The best way to sell to publishers: Walk the talk. Companies that sell technology to publishers are increasingly building their own publications powered by those tools, which is helping showcase the value of their products, lending legitimacy to their pitches and enabling them to learn first-hand about the challenges publishers face.
While some companies are building publications in-house, others are opting to buy. The latest example of this: Tech startup Zette, which gives readers pay-per-article access to content and shares revenue with publishers, acquired Below The Fold, a twice-a-week email newsletter that covers news that “doesn’t make it to the front page.”
Below the Fold, which says it has 50,000 subscribers, was launched in 2021, and targets readers who it says are engaged with civil discourse. For Zette CEO Yehong Zhu, it’s an opportunity to reach the audience that Zette’s product targets. It also comes with another important benefit: The opportunity to understand what it means to run a publishing company while also courting publishers.
“We’re the audience we’re serving. going readers and we’re also the publishers we’re serving,” said Zhu in an interview. “We’re going to have obligations now and in the future to provide the best-curated quantity of content. We now have to have that editorial integrity standard, even though we are not a publisher in the traditional sense, we understand and resonate with them even more so with this acquisition.”
It’s an example of how brand publishing can benefit companies beyond simply lowering customer acquisition costs or helping them stand out as customers become tired of traditional advertising. For companies that count publishers as among their primary client or customer base, owning and operating a publication can offer a powerful vehicle for showcasing their capabilities and tools in a real-world situation.
The approach has become more prevalent in recent years.
Ad technology giant The Trade Desk has grown its brand publication The Current over the past two years, hiring high-profile business journalists in an effort to position itself as an editorial resource for the advertising industry. The Current recently also put up a registration wall, powered by TTD’s own technology, OpenPass. It’s an opportunity for The Trade Desk to see who is interested in its content, show off its technology and of course, gain valuable competitive insight on what it’s like to operate a publication.
“Using OpenPass on The Current simply represents our commitment to showing how simple an identity and authentication strategy can be for publishers, and we look forward to seeing more publishers adopt OpenPass in the future. We are simply practicing what our teams are preaching to our publishing partners,” a Trade Desk spokesperson said in a statement about the company’s registration wall.
For the Trade Desk, as with Zette, it’s an opportunity to both prove the value of their tools, learn, and add credibility to their offerings as well.
Another example is found at French company Poool, which sells tools and technologies to publishers to help them with their reader revenue and subscription models. The company runs The Audiencers, a B2B publication to help publishing professionals “make better decisions.” Marion Wyss, chief marketing officer at Poool and editor-in-chief of The Audiencers, says that moving from a blog to a true “publication” under a new brand was an effort to add legitimacy and attract audiences and contributors. Wyss came from the publishing world herself, and experienced first-hand the value of content as a way to attract readers — and customers. While the publication labels everything to make it clear that a brand is behind the work, Wyss said that building a publication helps the company stand behind its content. “We can use it as a selling point when talking to publishers,” said Wyss. And “we use it as a sandbox, to demo our own technology, our own paywall.”