Head of US Strategic & Brand Partnerships
For those of us not familiar with Playbuzz, please tell us a little more about your company and platform.
We are reinventing storytelling. Playbuzz is the leading authoring and distribution platform for publishers, brands and agencies to create engaging content via a suite of interactive formats. We’re backed by investors that include The Walt Disney Company and Saban Capital and have a global network of 12K+ publishers and 80K creators in our community.
We all know that content consumption is changing with shifting user habits on mobile, and platform fragmentation is making it increasingly difficult for publishers and brands to yield high engagement on their content. Playbuzz helps solve for this by giving creators a suite of tools that maximize engagement with embeddable units on the actual publisher site – directing traffic from social to increase dwell time and ad revenue. And it works. Playbuzz items generate completion rates as high as 95%, share rates as high as 10% and session times around 3:00 minutes.
How does the consumer shift to mobile inform the way you work with publishers?
75% of our audience comes from mobile, which is why all of our content formats are designed specifically for the mobile user. We’re deeply vested in continuing to scale and improve the way all content is created for the mobile audience, which is why our suite of products offer short, snackable content formats.
To the extent that you can share, please tell us more about your business / monetization model.
It’s simple, really. Anyone can create a free account on Playbuzz.com and start creating content in minutes. We work with publishers large and small, with sites ranging from a few hundred monthly uniques to tens of millions, and everything in between. We offer programmatic monetization options through ads served via our own demand or that of the publisher. We also have a direct sales team that works directly with brands and agencies to create branded content experiences and distribute it via a cost per engagement model, targeting audience segments across our network of publishers.
Publishers rely heavily on social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter for traffic, and distribution of their content. What are your thoughts on this, and do you think it’s possible for a publisher to become too reliant on social distribution, and be vulnerable to algorithmic change?
It’s undeniable that we’re all beholden to the ever-changing media landscape. The way in which people are consuming content today is very different from 5 years ago and the major social platforms are the catalysts of that change. More than 60% of Americans get their news from social media, which demands that publishers traffic and distribute their content to those platforms. But the constantly changing algorithms and product evolution at these behemoths (Snapchat included), requires publishers to be fluid and nimble. The term legacy doesn’t exist when talking about social media anymore. Fortunately, (with companies like Playbuzz) there are unique ways to distribute the content, while still giving the pageviews and inventory back to the publisher.
What are your thoughts on Facebook Instant Articles? How should publishers best approach this?
When Facebook Instant Articles debuted last year, there was promise of increasing engagement for the publisher’s content with quick load times and access to Facebook’s massive audience, instantly. But in actuality, the sterile environment in which readers are consuming content in Instant Articles strips away the brand identity they would experience on a publisher’s site, making it easy to mistake an article published by The Atlantic to one by a fake news site in Florida. The announcement from Facebook this week to introduce “packages” to offer more storytelling options for publishers with themes and subscriptions (ala Snapchat’s Discover feature), could potentially help bridge the gap that left many publishers lukewarm with golden handcuffs. Still too early to tell…
What do you think are the biggest challenges publishers face today?
Competition. For decades, newspapers had the monopoly on information. Then came television. And today, we’re consuming more content on the internet than ever before, with publishers creating and distributing information at record pace. There’s no question that the future for publishers is video. But the biggest challenge will be to create compelling programming that can one day compete for more of the ad revenue from the television market.
There’s been much talk about a Duopoly of Google and Facebook controlling much of what happens on the internet, as well as up to 3/4 of all digital ad spend. What do you think independent publishers can do to best survive in the fiercely competitive landscape of the internet?
Building solid relationships with the emerging platforms and staying nimble to adapt to the internet’s changing blueprint is going to prove indispensable. Utilizing the tools that are out there – be it in adtech, social, data, CMS, etc – will separate those publishers who are around in two years and those who are not. I think for the smaller, independent publishers, this is especially important. If they’re trying to create scale and generate revenue, they need to be lean without too much dependency on proprietary first-party systems.
Lastly, what is your take on the future of monetization for independent publishers?
It’s been said that 2017 is the year of the consumer. And rightly so. Marketers are being held more accountable to create content and distribute in a way that doesn’t anger the people they are trying to reach. With 70 million Americans using ad blockers, publishers need to find the right balance between direct sales, programmatic and native advertising to have a compelling monetization strategy. From the native content perspective, there is still magic in storytelling and the value of giving marketers the ability to customize their message to fit into the look and feel of a publisher’s site can’t be overlooked.
Playbuzz is an an authoring and distribution platform for interactive storytelling. Publishers, brands, agencies and content creators worldwide utilize the suite of Playbuzz-powered formats for editorial and commercial purposes to engages users, increase time spent on-site and boost social interactions and shares. Over 12,000+ publishers and brands in over 55 countries rely on the Playbuzz platform to transform how they tell stories online.