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 Update Groups and Users

Easily adjust your group settings and user profiles from Posts dashboard

The content lifecycle is rarely a solo effort. This is why RebelMouse supports a network of online communities to streamline the publishing workflow among administrators, content creators, and everyone in between. Learn more about our online communities here.

Managing many creators means constant change. To help meet this need, we've provided you with the ability to view, edit, or ban user profiles within a community or group.

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Keep Readers Informed With Date Modified Element

This element will make sure readers know when an article is updated

There's a new element in our Layout & Design Tool that allows users to see the date an article was last updated. The Date Modified element can be found within a Post element. You'll find it under the Element Order menu:

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A Modern Story of Web Performance From RebelMouse Founder + CEO Andrea Breanna

If I had more time, this website would have loaded faster

In the first months of 2020, we've focused at RebelMouse on page speed and performance. We worked very hard and found ways to take 90% of the sites we power to 90+ performance scores via Google's PageSpeed Insights tool — even with sites that are loaded with ads, embeds, third-party analytics, and other typical slow-loading elements. You can read more about our victories here.

A few months after we started this process, COVID-19 hit the world very hard. Suddenly, every media company was faced with a huge problem: Advertising fell off a cliff in what seemed like seconds. The only way to survive this unprecedented downturn is to grow traffic and control costs at the same time. So we started to shave our code and made our websites faster. We dropped costs just as dramatically as we were increasing scores.

Here are some surprises we found when doing this: If you want truly exceptional performance, none of the JavaScript and CSS frameworks that developers love so much make the cut. We thought the React version of RebelMouse was going to be the huge page speed breakthrough, until we realized the only way to achieve this goal was to write the code carefully and refactor it endlessly until it was as short as possible. As any author will tell you, like editing a book or a blog post, the revision process is never really done. By stepping away from frameworks, and methodically shaving vanilla code, our customers continue to see major improvements in performance.

As we announced this to our site network and rolled it out publicly, many of our clients asked me personally, "How did you do it?" The answer is easy to understand regardless of how technical you may be. It's perfectly summarized in this wonderful quote attributed to Mark Twain:

"If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter."
—Blaise Pascal, 1657 (and later, more famously Mark Twain)

The universe is sometimes very beautiful, and especially when you keep it simple. If you would like to start publishing on a site optimized for both speed and sustainability, request a proposal and let's start working together.

How to Format a User’s Joined Date

With RebelMouse's Layout & Design Tool, it's quick and easy to change how a user's information is formatted and displayed on their profile page.

In this post, we'll go through the steps necessary to expose and customize the way a user's joined date is displayed and formatted.

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AMP on the RebelCMS Platform

How to guarantee your media and ads are approved for AMP

RebelMouse makes rich, dynamic and flexible implementations of AMP simple to deploy. The platform has a suite of out of the box tools for editors/journalists/creators as well as tools for developers and product managers.

Easy to Enable Rich AMP Options on Any Post

RebelMouse makes it easy for product managers to quickly design AMP pages that outperform industry standards with an average of five pages per user. With the RebelCMS, you can choose to enable AMP by default or implement it across articles individually with one click in our Entry Editor. This level of granular control sets us apart from other CMS solutions and allows you to decide how deep you'd like to go with AMP.

Pure AMP (Canonical AMP) Features out of the Box

To maximize the speed benefits of AMP, RebelMouse also provides a way to force AMP for mobile and desktop traffic on a per-article basis. When enabled, traffic for the article will be redirected to the AMP version of the page for better performance.

Google will still see your AMP-enabled pages as usual and provide all of the normal benefits for search, but now you'll also get faster-loading pages that increase user engagement and drop bounce rates regardless of the traffic source.

Simplified AMP Layout Creation and Management

Our Layout & Design tool allows you to easily implement dynamic AMP layouts either through the default canonical usage or when forcing AMP on mobile and/or desktop. Using this tool, it's possible to create complex, multi-column layouts with ease that will be served as lightning-fast AMP pages to your visitors. The RebelCMS intelligently serves the proper layout depending on the device that a visitor is using to view your site's content.

Add Conversion Units to Maximize Audience Retention

Interstitial conversion units can be placed within your content so you can build a mailing list, get leads, or just highlight a new feature to your audience.

Beautiful Support for AMP Stories

The RebelCMS has an gorgeous integration with AMP stories. Read more about that here.

Related Articles

Data-Backed Instincts: How Google Trends Can Elevate Your Search Strategy

Adopt a forward-thinking SEO mindset during breaking news events

As every type of industry imaginable re-evaluates their positioning in what's been dubbed "the new normal" since the outbreak of COVID-19, communication has never been more critical.

But like every aspect of life, the global crisis has turned the world of marketing, branding, and content creation upside down. More people than ever are not just socializing online, but living online, and this means the nature of search — the number one way humans get their information on the web — has completely changed, too.

Publishers are looking for ways to upgrade their search engine optimization (SEO) strategy to survive. In fact, Search Engine Journal analyzed data from Google Trends and found that the search term "SEO" and related queries spiked dramatically in the United States beginning in February 2020.

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The RebelMouse Guide to a Modern Instagram Marketing Strategy

Guidelines to make sure your Instagram profile is optimized for growth

It's estimated that Instagram users spend an average of 53 minutes on the platform each day. That's a lot of time to grab your targeted audience's attention. Whether you're a new media property just getting started, a legacy publisher, or big-box brand, Instagram can be a great way to move the needle on your social engagement strategy.

However, it can feel like an uphill battle to even dip your toe into the waters of such a competitive platform. Although every brand's aesthetic is unique to them, there are a few key points that companies can follow to grow on Instagram.

Of course, since Instagram is such a visual application, it's essential that your feed has high-quality photos that are visually appealing. Here are some quick tips to help guide and optimize your Instagram marketing strategy for audience growth and engagement.

Refine Your Feed

Apart from maintaining on brand and quality content, all of the best Instagram feeds have one important thing in common: visual consistency. RebelMouse client 7X7 Bay Area is a great example of an Instagram feed with consistently beautiful photography that's equal parts refined and fresh.

Instagram accounts with a harmonious and attractive feed have a higher chance of retaining new visitors and converting them into followers, which helps to grow your brand's account overall.

Here are some tips to achieve visual consistency in your feed:

Use the same font for all text:

It's important to note that it can become visually overwhelming to users if there are too many photos collaged into one picture. The aim is for the feed to not look overcrowded with imagery.

If you would like to use multiple photos for the same post, use the multiple-image post functionality so that users can swipe through photos one at a time.

Try to make sure that each of your Instagram photos has a high resolution so they're clear and sharp. Colors should not be overly saturated, overly opaque, or too zoomed in.

Also, make sure your images are cropped correctly. Here's a link to Instagram's recommended image dimensions.

Find Your Filter Balance

The colors of pictures and videos can be enhanced with editing software, or by using Instagram's built-in filtering options. It's a good idea to be consistent in your editing or use of filters so that your feed maintains color uniformity.

It should be noted that Instagram's own filtering options often result in an overall aesthetic that is too strong, whether it be through the use of contrast, opacity, or saturation.

Too much contrast:

Not enough saturation or too pale:

A good rule of thumb is to not use more than 50% of any filter:

Use On-Brand Captions

Captions should always be on target and suitable for your brand's audience. This will vary greatly depending on the type of brand or website you power, as well as what your target audience looks like. It's important to recognize who your audience is, and how this aligns with your own brand's values, to maintain a consistent tone.

This is a great example of a fun caption that caters to RebelMouse-powered PAPER Magazine's audience. Their use of informal language is fresh and on brand:

Here's a more professional approach from RebelMouse-powered Work It Daily that still keeps the tone on target for their brand and community of support for the modern workforce.

Hashtag Usage and Management

The usage of hashtags can greatly benefit an Instagram post because it allows the post to be found by users looking for a particular hashtag. This can lead to an increase in traffic to the post, as well as the account as a whole.

Developing Instagram accounts such as Work It Daily can benefit from hashtags.

It's important when using hashtags to make sure that they're relevant to your company overall, as well as to the post's content. Furthermore, it's also a great idea to use different variations of the same key hashtags to capture as much traffic as possible.

One thing to note is that the larger the account, the less necessary hashtags are since the account will already have a large reach. Figuring out how many hashtags to use will require a little trial and error, but the main takeaway here is that the number of hashtags to use is not static and will need to change over time as an account grows.

Currently, the limit on hashtags is set at 30 per post.

Aim for Engagement

Interaction with followers and other Instagram users who comment and like your content is also an extremely important part of a successful Instagram marketing strategy.

Instagram's algorithm currently prioritizes accounts with high levels of interaction. The greater the amount of interaction, the more your account's content will get prioritized when appearing in a user's feed.

Post New Content Regularly

Regularly posting new content shows users that a particular Instagram account is active, which is especially important for media and news companies that need to demonstrate to their users that their content is relevant and up to date. Besides helping to increase followers, this practice also helps accounts maintain their current followers.

One thing to always keep in mind when deciding when to post is that "quality over quantity" should always prevail. It's much more efficient to have two great posts a week with high levels of visibility and engagement versus five posts with low visibility and engagement.

Instagram Stories and IGTV

One of Instagram's newest and most popular features is IGTV. To access IGTV, tap the IGTV button located in the navigation bar of your search page.

From there, you'll be brought to a personalized feed of curated IGTV content. The content is pulled in from accounts you follow who have IGTV content, as well as IGTV content from similar accounts that you're not following.

Because a user's IGTV feed is composed of content from both accounts a user follows and new accounts that post similar content, any IGTV content that appears in a non-following user's feed has a greater-than-normal chance of seeing the person view the content and converting into a follower. This makes IGTV one of the most effective Instagram post-types in terms of user growth, since it provides higher levels of accessibility, opportunity, and possibility to reach new users. IGTV will soon feature in-stream ads as well.

Create IGTV Content

Although any sort of format can be used successfully when creating IGTV content, one of the most effective ways that we recommend is to create an IGTV series.

Series on IGTV are essentially short videos with a common format or related theme that help draw in users so that they become familiar with the type of content and format they can expect to see on an account. They're useful at driving loyalty because users will want to see what the next part of the series will cover, and will therefore be more likely to convert into followers.

Win on Instagram

At RebelMouse, we believe that the social ecosystem is made up of a universe of creators. Your brand already has a community of collaborators waiting to engage with your Instagram content — it's just a matter of nurturing your social strategy to find them.

If you have any questions about what's working or not working for your Instagram account, email support@rebelmouse.com or talk to your account manager today.

How to Configure Your Site's Time Zone

At RebelMouse, we strive to make our platform as simple and intuitive as possible as we continuously provide high levels of customizability.

This is why we've added new functionality that allows you to easily set your site's time zone in Layout & Design Tool. If your site is currently registering time through a different source, it can now be synchronized under one setting.

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