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How to Thrive in a World Without Ads

Mike Mallazzo, Director of Marketing at Narrativ, recently wrote a post on Medium: "Life After Ads: The recent purchase of TIME should remind publishers of the power a strong brand can wield."

He discusses how some media companies are starting to question their total reliance on digital advertising. With Facebook and Google capturing the majority of revenue in the online advertising space, Mallazzo talks about how some companies are diversifying their revenue streams with models that depend on building loyalty and trust through subscriptions and commerce content in addition to just advertising. He writes:

"Media conglomerates have rediscovered the power of brand equity, offering the most plausible hope for sustainability since the proliferation of the internet."

At RebelMouse, however, we are still seeing digital advertising work. Our clients — such as Dance Magazine — are seeing huge success with digital advertising. But what if you were a media company in a world where traditional digital advertising didn't work at all? What would you do? How would you make money and continue to grow as a company?

The key is loyalty. You can't have a brand without loyalty.


One of our clients, the Italian newspaper La Verità, has seen tremendous growth using a paywall system combined with our proprietary CMS technology, which is specifically designed to engage readers and create loyalty. The stats reflect this growth in loyalty. In August 2018, their returning visitors increased by 74%, and new visitors increased by 115%! Using the infinite scroll design layout we call Social UX, La Verità is averaging 14 pages per visitor, far above industry standard.

Another client of ours, DiversityInc, has used our CMS technology to grow traffic and then capture B2B revenue behind a subscription paywall. This model works well because people want to be associated with the brand by virtue of what they stand for. In the past 30 days, they've seen returning visitors up 76% and new visitors 25%.

Mallazzo writes:

"Made popular by the likes of Wirecutter, GQ, and Buzzfeed, commerce content drives 3X more traffic to retailers than Google and hundreds of millions of monthly visits to Amazon. For all of Google's omnipresence, consumers still have more trust in media brands when it comes to recommending what to buy."

One of our clients, Refinery29, exemplifies this move towards commerce content, taking advantage of editorial trust to deliver a premium experience. Take, for example, their campaign with Dyson. You get great content such as " At Home Blowout Tips" while leveraging your brand power as an editorial team to generate real revenue by recommending the best products. Then, when you combine this with RebelMouse's Social UX design, you have an unbeatable combination for success in a post-ad world.

Part of building the trust that drives life in a post-advertising world involves having engaging conversations, and this involves a back-and-forth, a give-and-take. By thinking from a customer-centric perspective, brands can use customer stories to generate beautiful and engaging content that is authentic. This is why Mallazzo is spot-on when he says:

"Looking forward, the future of media most squarely belongs to brands like Allure and GQ that can take it one step further and succeed at becoming an extension of self."

It is that authenticity which drives connection and builds a legacy of trust and loyalty.

Ideally, each story you put out wins a search phrase that is valuable to you. At RebelMouse we have spent the past seven years developing our proprietary CMS platform to win at SEO and social to viralize content like no other creative agency in the world.

Part of our best practices is to think in terms of particles, not articles. These days it is the embedded tweet or the Instagram story that goes viral more so than the article itself. Our unique Particle Assembler technology combines optimal SEO structuring with beautiful and easy-to-use design to make the editorial flow streamlined with maximal results.

Mallazzo writes:

"The enduring power of the media brand provides hope that a model will arise to sustain an independent and profitable fourth estate."

We are seeing our clients embrace this philosophy successfully. Take Wonkette. They have no ads, but are thriving on a model based around loyalty and donations. People spend all day on the site because they have built a unique brand identity and used our platform to find the reach necessary for growth.

At RebelMouse, we know how to use deep technology to leverage this amazing resource for optimal results. But at the end of the day, it's up to brands to find the motivation to build a legacy of trust with their customers. It cannot be built in a day. But in a world without ads (or at least a world where ads are dominated by Facebook and Google), you have to start building sometime. Otherwise, you'll be left behind by savvy consumers looking for authenticity.

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