Cardsetter Was Built to Help Online Publishers Be More Profitable
Online publishers, those who are publishing content on their website, building an audience, and monetizing those efforts, have a unique set of online needs and challenges. Every detail of their website, from carefully crafted headlines to the way content is laid out, speed, mobile usability, and the efficiency of administrating the site impact the bottom line. Cardsetter is a website platform and content management system that was born out of the first-hand need to address these challenges.
How to Be More Profitable as an Online Publisher
After years of running my online publishing business, Billings365, I was at a bit of a crossroads. I was past the painful "startup" phase of the business; I had an established audience and ongoing partnerships with advertisers. I had a small team working with me to manage the business. Things were good, but so much of our revenue was tied to time-consuming fulfillment tasks. It seemed that to grow the business, we would have to work more, but we didn't have any hours left in the day. So, I started thinking of other ways to grow our revenue and profitability.
I knew that we needed to focus on what was working well and optimize our processes for efficiency. I started studying large publishers, like Buzzfeed, USA Today, and Vox, along with tech companies like Facebook and Google to help me identify strategies that would help grow Billings365.
And as an online-only publisher, I considered how our website could help us implement those strategies. Unfortunately, our existing website, running on Wordpress at the time, seemed to be fighting against our efforts.
4 Key Areas We Focused On to Become More Profitable
Audience is central to any media business. Publishers work to optimize for reach and engagement. Engaged audiences who visit often and spend a considerable amount of time consuming content are more likely to share content (which helps grow audience), see and click on ads and sponsored articles, and convert to signups and purchases.
My audience's viewing habits changed over time. I had a sharp increase in mobile readership and more people hitting my website from links on social media, meaning that they were landing on an article or maybe an event listing, possibly never visiting my homepage. By looking at larger publishers, I realized that I needed to be putting new, priority content on these pages so that as my audience got to the end of the article or event lisitng they were viewing, they'd find more to discover during their visit, and see the content that I deemed as a priority to show them.
I also noticed that publishers like Buzzfeed and USA Today were making their websites behave more like the Facebook newsfeed on mobile devices; with more intuitive vertical and horizontal scrolling to encourage audiences to discover more.
I needed to serve my audience with relevant, timely content, where they would actually see it and in a format that was intuitive to them.
Unfortunately, my website didn't give me any flexibility to do so. I was stuck in a site structure that was pre-determined in my last website re-design. And, I was starting to resent how restricted I was.
Quality content helps media businesses cultivate engaged audiences. But, quality alone isn't enough. Large publishers will manipulate how, where, and when their content is displayed to optimize for engagement and to get more "mileage" from their content investment.
I was producing (or hiring people to produce) quality content for my audience, but it was getting lost in the ephemeral newsfeed or buried in pagination on my website. I wasn't convinced that more content was better, but that ensuring that each piece was optimized for viewability, consumption, and monetization would help me reduce the time and financial cost of producing content while building engagement with my audience and growing my revenue.
I noticed that publishers like USA Today, would group related content into sections on their site - articles, videos, and event listings related to the same topic or story. I wanted to do the same thing. A "Running Guide" on Billings365, for example, could include a video with running tips from a local running coach, a list of scenic running routes, and event listings for upcoming races. And, I figured I could monetize by getting the local running shoe store to sponsor this special section.
My Wordpress website did not allow for this dynamic, "on the fly" grouping of content in a way that was efficient. If I had to spend time configuring a plugin or slider component, making complicated graphics or visual assets, or involve a developer, it made this type of idea less feasible.
With quality content and an engaged audience in place, monetization is the next place to focus. Advertising is highly competitive. Media companies of all sizes are vying for their piece of what's left of the ad budget pie after Google and Facebook's share. Publishers optimize to make their advertisers campaigns more effective so they can remain competitive, and retain their advertising partners.
Sponsored content was working for Billings365 but I knew I could do more to get our sponsors and their content noticed by using some of the content and engagement strategies I described above.
Additionally, I was drawn to creating these "special sections," like the running example above, pulling from my event listings, and existing articles. I knew there were endless topical landing pages that I could create with content from within my site, and monetize these pages through sponsorships...if only it were easier to do with my website.
On Wordpress, my content was siloed. Events lived in one area of my site, blogs in another, and the directory in yet, another. Placing content of varying types "next to one another" just wasn't possible without a major time investment in digging into Wordpress plugins or hiring a dev.
Finally, to be profitable, media businesses, who run on manpower for content production and advertising fulfillment, rely on efficiency to be profitable. Large publishers understand the need to invest in technology that helps them increase audience engagement and monetize their site. They have dedicated teams of developers powering their websites.
For publishers who aren't part of some big corporation, that's just not feasible. We administer our site with a small team, everyone wearing many hats, so our website platform needs to be easy to use and manipulate to our business's needs.
Dealing with Wordpress was making us inefficient, which ate into our profits. I dreaded logging into my site to make an update - messing around in the backend and then going to the front to see what it looked like...then back to fix "that weird formatting issue." I'd install plugins to give me more functionality or flexibility only to break my site, slow it down, or have spam show up a few months later.
I knew my time was best spent on growing my audience and growing my sales...not fussing with my website. I had to fix this inefficiency.
Implementing These 4 Strategies On The Website
I started talking about all of these issues with Joshua Toenyes, the web developer who had worked on my previous Wordpress re-design. We started thinking about how to address them. Josh determined that Wordpress was not up to the task at hand. And so, we set out to build something custom.
A platform with:
- Simplicity - front-end editing and a drag and drop interface to make creating easier, faster, and more fun.
- Content Flexibility - any piece of content, of any type, can go anywhere. Content can be grouped and arranged in new ways to engage audiences with new resources.
- Built-In Sponsored Content Features - sponsor logos display alongside their sponsored content making them stand out.
- An Intuitve Audience Experience - a more scrollable layout to encourage content discovery and longer time on site, especially amongst mobile users.
As we continued planning, we realized that others could find value in this technology.
We decided to build Cardsetter so that online publishers of any size can do more with their content in less time, engage their audience, and monetize in new ways.
Publishers like Billings365, Simply Family Magazine, and Hidden Montana have grown their businesses since moving to Cardsetter. They are able to utilize the strategies used by large publishers to engage their audience and monetize their website in an efficient way and with no developer (or coding required).
As a result, they are able to be more profitable.
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