales teams to do it for them.

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