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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?" has become a hot-button issue among industry leaders as 2018 draws 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.

Get ahead 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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A Look Inside the Only Creative Agency Powered by Deep Technology

Strategic development of product that supports content distribution, conversion, and loyalty.

RebelMouse is a creative agency fueled by a publishing platform with deep technology. Our expertise is rooted in media and content marketing because there is no other team that understands distributive publishing better than we do. There is also no other CMS on the market today that provides content creators with the tools they need to unlock sustainable growth backed by sticky monetization methods. RebelMouse blends product and strategy together to move the needle where it matters most — organic traffic and user growth, conversion to loyalty, and revenue growth.

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Curate Well-Rounded Content: Embed Previous Posts With Assembler

Flat media is dead. That's why we are always updating our product to make it easier and more intuitive to create dynamic media. A great example of one of these features allows users to embed previously published posts into a new post through our Particle Assembler.

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Updates: Edit Email Templates in Entry Editor, Easily Select the Right Tags

We have two new product updates that will make editing each article easier and more customized.

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New: Simplify Your Workflow With Our New Copy and Paste Function

There's a new feature in RebelMouse's Entry Editor that easily lets you copy and paste an entire post, including lead media, headline, subheadline, body, social copy, and social scheduling information. Don't worry — we will only copy the social scheduling language you've previously set up. Using this functionality will not schedule the post to be sent out again.

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How to Set a Canonical URL

A canonical URL is an HTML element that prevents duplicate content. This helps prevent SEO issues by indicating whether a URL is a "canonical" or "preferred" version of a page.

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The CFO's Guide to RebelMouse

A look at how you gain more and spend less with our platform.

Every Chief Financial Officer (CFO) has an important mission: Balance efficiency with fiscal responsibility while eliminating risk. To survive and thrive in today's publishing industry, this can be a tall order. New options for vendors, hosting, and service providers pop up all the time, and as technology advances, so do the kinds of tools you need to grow reach and revenue.

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Be an Advocate for Engagement With Discovery Email Templates

RebelMouse's Discovery tool offers various forms of social outreach, including emails that you can send to influencers while you're editing your article. We utilize our proprietary technology to seamlessly pull in the email addresses of social media account owners. And now, coupled with customizable template language that automatically gets pulled into your workflow, you can easily send out messages to let these accounts know that you love their content and wouldn't mind if they shared a related story of yours.

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New E-Commerce Option: Easily Feature Products With Just a Few Clicks

Every year, the numbers of shoppers who choose to purchase online versus in retail stores continues to grow. It's estimated that the number of online shoppers will rise to 230.5 million by 2021. At RebelMouse, we've added a new particle layout for our clients that do e-commerce. This feature makes it super simple to highlight products right from within our Entry Editor.

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2018: A RebelMouse Year in Review

From product to personal, we flourished on every level.

It's always overwhelming to think about how far we've come as a company every time December rolls around. From all the peaks and valleys our ever-changing industry likes to throw at us, to the personal triumphs and challenges we experience as a team, each year is always one to remember. But this time, 2018 took the cake. It was 365 days of twists, turns, and far more shining moments than ever before.

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