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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.

Page Speed Is Crucial to Your Marketing Efforts

Most marketers don't prioritize page speed because they don't think it impacts their bottom line. However, page load has a direct impact on conversions and revenue.

Here's a very simple scenario, supported by industry data, to underscore why the way pages are built and powered is crucial for paid media initiatives and your overall business:

Let's say a paid media campaign drives 100,000 new visitors to a landing page that takes five seconds to load. Google says that 53% of mobile site visitors will leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load. So of the 100K mobile site visitors you paid to bring to the page, ~50K are leaving immediately due to poor page performance alone.

Some studies even show that bounce rate increases approximately 100% for every two-second delay. So, if site load jumps to seven seconds, you'll pretty much lose all of the visitors your paid strategies brought in.

A Poor Site Experience Costs More Than You Realize

Page load plays a huge part in customer dissatisfaction, too. Continuing on with our previous example, let's classify the ~50K that didn't abandon the page as dissatisfied due to poor page performance. As HubSpot points out, 79% of them are less likely to buy again from the same website. That's ~40K visitors never coming back to the site due to poor page speed. The loss is even greater when you consider how valuable returning visitors are: They represent up to 48% of all transactions and spend almost 2x more than new visitors, according to Business Insider.

Plus, people love to spread the word about a bad experience, probably more than a good one. 40% of visitors who had a bad experience with a website's performance would tell a friend or a family member. So of your 50K dissatisfied visitors, 20K are talking negatively about your brand. If they tell only one person each, that's an opportunity cost of another 20K potential site visitors and customers.

The main takeaway? Your paid media has to work much, much harder when you neglect to optimize your site for performance.

Owned and Paid Media Should Work Together for Better Efficiency

And speaking of site improvements to help the bottom line, marketers can't overlook the value of owned content (e.g., articles, reviews, social feeds, etc.) and its impact on overall traffic and lead generation strategies. Sites tend to see significant lift in audience reach and conversion when content is paired with commerce: For e-commerce companies, content can account for up to 69% of total organic traffic. And, even more compelling, conversion rates have been 6x higher for companies that adopt content marketing.

RebelMouse's CMS makes it easy for brands to systematically optimize page speed performance and organic reach, which allows paid media to be more efficient.

RebelMouse allows clients to easily manage website layouts and components at any time, ensuring sites remain fast and are rewarded by Google and Facebook. Our platform features proprietary SEO tools designed to help clients optimize organic search with every post and better align paid and organic search strategies for increased efficiency. Similarly, our platform also includes proprietary social tools to organically build community and growth, and our data helps clients spot winning organic trends that can inform paid social media.

RebelMouse Is a Partner That Can Guide You

When it comes to content marketing, it's important to be mindful of the relationship between owned, earned, and paid media — it will only help your teams engage and convert more audiences into customers and brand loyalists. At RebelMouse, we're proud of how we work with brands and our ability to provide the expertise, best practices, and modern technology that help teams become better content marketers. If you're a brand marketer, feel free to reach out to us to learn how RebelMouse can help you be more strategic and effective in your content marketing efforts.

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Target High-Value Users With Affinity Categories

Unlock valuable audience data and shape a new strategy

In today's landscape, quality content isn't enough — it's half the battle. Publishers need to produce shareable content backed by data to experience sustainable growth. At RebelMouse, we have a unique pageview methodology that provides an innovative user experience for every reader without sacrificing revenue and growth opportunities for publishers.

To do this, we track massive amounts of data across our platform through the use of custom-built Google Data Studio dashboards.

Click here to see the kind of growth our clients experience every day.

One of the best ways to discover more about your audience is by taking advantage of Affinity Categories. This feature breaks down audience demographics, including age, location, interests, and more. Affinity Categories are usually used to target audiences for ads, but we also use them to gain insights on what topics a site's visitors are interested in overall.

Normally, each category is listed out separately in Google Analytics. In the example shown above, our data experts split categories into separate levels to reveal different levels of audience depth. For instance, by splitting up the category News & Politics, we can better explore the detailed distribution of users interested in specific types of news:

  • News & Politics/Avid News Readers/Avid Political News Readers
  • News & Politics/Avid News Readers/Entertainment News Enthusiasts

From an editorial standpoint, this is useful because it allows publishers to determine and target varying levels of high-value users, improving the efficacy of a new content strategy or ad campaign.

If your site is already powered by RebelMouse, email support@rebelmouse.com to get a breakdown of your audience's Affinity Categories. If you aren't powered by RebelMouse yet, request a proposal today and start receiving the data you need to grow loyal followers at scale.

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Infinite Scroll: An Innovative + Intuitive UX

There is a common misconception that publishers have to sacrifice monetization and professional design to deliver a high-performing, quality user experience to its readers. But in today's modern publishing environment, websites can deliver an unobtrusive site experience that's intuitive, elegant, and prosperous.

To do this consistently, RebelMouse supports infinite scroll as part of our bigger design strategy called Social UX for Media. Much like the news feeds of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, infinite scroll provides an endless stream of articles to its readers so they never reach the "end" of your content.

Infinite scroll is an innovative approach, but it is also a widely adopted standard that has been endorsed and is supported officially by Google, Comscore, Nielsen, and many other industry giants. It's part of a new media strategy deployed by companies with massive valuations and the highest level of visibility in the U.S. market, including Axios, Vice, and The Verge.

In fact, RebelMouse built and launched news powerhouse Axios, now one of the biggest new media companies to date, with our Social UX for Media design featuring infinite scroll. It's still a core part of Axios' successful publishing strategy today. The feature has also been key to the growth of many other RebelMouse-powered properties, including La Verità, Dance Magazine, and United Airlines.

RebelMouse's Social UX for Media design, featuring infinite scroll on hub.united.com.

The primary reason infinite scroll is so successful is because it mimics user behavior in an innovative, yet familiar way, thanks to its similarity to social feeds. On mobile, expandable posts make it easy for users to read "before the jump" and quickly expand to the rest of the article with one click, rather than being taken to another article page. This is similar to when a user expands a caption on Instagram. It's these simple design details that bring massive growth to key stats like return visits and time on site.

Our page view methodology not only keeps the user experience intact, it also includes robust ad serving technology. We use industry standard rules for page views that require at least 50% of the screen space to change before it counts as a new page view. So whether you use Comscore or Nielsen to verify your site traffic, infinite scroll will not have a negative impact on your insights.

If you're interested in launching a site with our game-changing Social UX for Media design, request a proposal today and let's start working together. If your site is already powered by RebelMouse, and you have questions about infinite scroll, email support@rebelmouse.com.

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Particle Assembler: Ads in Slideshows Now Supported

You can now insert ads between slides in a slideshow!

Monetizing users' engagement and page views is pivotal to most digital businesses, and our Particle Assembler has been an invaluable tool in helping RebelMouse clients to insert native ads seamlessly into their content. Now we've taken this functionality one step further by introducing support for ads between slides in Assembler's slideshow layout.

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