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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Nordot + RebelMouse

RebelMouse and Nordot have joined together to provide publishers access to Nordot's massive content library directly from the RebelMouse CMS.

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Facebook Instant Articles: Troubleshooting, Debugging, and Tokens

Facebook Instant Articles are a great Facebook feature, but sometimes there can be issues that need to be addressed. In this post, we'll be looking at a few of the most common, including:

  • Resolving Facebook Instant Articles errors
  • Resolving Facebook expired token notifications
  • Resolving any setup issue regarding Facebook Instant Articles
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SEO Decline? Google Featured Snippets Are Dramatically Reduced

You may have noticed a decline in your traffic recently, particularly from Google Search. It appears that Google has changed their algorithm to dramatically reduce the amount of featured snippets that are showing on the search engine's results page. If you consistently get traffic from featured snippets, this algo update will most likely have a negative impact on your search traffic.

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How to Add Custom Fields to Posts

Great sites will often have content that follows a particular pattern, or have specific fields that need to be added to posts of a particular type. That's where custom fields come into play. Custom fields can be anything you need them to be, from checkboxes, to free-form text, to even phone numbers! During content creation, you can then fill out the custom fields as needed for a post, adding great details for your readers without any additional coding or effort. You can even create custom fields for your users!

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Bot Traffic Filtering With RebelMouse

Bot traffic is essentially any traffic that comes to a website that is not an actual human visiting the site. Bot traffic can be either beneficial or malicious. For malicious bot traffic, you may want to consider blocking it. For many publishers, the free tools in Google Analytics may be enough, but we also offer a more comprehensive option.

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Using Mustache Syntax to Customize Mailchimp Templates

RebelMouse has many ways that we can help to simplify your newsletter campaign workflow. Our integration with Mailchimp allows you to automate your daily or weekly newsletter (using an algorithm to select the top-performing posts of either period) or to use our Entry Editor to create a post, which can then be sent to Mailchimp and distributed to your appropriate lists. You are also able to simply select the correct template for any post you send as a newsletter (or your automated newsletters).

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Driven by Data: RebelMouse’s Customized Google Data Studio Dashboards

RebelMouse offers unique, customizable dashboards through Google Data Studio that provide key insights into the metrics that matter most to publishers. We give our clients the ability to quickly understand the performance of their sites so that they can then make important decisions on the fly. Here's what you get out of the box.

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Affiliate Marketing on RebelMouse: Managing Products

If you have a website that mixes content with products, you've probably faced the difficulty of incorporating your featured products into your articles. At RebelMouse, we've created an innovative and elegant way to create, search for, and insert your products into your article pages.

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