Karina Kogan, EVP, Digital at Participant Media, Discusses Monetization In Digital Publishing

We talk to Karina about the world of digital publishing in 2016


Karina Kogan has been Executive Vice President at Participant Media for over four years, and has two decades of experience in digital media, with a proven track record of building audiences, developing brands, and driving revenue. With content strategy as a specialty, Karina is at the heart of an industry that is constantly adapting to new technology and new content mediums. 

Ahead of her presentation at the Digital Publishing Innovation Summit in New York this July 13 - 14, we sat down with Karina to discuss monetization of digital publishing, emerging markets and the influence of emerging tech on storytelling and digital strategy. 

How do you think publishers will continue to develop other monetization strategies?

A lot of change is happening in the online advertising space today. Everything from the evolution of programmatic networks to the arrival of Facebook Instant Articles is forcing publishers and advertisers to reevaluate how they buy and sell their inventory and what that inventory even looks like (display, branded content, video, etc.). I’m looking forward to seeing if FBIA provides new revenues for publishers, particularly small and independent ones like TakePart, because it combines revenue sharing with improved and scalable content distribution on the world’s largest social network and soon-to-be-largest RSS reader.

Many digital content players are also expanding their video capabilities to support monetization in a distributed world, and this feels like a trend that will only continue to grow—especially as video consumption accelerates across devices and internationally.

A lot of publishers are also starting to experiment with content licensing, especially in international markets.

How do you see publishers getting around ad blockers and driving different revenues?

Branded content has shown to be among the best defenses against ad blockers. But it’s also time for the industry to realize that display ads are just not working anymore. We need to evolve much more quickly past the standard 300x250, etc., especially on mobile, where the screen is just too small to accommodate an engaging ad message. People don't click on or even look at old display ad formats anymore. But the answer can’t simply be to force advertisers into 100% viewability because that's also not necessarily creating a path for a good user experience. If a user doesn't want to look at a 300x250, what good is it to force them into it? That just makes a more compelling case for installing ad blockers, right?

The trend in display ads is not dissimilar to what happened in the music industry a decade ago. Music fans weren’t happy with paying twenty dollars for an album, but instead of embracing what their customers wanted and finding a way to thrive and innovate, the music industry held on to their traditions which in turn opened the door for new and more creative competitors to step in and steal market share.

Instead of trying to find ways circumvent ad blockers it’s important for publishers (and anyone reliant on display advertising) to address the core reasons consumers are rebelling and find innovative and more compelling ways to monetize.

The same theorem also applies to branded content. Publishers shouldn't make branded content just because it’s potentially safe against an ad blocker. You have to make things people might actually want to consume.

Last but not least, owning customer data and having multiplatform direct access to your customers (like via email) is another way lots of media companies are thinking through diversifying monetization and subsequently also getting around ad-blocker-type products. But then again, spam filters are a way to get around overly commercial email messages…See my point? You’ve just got to make things people want.

What emerging markets do you think are most exciting for publishers?

China, Africa, South America.

What start-ups are you most interested by in 2016?

I'm obsessed with Mic—and read it every day. It’s been around for a few years now but is officially kicking into high gear.

I'm also very curious to see how Medium evolves.

There are very cool new companies that are not in publishing but using tech in innovative ways in the developing world. I was very inspired at the Skoll World Forum this year, where I learned about companies like Living Goods, which uses a smartphone app to help deliver better medical care in places like Uganda and Kenya. I was also recently introduced to a company in India called m.Paani. It was started by a woman named Akanksha Hazari who created a smartphone app that provides loyalty shopping rewards points that can be redeemed for lifesaving products like water filters. These types of companies inspire and excite me the most.

What influence will mobile and other tech have on the publishing industry this year?

We’re all really excited to see how VR will be adopted, particularly as a mechanism to build empathy through storytelling.

Our CTO also talks about how global reach on mobile will require improvements in bandwidth uses on standard phones, and not just souped-up features on the latest and greatest devices. Facebook is addressing this with Instant Articles, as it has made sure that the content is cached and loaded very fast. Google is also making a play in this area with its AMP platform. 

You can hear more from Karina, along with other leading digital publishing specialists, at the Digital Publishing Innovation Summit. To register your interest, click here.

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