A New Model for Surviving as a Media Company

A Chorus Line of Failures: Mic's Layoffs Speak Volumes

Millennial-driven news publisher Mic laid off most of its employees, around 60 to 70 people, in late November 2018. The media company's remaining leaders then announced plans to sell the rest of Mic's assets to Bustle Digital Group for an estimated $5 million. In 2014, Mic raised $60 million in funding at a time when 70% of their traffic came from Facebook. The media property's collapse is another major loss in a lineup of publishers who went "all in" on failed distributive strategies, including frequent content pivots, that ultimately led to nowhere.


Expensive and Misguided: Where Publishers Went Wrong in 2018

Mic joins companies like Mashable, LittleThings, and Upworthy, all of which experienced dramatic layoffs at some point following Facebook's "friends and family" algorithm change in January 2018. The update, which deprioritized publishers' content in Facebook's News Feed, left companies like Mic with less than half their audience and a site that could no longer sustain growth on its own. Mic investor Jeremy Liew acknowledged this failure in a tweet shortly after the announcement:

Mic's "live by the sword, die by the sword" strategy is a common misstep for publishers, and not just on Facebook. The infamous pivot to video similarly had publishers going all in on an expensive strategy that turned out to be more of a marketing ploy for the duopoly (meaning more ad revenue in the hands of Facebook and Google) rather than a content medium valued by millions of users.

Another misguided pivot by publishers was investing in expensive, resource-intensive CMS platforms in an attempt to keep up with the increasing algorithm changes and industry shifts. But spending more money on custom tech, or relying on difficult-to-maintain, cookie-cutter site producers like WordPress to keep up with the tech giants, is also unsustainable, and deviates from prioritizing actual sustainable content strategies. It's why "Buy or build?" became a hot-button issue among industry leaders as 2018 drew to a close. Jesse Knight, the former Chief Technology Officer of Vice, recently unpacked this question, and suggested that it may be time for publishers to adopt a common publishing platform to effectively fight the media giants.

A united front would streamline common problems among publishers, which not only includes unpredictable algorithm changes on social, but also problems like Google's frequent updates to SEO rules that can often rerank sites with little-to-no warning. Instead, it would put costs back into where publishers should be focusing: Creating content that is valuable to audiences.

Performance and Practicality: What Publishers Need to Survive in 2019

The big publishers with high valuations will have to come to terms with the fact that it's time to replatform to a cost-effective solution that is massively scalable and customizable. The good news is that this change costs a fraction of their current budget. The largest media companies are paying $10 million or more to maintain a CMS that is dated. The financial forecast will no longer work for these companies if they remain on the same track.

For medium-sized publishers, the costs of survival are the same. With smaller budgets, their audiences will dwindle as the algorithms continue to deprioritize low-performing sites. The only path to survival is a cost-effective platform that can bring together all the costs that make the financials work while simultaneously having a state-of-the-art product.

RebelMouse was built to outpace the speed of the media giants. We give medium and small-sized publishers better technology and performance than what's offered to the media companies wasting $10 million a year to keep their WordPress and other custom platforms running.

The good news in all of this uncertainty is that users are now more comfortable with enduring a few more clicks (which used to be a fatal fate for a site during the initial rise of social) if it means they can consume the content they want quickly and without interruption. At RebelMouse, we've embraced this ideology through successful subscription strategies for our clients — the use of an effective paywall has actually increased both new and returning users for them.

A big part of regaining control of readership from the platforms (and expensive CMS platforms) is prioritizing page speed and performance. Users may be willing to take extra steps to get to the content they want, but they still have plenty of reasons to click away if the experience isn't perfect. Often times, expensive CMS options will overlook performance in lieu of more tangible features. We recently took a look at how major custom CMS options stack up against Google and our RebelMouse-powered sites. The results in our study might surprise you.

Full Service Tech: Invest Less in More Growth

RebelMouse is the kind of centralized solution that can solve many of the publishing industry's problems. Our CMS has fueled media powerhouses in nearly every industry. We've helped launch some of the biggest new media companies to date — such as Axios and The Dodo — and have propelled brands like United Airlines, PAPER Magazine, and Dance Magazine to success in the digital and social space.

The new year is bound to bring in more surprises from the platforms. Most brands and new media companies alike cannot produce quality content and stay on top of what is currently working and not working in the digital publishing space. But our publishing platform keeps up with the speed of the industry while still delivering a customized experience to optimize your content on site, and for search and social.

Stay on top of 2019, and set up your media property for modern success. Request a proposal today and let's start working together.

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Why RebelMouse Is the Best Content Marketing Platform

RebelMouse is a unique platform and company. The company was founded on the vision that media companies would need an always-modern solution to thrive in the new connected internet, and that brands would have to behave like new media companies and use the same platforms.

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How to Test Content With Articles and Templates

At RebelMouse, we believe creative teams are successful when collaborative ideas can be easily tested and turned into strategic choices quickly. However, content creators are already pinched for time, and deploying a test on a new site approach or design can mean an entirely new set of tasks to contend with.

Our publishing platform streamlines this process by offering multivariate testing at scale, which includes content testing on articles and templates.

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How COVID-19 Has Changed Four Key Components of Marketing

Picking up the pieces and the importance of building trust in a pandemic

As the second half of 2020 begins to pass us by, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage on throughout the global community. The longevity of the pandemic has left thousands of industries struggling to find an appropriate position in the marketplace that will allow them to sustain themselves alongside daily tragedy.

The pandemic is far from over, but publishers and marketers are beginning to sift through the aftershocks of what COVID-19 has done to the web. Here's a quick look at the decline in conversion growth during the first few weeks of the pandemic in the United States:

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How to Use the Feed Builder Dashboard

The Feed Builder Dashboard allows you to create custom RSS, Atom, and JSON feeds. You can access this dashboard by appending the following to your site's URL: r/dashboard/feed-builder

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Display Your Site's Sections Easily With Current Sections Element

At RebelMouse, one of our primary goals is to give you every opportunity to keep readers on your site for as long as possible. A big part of increasing your visitors' time on site is through optimizing your site's stream of content. The Sections dashboard makes sure your website is a well-organized content destination.

The Current Sections element pulls a list of your sections to be displayed as a sidebar on your page. It can also show subsections. Click + Add Element and scroll down to Current Sections.

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How to Add Links in Entry Editor

To insert a link into any article, highlight the text you want hyperlinked in Entry Editor, and then click on the chain icon in the formatting toolbar and select Insert Link. You can also insert a link from scratch without highlighting existing text.

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Austonia Launches a Truly Local Austin Source for News

Following their launch on RebelMouse in April 2020, Austonia is establishing itself as a great source of local news in Austin, Texas. Austonia combines its authentically Austin news with RebelMouse's cutting-edge platform to grow an audience of loyal subscribers.

The Vision

  • Exclusively Austin news
  • Truly local feel
  • Only promote local Austin advertisers
  • No programmatic ads
  • No paywalls to reach a larger audience
  • Led by a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial advisor, with five full-time staff members
  • Build community through digital media
  • Easily optimize content across platforms in real time

Why They Chose RebelMouse

  • Sophisticated Entry Editor purpose-built for search, social, and emerging digital formats
  • Easily incorporate powerful features to drive engagement
  • Leveraged the RebelMouse Insights Dashboard and real-time analytics data to quickly act on viral hits
  • Track record and impressive client list
  • Trust established during the initial conversations

Austonia’s Three Months Later: Real Results

  • Articles ranked on social and search right from the start
  • After a great first 15 days following their April launch, the growth continued during the next 15-day period leading into May, where traffic grew by 80%
  • During their second 30-day period that ended in June, Austonia saw 12% more growth (no sophomore slump!)
  • By July, 30-day traffic grew by another 80%!
  • And most recently, August gave them another 70% boost in traffic
  • All together, the last 30 days saw 4x more traffic than their first 30 days
  • The growth continues in Q3!

Pageviews

Unique Visitors

April 2020–August 2020 via Google Analytics. Pageviews and User growth, both daily and a 42-day moving average.

And Stuff Like This Happens

When Austonia had the scoop on Joe Rogan moving to Austin, they used the power of RebelMouse to distribute the article across digital channels and maximize the viral impact.

The article started ranking on Google quickly, and as national media sites and social pages linked to their article, Austonia got close to almost 200,000 organic pageviews!

Why Austonia ❤️s RebelMouse

Built-in Modern Technology Integrations: With out-of-the-box compatibility with AMP, Facebook Instant Articles, and various other formats and feeds, Austonia was able to avoid an internal technical hire and still have constant technology upgrades to stay ahead of the curve.

Real Knowledge: Austonia considers RebelMouse to be more than just a tech company — it's best-in-class global expertise.

"When we chose RebelMouse, we did not yet fully appreciate what they offer beyond just technology. The best-in-class team is made up of really smart people from all over the world, working for major clients all over the world, and I benefited from that expertise and experience. As an independent local publisher, this was incredibly valuable and I have so much gratitude to RebelMouse for our success"

—Mark Dewey, Publisher and CEO of Austonia

Change Your Publishing Platform

Just like Austonia, all properties on our platform grow at mind-boggling rates, and are built in a way that allows publishers to focus on producing great content, which in turn becomes sustainable, high-growth social traffic and loyal, long-lasting communities. Customers like Austonia who trust their digital strategy to the experts in distributed content are able to compete with high-budget global news corporations and show up everywhere first!

Request a proposal today and let's start working together.

Select JW Player in Layout & Design Tool

RebelMouse has a seamless integration with JW Player so that you can easily embed videos into your articles.

You can select to use JW Player within our Layout & Design Tool. This option is available for the Post element when the "Show Video When Available" checkbox is selected.

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Never Miss an Opportunity for Engagement With Social Share Buttons

It's important to make sure your readers never miss an opportunity to share your content. On RebelMouse, you can easily add social share buttons to each one of your articles. These buttons make it easy for a user to share a story with one click.

Here's a example of what social share buttons can look like:

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