Dawn Capital
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Dawn Capital

Does tech spell the end of journalism?

The future of digital publishing

Last decade saw the emergence of publishing brands targeting new audiences with innovative content. Traditional newspapers and magazines also went digital, and either scaled back or discontinued their physical print-runs.

Print newspapers: is digital publishing going the same way? (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

But it appears that online publishing is now in crisis, with publishers struggling to make ends meet. Several have gone bust or had their valuations slashed, and most have been forced to make major layoffs. So what’s wrong?

At the most basic level, it’s the old story of struggling to make the books balance. But more specifically, it’s a tech issue that demands a tech solution.

Why digital publishing is hard

On the revenue side, digital publishing monetises mostly through programmatic and direct advertising. This is a complex and constantly shifting world, and to maximise the opportunity you need to be a tech-driven player operating at significant scale.

Digital publishing is now a complex, tech-first business (credit: Pixabay)

On the cost side, the biggest line item is typically content: good creative talent costs money, and the processes are also manual — again due to poor tech such as a clunky content management system (CMS).

And because publishing is now a tech-first game, companies need to invest constantly to stay up to speed with distribution channels, hosting infrastructure and recommendation algorithms.

Net result: it’s a struggle to break even, let alone make a profit.

Making publishing work

Over the past decade, Minute Media — which built a full-stack publishing platform — has pioneered a tech-first approach that makes online publishing possible and indeed profitable.

On the revenue side, Minute Media’s superior tech and better data result in higher yield for programmatic. And as the company has grown over the years, it’s built up a track record of successful execution in direct advertising which, thanks also to its scale and innovation, represents a compelling offering for brands. All this means significant revenue uplift compared with a traditional digital publisher.

On the costs side, Minute Media still employs large content teams: audiences will always demand high-quality content, so you can’t compromise on that if you want to succeed.

DBLTAP editorial team (credit: Minute Media)

However, Minute Media’s proprietary publishing platform enables them to create content globally at scale very efficiently, thanks to their superior CMS and content recommendation engine. They also have their own in-house video tech, which is less expensive than outsourcing. Additionally, Minute Media has more powerful audience engagement tools than a typical publisher. All this means a cost reduction of 25–35%.

Net result: compared with a traditional digital publisher, Minute Media generates higher revenue and growth at a lower cost. Their unique tech-driven model has enabled them to thrive in a turbulent macro-environment.

Building a category leader

Initially, Minute Media focused on building their own brands such as 90min, 12up and DBLTAP, and they’ve since added several others through M&A (most recently The Players’ Tribune and Fansided).

Derek Jeter, founder of The Players’ Tribune, which recently joined the Minute Media family (credit: Wikipedia/Flickr)

Nowadays, the web properties under Minute Media garner hundreds of millions of unique views each month, and in the US alone north of a billion video streams.

And what’s particularly exciting is the company’s recent expansion into B2B2C: after perfecting their platform to build out their own brands, Minute Media has now opened up their end-to-end publishing platform and online video platform to third parties to use. So if you’re a digital publisher, Minute Media is the platform provider of choice.

As the future of publishing becomes more intertwined with tech, we’re excited to be backing Minute Media once again, leading their latest $40m growth round from the Opportunities Fund that we announced in 2019, and supporting them on their mission to empower the next generation of passionate creators and audiences.

minutemedia.com | dawncapital.com | TechCrunch

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