Tyla Mayo spent time at the Los Angeles Times and Fox before moving to Univision where she is now a Director Revenue Product Operations for the Fusion Media Group. She’s been immersed in the worlds of digital content, advertising and media products, so we reached out to ask a few questions while writing our Media & Entertainment Benchmarks Report, and she told us why app-based content is overrated, the danger of depending on social referrals, and what aspects of building a brand are the same as they ever were.
What do you see as the advantages and disadvantages ad-supported digital media companies face compared with subscription supported ones?
Ad-supported publishers have scale that few subscription-supported publishers can boast. They remain the public service platform that broadcast television was of old and so offer something very special that ad-supported service giants like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube can’t compete with: the crossroads of scale, context, and brand safety. Many would say that scale is only achievable via the giants, but take the top 5 ad-supported publisher sites and compare the scale of that aggregate audience with the big guys and I think you’ll find what advertisers already know: this is where they can customize their brand experience in meaningful and effective ways because of the added features of context and brand safety controls while still reaching the same audience.
Do homepages still matter for digital media companies, or is the assumption that traffic will be referred from social, search and other external channels?
I do believe that brand loyalty still exists and that where it exists, homepages are important. Social referrals have created a platform for an unknown brand to build interest and loyalty and do it fast.
“Word of mouth” advertising has always been the most impactful, albeit with limited scale. And before the US elections, I believe that social referrals were consumed by users with a similar sentiment of trust and familiarity to that word of mouth recommendation. Because humans are emotional creatures at our core, I believe that this first response to social referrals will remain even after the changing perception of the integrity of social recommendations in a post-election landscape. But users may question the authenticity of the brands that they’re loyal to, and that’s where the role of search referrals come in.
Right or wrong, search is what gives a brand relevance and authority on a topic and I think that will become a larger influencer in brand loyalty in the months to come. That said, once loyalty is won, your site’s ability to offer a user a navigational tool to surface their favorite content from a brand they are making an active rather than a passive choice to engage with becomes critical. As a media product owner, I know that there is a food pyramid of users and that no matter how small the group at the top might be, they are my most valuable users and worth designing UI and features for. I do think the top is smaller and the base is larger but the base will never overcome the top.
What are the most encouraging trends you see in the digital media space?
The move away from an app-centric strategy. As a consumer, and as publisher, I hated the concept of an app based environment from which to engage with content when my early adopter friends were quick to pick up the first iPhones. While I do see the value of the app-centered approach from the perspective of a hardware provider like Apple – that model allowed them to control user experience and guarantee a minimum level of quality – but as a consumer, managing my content interest felt messy (3 apps to stay on top of news!) and restrictive (once I entered the walled garden of an app I felt that discovering content became limited to the confines of those walls).
As a publisher, that walled garden meant that my means of engaging users changed – in the beginning I needed to vie for top promotional placement via my relationship with the businesses behind the stores where my app would be downloaded from and hope that users knew that the content that they loved came from me and that the only way to get to it in an app world was via my app, and now we are beholden to the moody beast that is social whose mysterious and top secret algorithms can bankrupt a successful business overnight. I can’t wait to see the birth of the WebApp, which we are designing for the screen and engagement.
What data do you share with advertisers, and what do they find most compelling?
In my current role I have limited engagements directly with advertisers, and rather serve internal clients directly who in turn manage relationships with our advertisers. That said, I’m not so distant from that relationship to be unaware of the critical role that engagement metrics have on the marketplace. Impressions alone are no longer enough to incentivize a returning advertiser – they want to know that our users have been offered a positive and rich engagement opportunity with their brand and who those users are.
Have you noticed changes in what they’re looking for?
Social media metrics, sentiment, demo and action-based metrics are now so much more critical than the impression or even the clicks of the past.
Over-reliance on certain social channels has badly wounded some outlets in recent months. What trends are you seeing in digital media in terms of distribution that we should be aware of? And how can digital media companies sustain success in a changing environment?
Syndication partnerships are huge now. You don’t rely on your own site and apps to host your content and via these be promoted by social but you have an army of strategic partnerships as a means to diversify your risk. Is El Chapo a Netflix or Univision show? Our consumers probably don’t know and don’t care, but having this content live on our site and theirs insulates us from damage to our brand or theirs that may be driven by updated algorithms that are outside of our control.
The downside: diversifying your brand alignment stands to cannibalize the brand loyalty your own brand earns if you’re not careful – you need to be strategic and bold and leave behind the days of the tasteful logo in the credits and make your name known while still having enough style and class about it to not be obnoxious.
How do you differentiate yourself from the competition in this environment?
Investing in great content development, knowing your audience and being easy to engage with remains the most strategic way to build a business whose success or failure is guided by your own decisions but content exposure is what wins the scale game. Relevance has to the first thought.
What’s something you believe more strongly than almost everyone else about media products?
That the most sophisticated OTT device is a computer (I use a Mac Mini connected to my 74” TV via an HDMI cable for all content consumption with a wireless mouse/keyboard for navigation from the comfort of my couch) because of the app culture. On a computer, I have unlimited access to all content available in the known universe – don’t restrict yourself by buying into a Roku, Chromecast or AppleTV. You deserve better!
For more from Tyla and other experts, as well as 26 charts on the data that matters to video, audio, gaming, and written media companies, read the Mixpanel Media & Entertainment Report.