Google Affiliate Link Penalty; The brand error in relation to performance

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Publishers trying to carve a slice of the commerce pie face an unlikely – or perhaps not so unlikely – competitor: Google. Looks like everywhere they turn, there’s Google with a new way to penalize them for experimenting with alternative sources of income.

Take BuzzFeed, which highlighted the growth potential of its business in the run-up to its impending IPO. But here’s the problem: BuzzFeed’s trading revenues slowed to just 14% in the third quarter from 80% in the first half, and all signs point to another deficit in the fourth quarter.

What happened? It’s no coincidence that earlier this year, Google adjusted its search algorithm to decrease sites with affiliate-style links to outside merchant stores. Publishers with affiliate links saw their traffic drop by 20-30%, Information reports.

But as the business falters, advertising is there to take over. BuzzFeed is still on track to meet its overall revenue goals for 2021, thanks in large part to the strength of its advertising business. Vice is in a similar boat. As he prepares for his own IPO, Vice has focused more on video content and branding – and yet 35% of Vice’s revenue still comes from advertising, Initiated reports.

I guess publishers will have to continue to rely on ad revenue to support themselves, even if there are competitors hiding there as well. (We’re watching you, Google.)

Off brand

It’s a common misconception that brand marketing and performance marketing are polar opposites: the unmeasurable top funnel versus clickable ads that can drive immediate down conversions. But in fact, brand marketing is best viewed as a tactic under the performance marketing category, Eric Seufert argues at Mobile development memo.

And it’s more than an exercise in semantics. Performance takes a back seat out of respect for brand marketing in many organizations, which can be “mind-numbing,” Seufert said, because it means less creative assets and less experimentation for specific platforms. Brand marketing also takes the lion’s share of the budget before it can reach the “performance” team (that is, the people who must rigorously justify every penny spent).

That’s not to say that brand marketing isn’t a useful tool. This is probably the best way to sell in-store when shoppers are presented with several similar products wrapped in a recognizable brand. But brand marketing can and should be a ROI-based channel. “What mainly causes the confusion that leads to inappropriate investments, bad incentives and structural inefficiencies within marketing organizations is the notion that brand marketing and performance marketing sit at the same hierarchical height. But they don’t, ”Seufert wrote. “Performance marketing is a category, and brand marketing is a tactic that can fall under the category of performance marketing.”

Back outside

Media companies and marketers are struggling to keep their levels of public engagement where they were during the pandemic.

After a boom in media consumption last year, new growth is running out of steam and will likely continue to decline until 2022 as people return to their pre-pandemic habits. But behavior is not the only inhibitor. Pandemic supply chain disruptions are also impacting media consumption, Axes reports. You cannot use a Roku device to force-feed yourself if your Roku device is stuck somewhere on a ship.

But it’s not really fair to compare this year and the last, which was skewed by the lockdowns. Growth in news consumption and streaming subscriptions, for example, remains much higher than in 2019, according to data from Similarweb.

And while we’ve reached saturation point for growth in many subscription industries, media consumption is unlikely to return to pre-COVID levels. And hey, there is still room for the growth of good ol ‘AVOD.

But wait, there is more!

Stat, a Boston Globe-born health and life sciences publication, can it make a niche media game work with its B2B media approach? [The Rebooting]

Check out Zestworld, a subscription for comics and graphic novels, where creators can monetize their own product or media adaptations. [NYT]

The new “Black Friday” is… every day. Buyers buy anytime as long as the price is right, and they increasingly look to people and sources they trust for what to buy. [Protocol]

The CMA, the UK’s antitrust watchdog, is expected to block Facebook’s $ 315 million acquisition of Giphy. [FT]

As General Electric and other old-school behemoths go their separate ways, Amazon, Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft and Meta are taking their place as the handyman companies of the future – and business schools are taking note. [WSJ]

You are engaged!

Jack Dorsey, co-founder and CEO of Twitter, has resigned (here is his grade to employees), and to be replaced by long-time technical director Parag Agrawal (his grade).

Lego’s in-house agency appoints the former CEO of McCann Australia as its new head. [Adweek]



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