Mobile devices are now driving approximately 56% of traffic to US websites, so to reiterate the necessity of having a mobile-first strategy seems like beating a dead horse. You already know you should be thinking about mobile experiences, especially as the average person checks their devices approximately 46 times a day. When it comes to mobile usage, consumers want convenience and flexibility, and they want it fast. The same applies to the content they consume. Cue content aggregators who provide a centralized experience for readers, based on interest, from several sources. So, as a publisher, how do you embrace this trend and how do you fit that into your monetization strategy?
As a publisher, your objectives include: getting your content in front of as many engaged eyes as possible, and creating revenue. To increase both numbers, some publishers look beyond their regular loyal user base to find new content consumers to monetize. Content aggregation tools and apps like Flipboard, Apple News, and LinkedIn Pulse can create a stream of new users and views that can raise clicks and views, but also can be difficult to monetize or maintain without the right tools.
Revamped during the fanfare of iOS10 and the iPhone 7, Apple News is an offering that has been serving mobile impressions to publishers since the fall of 2015, up to 70 million users this fall. According to Digiday, publishers such as Slate and The Atlantic have seen a surge in traffic since the release, but there’s scant offering for monetizing that traffic since the articles and content are seen within Apple news, rather than on the publisher’s own website. Publishers can sell ads themselves and keep most or all of the revenue, but only through Apple’s Workbench, which requires special ad buildouts. In our own analysis of the app we only saw house ads for publishers like Huffington Post or New York Times. Apple also has yet to add ComScore analytics or tracking, but offers its own internal analytics dashboard, released in March 2016.
Flipboard is an older aggregation app, and more advertiser-driven. Leveraging 100 million monthly users across five different ad products, including native and video, the app offers a unique channel for advertisers. However, at press time, monetization for publishers is limited to a beta group of partners, with limited information on how it will be rolled out. In essence the platform allows for free partnering and posting, pushing traffic while collecting revenue on the ads it runs. For a publisher looking to increase their traffic, it is a quality option, but the lack of monetization options recalls Apple News’s offering without the road plan for publisher revenue.
Depending on metrics and code changes, LinkedIn is either reliably providing or completely eliminating traffic to publishers. Pulse, the news aggregation app bought by the social network in 2013, currently provides a feature called Universal Links which drives mobile impressions in-app rather than redirecting to a mobile website, increasing publisher traffic. As of the past year the app averages 21,000 downloads a month, and no data on monthly users can be found. As the app appears, there are no ads, nor any type of monetization for publishers. As compared to the other examples this one appears to be the least concerned with revenue, rather it seems to be peripheral to LinkedIn’s main offering.
As a publisher viewing these news aggregation sources, the small offering of monetization options can lead one to feel that the process isn’t worth the effort. One of the reasons why email newsletters continue to attract publishers is because of its ability to reach opted-in consumers across devices with scale. It offers advertisers transparency and gives publishers full control over their inventory, with real-time monetization solutions. Nonetheless, those publishers looking to push traffic and drive readers to their content might see potential in creating a presence on these aggregator apps, so that when scalable monetization options become available they are well positioned to take full advantage and create a reliable new source of revenue.