Why the News Business Should Stop Publishing and Start Pushing

    by Kim Garretson
    June 23, 2016

    The following piece is a guest post from Kim Garretson, principal at Realizing Innovation, a media and advertising consulting firm. Guest posts do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this publication. Read more about MediaShift guest posts here.

    How do I define ‘Publishing’ and ‘Pushing’ in my headline? Publishing is journalism created and placed in different channels for audiences to discover and pull into their view. Pushing is engaging an audience where the specific news (and ads) each individual opts-in to receive ‘just shows up’ in their digital lives.

    "I’m surprised at how few media experts suggest reader self-personalization."

    I use the word “push” thanks to the Drupal guru Dries Buytaert who writes: “The current web is ‘pull-based,’ meaning we visit websites or download mobile applications. The future of the web is ‘push-based,’ meaning the web will be coming to us.”


    In my recent fellowship at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute I researched how media orgs and advertisers can better vet and pilot innovation. Since then, I have focused that innovation on what Seth Godin said 16 years ago: “Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.”

    Alter the idea slightly to: Permission media is the privilege of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant news content to people who actually want to get it.

    Why Aren’t You Letting Your Audience Self-Personalize?

    In the last few months I’ve had numerous conversations with C-level media executives in which I ask two questions:

    1. Why aren’t you moving to audience-centricity where you simply ask each person to select the content – news and ads – they want to be notified about?
    2. Aren’t you concerned that if you don’t do this you’ll be forced to because of ad-blocking, Facebook’s increasing power, ad-tech bloat on your site, data privacy concerns, and the shift to what people want ‘just showing up?’

    Here are examples of the types of answers I hear:

    • “We’re deploying better big data predictive analytics to watch audience segment past behaviors and create new content slices to roll out to them.”
      • I say: You mean you’re spending money on ‘guessing’ versus just asking?
    • “We don’t have the technology, money and resources to serve every individual with 1:1 personalization for content notifications, and besides this wouldn’t scale because not that many would sign up.”
      • I say, just look at one of the major ad categories for news orgs: Retail. The most innovative retailers and brands are going all in on consent-based 1:1 marketing, affordably and at scale. This is accelerating their abandonment of your ad inventory as a distribution channel.

    Wouldn’t Putting Readers in Control Solve Ad-Blocking and Other Issues?

    Stock image.

    Stock image.

    With all the hand-wringing in the publishing and ad worlds about innovations to counter ad blocking, ad-tech data bloat and overcome privacy concerns, I’m surprised at how few media experts suggest reader self-personalization. Many say “the consumer increasingly is in control” but they never say: “So, let’s give them the ultimate ‘control’ by simply asking them to ‘tune’ their personal channel to alerts on what we offer.”

    Most media execs I speak with say they understand the reader’s benefit in adding self-personalization to their sites, but the assumed cost is the barrier. I can understand this because they’ve not seen how retailers are doing this, as noted above.

    In retail, with all the marketing spend to drive someone to a piece of content, in this case a product page, the only action offered on that page today is a buy button. Yet, most page views convert at under two percent. So, retailers, with their vendors’ ad dollars, re-target non-buyers at Facebook and news sites, often creepily and with poor results.

    Look to Retail Advertisers For A Model on Reader-Controlled Personalization

    How major retailers are innovating is with a consumer-controlled engagement platform that integrates into their site as one line of javascript. A new button (or favoriting heart) then appears at multiple places in the site, offering ‘Get Alerts.’ The consumer merely has to leave an email address one time, and then as they visit the site, with single clicks they create their ‘channel’ of 1:1 email or SMS alerts on new content of interest, like new products, reviews, sales, etc. The tech platform monitors site content changes daily for the triggers set by each consumer and auto-generates the alerts. Some major retailers report up to 40 percent opt-ins on content updates, like new product news.

    The technology works the same way at a news site. Readers opt-in merely with an email address or SMS number, and have the option of first viewing a site-map-like dashboard to personalize alerts for any section and subsection of the site, including the frequency for the alerts. If the dashboard option is not selected, and even if it is selected, then as the reader maneuvers the news site, they can constantly add to or opt-out of their content alerts. They can add alerts on saved keyword search strings and favorite certain reporters. I am beginning to talk to some media execs about the conversations they could have with advertisers about both this rich first party data on reader interests, and the concept of ‘simply asking’ readers if they are on a journey to buy something from an advertiser in the future, and would they consent and set criteria to receive alerts about that planned future purchase.

    What News Orgs Offer This Feature Today?

    Regrettably, I’ve found too few examples. Contently wrote last year in “How the NYT gets 70% email open rates” that “As part of that testing ground mentality, the Times also created features that let users customize email alerts based on keywords, indexed topics, stocks, and even specific reporters.”

    Seeking Alpha, the crowd-sourced content service for financial markets offers alerts on news by contributor and about companies. Interestingly, they list the number of readers for each opt-in.

    Kim Garretson is principal, Realizing Innovation, a media and advertising consulting firm working with MyAlerts. He is a founder of three digital agencies, including Arc Worldwide at Leo Burnett, and launched content marketing for Best Buy as a Strategy and Innovation executive. He also was a fellow at RJI at the Missouri School of Journalism. Find him on Twitter @KimGarretson

    Tagged: 1:1 ad blocking Ad: Tech advertising analytics data privacy facebook new york times notification personalization publishing retail rji

    One response to “Why the News Business Should Stop Publishing and Start Pushing”

    1. Pub123 says:

      What about the information people need to know? That is seldom the same as what they want to know – until after they’ve read it.

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