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A New Model for Surviving as a Media Company

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 Fix Missing Meta Descriptions in France

There's a copyright law in France that now impacts the visibility of meta descriptions on search results, commonly called snippets. The regulation is the first implementation of the European Copyright Directive, which aims to improve online copyright rules in Europe. The law requires publishers to opt in to meta descriptions. Previously, they were enabled by default. Click here to read more about this change from Google.

The law caused meta descriptions to disappear in France for European news publisher and RebelMouse client Worldcrunch.

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RebelMouse Q3 2021 Platform Performance Updates

For many publishers and brands, Q3 2021 was about recovering web traffic lost to Google's page experience signals update that was rolled out over the summer. For us, the quarter was about continuing our success of delivering excellent Core Web Vitals metrics across our site network with platform performance updates both big and small.

As a globally distributed team, it's important for us to remain transparent about how we're able to power some of the best-performing sites on the open web. And while we're already looking forward to closing out the year stronger than ever before, here's a detailed look back at our accomplishments in Q3 2021.

We invested 1,946 hours into our platform in Q3 2021 alone, and all of the sites on our platform benefited from the work in various ways. Here are the key areas that we focused on:

  • 184 hours were spent on delivering new features
  • 1,010 hours were spent on improving existing features
  • 752 hours were spent on performance and infrastructure updates
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RebelMouse Clients See Performance Improvement After AMP Optimization

Performance is a major pillar of our platform, which means we are always making changes — both big and small — to improve page speed. Our focus on fast websites isn't platform specific, either. We want to make sure that users have a top-notch experience however they view your content, and this includes our integration with Google's AMP format.

Our team of traffic-obsessed developers recently implemented some performance optimizations to enhance our platform's integration with AMP, and that has improved the average response time for our clients. This means that users are able to access your AMP pages more quickly, which, in turn, improves your site's traffic from Google.

Here's a breakdown of the changes we've made:

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Keep Search a Priority With SEO-Friendly Image Filenames

There are a lot of factors that go into a successful search engine optimization (SEO) strategy, including performance, structured data, and, of course, choosing the right keyword(s). Our proprietary search technology helps content creators prep every article for success on search. This all-encompassing approach includes the use of SEO-friendly image filenames.

On RebelMouse, if you assign an alt tag to an image in Entry Editor, that alt tag will also become the image's file name. Briefly, alt tags describe images for search engines, and also allow people using screen readers to know what the image is without actually being able to see it. Adding your desired search phase to every alt text field, and in turn every image file name, will reinforce its relevance to Google's crawler, bringing you one step closer to the top of search returns.

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Add Style to Articles With HTML Class Selectors

RebelMouse's Particle Assembler is designed to break down articles into micro pieces of content, which we call "particles." Individual particles in an article can be styled, shared, converted to slideshows, and now, take specific CSS styling to make them pop, when you want them to pop.

By adding some simple (or complex!) CSS to your Entry Editor via Layout & Design Tool, you can have a preset template for side quotes, warnings, or just places where you want something to stand out a bit.

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Fuel a Data-Driven Content Strategy With Google Search Console Insights

At RebelMouse, we believe a data-driven content strategy is the key to success. Luckily, the era of "post and pray" is far behind us. Creators no longer need to create articles blindly and hope that they are successful. There are now tools that can help creators understand the kind of content that resonates with their desired audiences.

That's why we are excited to let you know about Google Search Console's Insights feature. According to Google, this new data view will help content creators and site owners answer the following questions:

  • What are your best performing pieces of content?
  • How are your new pieces of content performing?
  • How do people discover your content across the web?
  • What do people search for on Google Search before they visit your content?
  • Which article refers users to your website and content?
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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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