Ben Young
Ben Young
January 5, 2017

Welcome to 2017! Medium’s downsizing has everyone talking, I shared my thoughts below. Great data points this week, and it seems everyone’s just rolling up the sleeves and getting in to helping native scale, addressing the barriers raised in late 2017.
Notable Stories this Week

Thoughts on Medium:

We’ve noted in prior emails, publishers’ pageviews go down when they swap to Medium.

And frankly, I think they just didn’t execute well on the ad sales side. Seeing their pricing/positioning, it’s a new site, offering still a relatively new advertising product (native content) and a new pricing structure (attention). Arguably that was too much to tackle, pick two, three is too hard.

Also when you backed in their pricing to market rates, they were about 4-6 times higher than the market. So tough sell. Being new and way more expensive on a cost per minute. They were almost too SF tech utopia and not enough NY hustle.

That being said, I think they could stick with it, they’ve retrenched, they could pull in the right talent from the industry (BuzzFeed, Slate, WSJ, etc). Play to their strengths — they do offer a brand safe environment, quality audience, cross-device. Also, they have a tech audience, engage more tech advertisers…

I reckon their play is, retrench, get aggressive audience development back on track. Then rebuild the content side, do market pricing, start small on the content side. And then focus on self-serve distribution, i.e. paying to get my Medium posts distributed. This helps build a range of small, to medium, to large advertisers. They could even open these tools up so content creators themselves can offer a slick content sales division.

It’s a looming problem for influencers, how to sell slick and compliant content. Medium could facilitate that. Medium is a big play. I think the journey is long but they are positioned for the future.

Campaign of the Week

  • Why now is the time to acquire your dream car. I liked this take by Airows and Esurance, selling the dream of your dream car. Simple, personable and relatable. This isn’t over the top in production but does the job. This is what the bulk of native content should be like.

Smartest Commentary 

  • “I would much rather pay a little premium as a brand and go for verified sites.” –Raja Rajamannar, CMO MasterCard
  • “The next great opportunity, how we seamlessly create more branded content that is more native and more contextual.” –Ron Amram, Heineken

Datapoints of note

  • Via MediaRadar: Native ad renewal rates for 2016 were only 33%, 20% of tracked publishers had renewal rates of less than 20%. However, top quality native advertisers had renewals of 60-80%. I.e. quality, and/or demonstrating quality/ROI is the driver of renewal.
  • 50% of advertisers still do not include programmatic in their media-buying strategy.
  • And from the same study: 14% of survey participants said will spend more than $1m/monthly on PPC advertising, as compared to 59% in 2015.
  • Also: 53% of advertisers will increase budgets in Bing. Interesting.
  • Advertiser Perceptions found that the top goals of native campaigns are brand awareness (at 33%) and storytelling (close behind at 32%).
  • UK marketers are three times more likely to use social advertising to promote content than native advertising/content discovery tools.
  • Also, 88% of respondents use email to distribute their content.

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