Having just returned from the recent Digiday Publishing Summit in Budapest, I thought I should try to collect my thoughts regarding the key themes of this event. There were some really insightful conversations and for me there were some consistent themes throughout, Diversification - Life beyond the cookie - Ad blockers and Subscriptions.


4 key themes:



Well no real surprise really that Publishers need to look at diversification of revenue! But what was interesting was how varied some of the areas are. The Washington Post (owned by Jeff Bezos) have created products they are now sharing with other publishers (page optimisation etc), creating a tech company separate to the rest of the business. The Post is just one of their customers! 

The move towards paywalls and subscriptions is growing as Publishers look to monetise their consumers, providing a greater experience for their subscribers, ensuring they remain loyal and engaged. The Financial Times has been quite successful in this area  — they announced that they have now passed 1 million subscribers at Digiday and are aiming to double that over the next year! The FT is also looking to share some of what it has learned (and further diversify its business) by launching a new consulting unit called FT Strategies. This make available FT resources, knowledge and experience to provide not just Publishers with a consulting partner resource, this will be interesting to see how this develops!

What is very clear is that Publishers continue to Diversify to survive, no area is free from where revenue can be gleaned, hence the need for a flexible booking platform that can meet those needs. I think this is exactly why we created brightMEDIA.


2.Life beyond the Cookie

Publishers have relied on third-party tracking cookies in recent times to track and understand users behaviour. Nearly all ad tech uses cookies for targeting, retargeting, display advertising and behavioral marketing in general. That’s all about to change now!

Cookie-blocking technology led by Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) and Firefox’s Enhanced Tracking Protection (ETP) will block third-party cookies by default, and even Google’s Chrome is planning on doing something similar, although they are talking to Publishers, maybe because they have an interest in the advertising side of things?

Browser-level blocking, third-party ad-blocking apps, and regulations like GDPR plus the new California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) are relegating the cookie to the past. It was widely discussed that once the CCPA is in force, that this type of legislation will gradually roll out throughout the rest of the US and become the norm!

With GDPR rules having control is very important so the need for a central CRM is so important. You need to be able to record all of the legal information and have a platform that not only is compliant but will remain compliant! 


3.Ad Blockers

This continues to be a source of irritation to Publishers especially with some adhering to initiatives like the Acceptable Ads Program. The Acceptable Ads program establishes a set of criteria for ads that are less invasive and annoying. I can’t help thinking though that what publishers should do is to not show the full content and definitely not premium content if your ad blocker is on!

Adblockers came around due to the invasive nature and poor experience that many sites created, so get the experience right and the need for adblockers should go away, there is certainly an onus on Publishers to do their part in this!



The biggest topic around diversification was with subscriptions, maybe we are at a point now in what people are prepared to pay for? I mean we are so much more used to paying for subscriptions now, it can be anything from a Car to a Dental plan, Netflix the list goes on …

With subscriptions and paywalls Publishers are trying to make these much more sticky with premium content and incentives for retention, happy subscribers = high retention rates!

The whole subscriber journey and how for most Publishers getting initial retention (first few months) is hard. What was interesting is how some had addressed this, but it was clear that for a lifetime value you have to invest in that providing to the subscriber a great experience, make them feel valued and most importantly provide content directly relevant that cannot be found outside of the paywall. Don't give them a reason to leave.


My favourite session

I really enjoyed the talk from James Henderson (CEO Zephr) and Matt McKenzie (SVP News Corp) around how insight and data were informing the customer journey regarding subscriptions, from targeted to the lifetime value, this was very interesting!

This subscriber journey and more importantly maintaining the lifetime value is where understanding the subscriber and all of their touchpoints is so important. You need to service the subscriber, understand when renewals are occurring and the personal preferences of that subscriber, this where having a CRM like Salesforce is so important, its that view and what you do with the information that allows you to provide the best service you are able to.



Budapest was a beautiful backdrop for partnering with customers –  to both experience the event and create happy shared memories.

James and Matt from Immediate Media, Sarah from CNI and Greg from Global joined us (pictured above) for a really great night, if you’re in Budapest try out Zeya Restaurant, it was amazing!


By Duncan Smith VP Media & Social