When word first leaked that Facebook was approaching publishers to put content directly on the platform, many were skeptical. There were the usual fears of loss of control and uncertain prospects for monetization.
And, to be fair, many of those questions remain unanswered. But as Facebook, Google and Snapchat have moved content directly on their platforms, publishers like BuzzFeed and Bleacher Report have eagerly jumped at the chance of reaching audiences directly on the platforms where they’re spending the most time.
“2016 is the year that, as a publisher, if you’re not embracing the content-everywhere approach and you’re not coming up with a way to have conversations with advertisers about how you’re going to bake their brands in content on these platforms, 2017 is going to roll around and you’ll be in trouble,” said Rory Brown, President of Bleacher Report. Brown was employee #12 and has witnessed the company’s growth to more than 300 people, becoming a cornerstone piece of Turner’s digital media strategy in the process.
Bleacher Report did not grow without its share of critics. Some bemoaned the site’s reliance on aggregation and mastery of the dark arts of search-engine optimization. What they missed, Brown said, is that Bleacher Report was focused not just on producing content but on getting it to audiences, a basic strategy that many publishers were late to adopt.
The knock on distributed strategy is publishers can become over-reliant on a platform. That’s why Bleacher Report has a “hedging” strategy of not over-emphasizing one platform too much. That can mean bringing in traffic through search, social and apps but also going out to platforms.
Compared to many publishers, Bleacher Report made an early bet on mobile, seeing its audience shift in that direction. That has allowed it to amass 15 million downloads of its Team Streams app. Its strategy relied on converting search traffic to email newsletters and then to the app, Brown said.
“The current media wars are not going to be won on direct audience numbers,” he said. “Brand is the big winner. We’ve got to reach as many people as we possibly can, and the best way to do that is creating content that might live on Bleacher Report but lives in a number of places as well.”
To read the full article and hear the podcast with Rory Brown visit Digiday where it was originally published