First, a publication provides two products: content and a medium. The content is for your readers/consumers/users, and the medium is for advertisers looking to reach them.
Your editorial becomes symbiotic when you cross-sell those two products, and you do that by strategically develop content items that complement the offers of advertisers that you proactively scouted. But it’s not about churning out biased content that will help advertisers sell their products. Rather, it’s about having an editorial format, knowing your readers demographics, and understanding what kind of consumers they also happen to be. So a big part of it is making sure that your advertisers actually have product offers that appeal to your readers’ consumer interests.
This, of course, raises the question of how you figure that out. It’s one thing to replace your ad-sales department with a fully integrated marketing agency, like Vice Magazine does, but it’s quite another to analyze your readers in a non-intrusive, non-obstructive way. And that’s where understanding them as users comes in.There are two elements to understanding your readers as users. First, there’s their user-experience. That is, providing them with the richest experience possible. This means providing them with the content that they each find most relevant, as well as not disrupting their experience with that content through intrusive advertising.
But then there’s the technology side to treating your readers as users. Basically, if you’re going to provider your readers with the content that they each find most relevant, you’re going to have to collect data on them. And you do that by becoming a social news organization (or just plain-ol’ social content organization).
By leveraging popular APIs so that your readers can seamlessly aggregate, syndicate, and share your content, you achieve so much more than just increasing page views. You also gain insight into their behavior as users and consumers. Integrated with personal profiles/logins within your portal, this allows you target them with the most relevant content.
More importantly, it allows you to target them with offers that actually appeal to them. And when you do that, you not only increase conversions and value of your ad-space; you also build trust with your readers by demonstrating that you understand and appreciate their interests (as consumers and users). In a word, you use your users to target advertisers.
Of course, doing so effectively require that you (1) have a fully integrated marketing agency in-house (like Vice Magazine) that can (2) help you understand your users, (3) collaborate with your editorial to develop symbiotic content, (4) scout appropriate advertisers, and (5) diversify your ad-revenue stream so that you’re not relying on a single, limited model that might coax you into compromising user-experience. In other words, your in-house marketing agency has to market your editorial product first, and your advertisers second.