Publishers: Want to Diversify Your Revenue?

The First Step Is Identification

It’s safe to say that the digital media industry has accepted the new reality that advertising revenue alone isn’t sufficient to support a profitable business. Across the board, publishers are exploring other revenue models, with the popular choices being: subscriptions, affiliate commerce, events and memberships. However, conversion best practices dictate that a visitor shouldn’t be prompted with more than one of these calls to action in the same session.

Now comes the hard part—which visitors should you direct towards which initiatives? And which visitors should you continue just showing ads?

The key is identification.”

In the movie “50 First Dates,” the character played by Drew Barrymore suffers from short-term memory loss that causes her to awake every morning without any memory of the day prior (or, for that matter, of anything that happened since her 18th birthday). If she didn’t know a person before her 18th birthday, every day she will greet them as a stranger. This impairment makes it impossible for her to forge any new relationships, even with people she hits it off with really well and who want to become close to her.

If you’re a publisher that only relies on cookies to identify your site visitors, you’re not so different from Drew Barrymore’s character in that movie. And that’s where you may be falling short.

So, what is identification, and why does it matter to publishers?

To truly “identify” a visitor, you need a first-party link to a device that can survive across browsers and sessions. That link will allow you to remember each visit the device makes to your site, thereby building an accurate view of the visitor’s affinities.

To do this, Wunderkind’s Identification product capitalizes on the massive network of websites that we serve.”

Let’s look at a high-level example: if Drew Barrymore visits a website on her computer and inputs her email address, that email will be added to the CRM file belonging to that website. Wunderkind will also hash the email and use that hash to safely represent her across our network on her desktop device.

If she starts browsing on her phone and inputs her email on a different site, that email will also be hashed and used to represent her across our network on her mobile device. If Drew then visits the first website on her phone, we can match the hashed email address to the CRM record to verify that it is Drew visiting from her phone, and we can market to her accordingly.

Ah yes, but what about GDPR? While this is a more detailed topic for another post, the short answer is that if you respect your visitors and their rights, you’ll come out on top. Wunderkind’s Identification product is fully GDPR compliant, meaning you can utilize it in the US and Europe.

Correctly identifying your visitors will allow you to maximize your revenue per user by:

Presenting Calls-to-Action That Resonate

Once you can accurately identify a visitor and recall their previous engagements with your site, you’ll know whether they’d be willing to take a higher value action such as an buy an email or paid subscription, download an app, create a membership, purchase a commerce product, attend an event, etc. And if they’d be unlikely to convert into any of those offerings, rather than waste real estate trying to promote an offering, stick to showing them ads in a respectful way.

Increasing Subscriptions

A lot of your most engaged readers are still not subscribers. Why? Because you’re treating them like they’re the same as your other less interested traffic. You serve them ads when they’re in the middle of a piece of content. You ask for their email, even though they’ve already given it in a previous session. If you want to give your loyal readers the red carpet treatment, you have to know who they are and find ways to communicate without disturbing their user experience. Then, and only then, can you push them over the hump from free reader to paid subscriber.

Having Ad Experiences That Don’t Abuse Your Audience

The vast majority of online ads attempt to interrupt or distract your readers from the main thing they visit your site to do—consume content. Readers appreciate experiences in which an ad only tries to grab their attention when they aren’t in the middle of an article. Accurately identifying your most valued readers would allow you to give them such an experience. And here’s the best part: Those respectful ads perform exceptionally better for advertisers because a reader is much more open to receiving a brand’s message once they’re done consuming content. Better performing ads for advertisers means higher CPMs for you.

Sending Relevant Emails That Drive Business Results

Want to know something that people universally can’t stand? Irrelevant emails. So, you got someone’s email address, nice, but if you’re sending emails to readers that don’t cater to their interests, all you’re going to get are unsubscribes. You need to automate emails that offer personalized content or promotions. Content that shows it knows a reader on an individual level will drive them back to your site or get them to take action. You can only do that by accurately identifying your visitors and tying their behaviors to their profiles.

Eliminating the Incognito Issue

Nowadays, many publishers utilize a metered paywall (i.e. their readers get a certain number of free articles per month before needing to buy a subscription). In theory, this is great. But if a reader switches browsers, switches devices, or uses an incognito window, they get a fully refreshed meter. What then? They’re reading unlimited content without paying a dime. With identification—real identification—you’re able to connect your readers cross-session, cross-browser and cross-device. You’re even able to recognize who they are when they open an incognito window, meaning you can prevent people from stealing your content.

Ultimately, relating to each different member of your audience is the only way to maximize your revenue on a per-user basis. When it comes to advertising, different users should see different ad densities and formats. And when it comes to revenue gains from other channels, you’ll just be taking guesses if you can’t truly recognize each of your site visitors.

The times are getting tougher. For publishers, it’s identification or bust.


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Andres Moran

Andres Moran is the Vice President of Sales (Publishers and Advertisers) at Wunderkind where he leads a team that works with media brands to improve monetization, optimize audience development, and maximize consumer marketing. He also co-founded three companies before joining Wunderkind, and is a graduate of Vanderbilt University with an MBA from Columbia Business School.

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