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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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Meet RebelMouse

Build on a better platform that supports far-reaching content distribution, impactful conversion, and unparalleled loyalty.

The world's largest companies trust us to power their global, multiplatform content experience. As a platform, we're now one of the largest in the world, reaching 50+ million people every month. As a creative agency, we build mass pop culture hits that grow organically to become household names — Axios and The Dodo, for example.

We work strategically with United Airlines and many other brands to establish the new media roadmap for their future and implement it. RebelMouse was founded by the CTO who built The Huffington Post. The founding vision and mission is still the same today: to be the right new media platform for both media companies and brands. It's working exceedingly well, and we're delivering some staggering results for our clients.

Read our latest deck here!

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How to Add an Authors Element to Search

If you have a community of creators contributing to your site, it can be helpful for users to search for articles by a particular author. By default, if a user searches for the name "Rachel Williams," the results will pull up stories about Rachel Williams instead of the author profile of Rachel Williams. There's an easy way to change this behavior in our Layout & Design tool. Here's how.

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New: Seamless Site Design With Global Styles

Keep your site's aesthetic consistent with one-click Global Styles

Site design should be seamless, which is why we obsess over creating a CMS experience that's intuitive and user-friendly. At RebelMouse, we believe that a site's look and feel should be part of the everyday workflow, and it should never distract developers or site contributors from their daily tasks.

This is why we've recently rolled out Global Styles in our Layout & Design tool. Users now have the ability to override styles by creating their own preferences in Global Settings that can then be applied to other pages en masse.

Users can create custom styles for any element, and then use those styles in other layouts by selecting them from a drop-down menu in one streamlined motion:

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How to Add YouTube Feeds via RSS

Easily add videos to your articles on RebelMouse

Since YouTube is one of the most popular social networks around, it's likely you'll want to add a YouTube channel's feed to your site at some point. Additionally, you may want to add a YouTube playlist to your site. Both options are possible on RebelMouse thanks to RSS Feeds. Here's how it works.

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Update: “Show Less” Function Removed From Layout & Design Tool

This new change helps improve the infinite scroll experience

As a RebelMouse client, you're likely familiar with our Social UX for Media layout, which includes an infinite scroll design that allows users to expand and collapse articles as they consume content.

To improve this experience, we've removed the "Show Less" function, which previously collapsed lead media, post, and/or post content elements in our Layout & Design tool. Now, if you uncheck Show Full Post Body, the "Show More" function will be enabled and the "Show Less" function will no longer be available.

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RebelMouse CEO: Reimagining Diversity “Starts in the Office”

Why women, minorities, and the LGBTQ+ community will restructure workplace norms

Entering a new decade means a new opportunity to change how we approach diversity. In a joint interview alongside Leanne Pittsford of Lesbians Who Tech, RebelMouse founder and CEO Andrea Breanna said that the only way to fight patriarchal dominance is to encourage and nurture more women, minorities, and members of the LGBTQ+ community in the workplace, particularly in tech.

Over half of RebelMouse's employees are women or identify as LGBTQ. Read our full diversity and inclusion report here.

Check out the full video below.

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Mailchimp Free Users: You May Need to Upgrade Under New Pricing Plan

Features previously available in Mailchimp's Free plan have changed

Mailchimp has recently updated their pricing structure, and template customization features that were originally supported in the Free plan have been moved to the Standard plan.

The change means that any Free users will need to upgrade to the Standard plan that currently costs $14.99 per month. Beyond template customization, the following RebelMouse features will also no longer be available if you're using their Free plan:

  • Sending emails using Discovery
  • The ability to send daily and weekly newsletters
  • Turning a post into a newsletter using Entry Editor

While it may be an inconvenience to upgrade your Mailchimp account to a paid plan, consider this a small investment in a strategy with winning potential. Think of a newsletter as an extension of your site's content that puts the experience back in the hands of your readers. After all, users prefer to read and consume content on their own time in familiar interfaces, like Gmail. Click here to learn more about crafting an effective email strategy.

If you have any questions about Mailchimp's new changes and how they will work with RebelMouse's integration, email support@rebelmouse.com or contact your account manager today.

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How to Make Your Top Menu Disappear on Scroll

Create an un-sticky Top Bar using Layout & Design tool

Depending on how you structure your content, it can be helpful to have your site's header and menu bar disappear as readers scroll. We call this un-sticky Top Bar behavior. Here's an example of what this looks like:

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Boost Your Performance With RebelMouse’s New AMP-Rendering Engine

Using React + Node, AMP-powered sites provide a next-level user experience

RebelMouse is proud to announce a new rendering engine driven by Google's lightning-fast AMP format. In our relentless pursuit of world-class site performance, our team of developers put together a faster experience for our clients that includes a more cohesive codebase, quicker development output, and increased reliability and overall performance.

To do this, we used React and Node — JavaScript languages that appeal to a broad pool of developers. The same code can run on both servers and browsers, and allows us to leverage modern front end optimization tools.

Here's a quick rundown of what React, AMP, and Node are, and how RebelMouse has used them to create an AMP-focused front end experience that's fit for the next decade of publishing.

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