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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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Sculpt Your Own Editorial Suite With RebelMouse’s Customized Entry Editor

Create content for your specific editorial workflow

The content creation process is sacred. Most publishers know writers, editors, and curators are the heartbeat of every site's success and continued growth. At RebelMouse, we're dedicated to supporting writers with a robust editorial suite designed for modern publishing. Creators on the RebelCMS have access to real-time insights, dynamic layouts, and proprietary social and search engine optimization (SEO) technologies, directly from our editing interface.

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Stay on Top of Actionable Insights With RebelMouse’s Third-Party Analytics Integrations Dashboard

Leverage a data-backed content strategy

The amount of work that goes into creating quality content is half the battle. For publishers, an effective content strategy must be backed by data. Still, distributive publishing brings with it plenty of insights to keep track of, and sometimes key metrics can get lost in the day-to-day workflow.

On the RebelCMS, we have a dedicated dashboard to make it super easy to integrate third-party analytics scripts into your site. This way you can keep an eye on how your articles are performing and easily adjust your strategy accordingly.

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Optimize Your Editorial Workflow With Post Status Options

Use five different post status selections to streamline the path to publish

By using our post status functionality, you can effortlessly optimize your editorial workflow to assign a different status to each stage of a post draft before it's published.

There are five statuses a post can have:

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New JavaScript Element in Layout & Design Tool

At RebelMouse, we're constantly iterating on our platform to maximize the performance of our websites in order to keep up with the latest standards from Google's PageSpeed Insights tool.

One of the biggest problems with web performance is how the lazy loading of elements is implemented. On RebelMouse, we already have out-of-the-box capabilities that allow you to lazy-load assets, but if you have JavaScript from ads running on your site, Google's PageSpeed Insights tool will still penalize you for them if they're not being deferred off-screen properly.

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View Your Add Media Bar Results in Full-Screen Mode

Browse dynamic assets to enhance every article

In RebelMouse's Entry Editor, there's always an opportunity to add dynamic media to your article using our Add Media Bar. Now, you can browse all the options within the Add Media Bar, including YouTube, Facebook, and GIPHY, in full-screen mode.

To pull up the Add Media Bar, click the ⨁ icon next to your cursor on the left-hand side of the screen. Then, to activate full-screen mode, click the Expand icon on the right-hand side:

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How to Use Google Search Console’s Removals Tool

Quickly remove articles from search or see why a URL was pulled from search

Google recently released a new version of its Removals tool that temporarily blocks URLs from showing up in search results. The tool also shows which content is no longer being displayed due to either being outdated or because it was filtered out by SafeSearch, a Google feature that removes offensive content.

The new tool can be helpful if you want to quickly remove an article from showing up in search or to find information on why your content was removed from search by third-party requests.

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How to Use Override Tags for Headlines + Subheadlines

Customize your preferences easily in our Layout & Design Tool

Site design should be agile, which means it's important to be able to make quick style changes that keep your content cohesive and organized. To make this even easier, there's now the ability to override the tags of your headlines and subheadlines for each article using our Layout & Design tool.

You can make these headline and subheadline changes using a Posts element. Here's a screencast of how this works:

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The Override default Headline Tag can be set to values <h1> through <h6>. The Override default Subheadline Tag can be set to values <h1> through <h6>, <p>, and <div>.

The new headline and subheadline overrides also work with AMP. If you have any questions about this new feature, email support@rebelmouse.com or contact your account manager today.

How to Enable Primary Tag Tracking in Google Analytics

Track your top-performing topics

On RebelMouse, we give you the ability to use as many tags as needed on every article to help keep you organized. But there's also an option to assign one primary tag to a post. A primary tag is built on the same principle as a primary section. One tag lets you assign higher importance to certain pieces of content when processing and organizing your posts.

There is also a primary tag dimension built into our RebelCMS which can be enabled for tracking in Google Analytics.

Why Track Primary Tags?

Tracking primary tags through Google Analytics allows you to track the performance of specific tags, which is helpful if you want to see what kinds of topics are performing well or underperforming on your site.

Once enabled in Google Analytics, you can see the performance of a specific primary tag, such as its pageviews, users, and more:

Then, in Google Data Studio, we can gather the data on your primary tags together to see your top-performing tags and gain insights into how they're performing.

How to Track Primary Tags in Google Analytics

To track your primary tags in Google Analytics, click on the Admin panel in your account. Then, select Custom Definitions.

Next, click Custom Dimensions.

After that, click on the red + New Custom Dimension button.

Fill in the name as Primary Tag, and set the Scope to Hit. Click the blue Create button.

That is all you need to do to set up tracking for your primary tags. Once completed, our team has to link a primary tag custom dimension on our back end. Please contact support@rebelmouse.com or datastudio@rebelmouse.com to finalize this step. Happy tracking!

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