Digital media businesses are having a tough time of late. Traditionally, media companies rely on advertising for their revenues. But despite total global ad sales growing for many years, today 85p in every £1 is currently going to just 2 companies in the digital ad space; Google and Facebook. Media companies are left to fight for a shrinking slice of the pie.
What does this mean for newer media companies like Culture Trip that compete in this market? And, how can they use tech to help them monetise?
One of the core reasons Facebook and Google dominate the market for digital advertising is that most of the internet’s traffic goes to, or via, these 2 titans. Instead of trying to drive traffic to their own websites, some contemporary digital media companies today have embraced this landscape and been effective at both growing and monetising distributed audiences instead – just look at Buzzfeed and its relationship with Facebook, for example. They have become masters of viral content and created monetisation models that utilise the people who read or watch their content on Facebook. And indeed, embracing distributed audiences is one way of dealing with the power of these platforms.
We believe there is another strategy that can also succeed: Building a media property that people come to directly. But becoming a destination website/app is not easy, you need to give your users a good reason to come directly to you, as opposed to going to Google, Facebook or anywhere else, and this puts a number of demands on the technology that we are building.
Firstly, we want Culture Trip to be more than just a digital magazine. We are building an initial product that will make our website/app a tool for location-based inspiration, allowing users to find out about all of the amazing places in the world, including their own location. For example, separating a basic listicle into its constituent parts and adding tags for the geo-location of each item lets us place these items on a digital map, and allows our users to explore all of the amazing culture around them – whether that be restaurants, hotels, art or music. We’re working hard on features like this which provide a clear value proposition to the user that they’re not going to get anywhere else on the internet; curated content on the amazing culture in any location in the world.
Secondly, we make our users’ experience highly personalised. Instead of each user seeing the same content, we change the articles they see to reflect their interests. If you are interested in literature the next time you travel to Paris we’ll tell you about Proust, if you like food we’ll give you patisseries. In order to do this, we have built a ‘knowledge graph’ to define and map the relational strength between all the things in the world of culture – whether that be Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ and it’s connection to the museum in which it is displayed, or a restaurant and it’s Head Chef’s connection to the ‘Slow Food’ movement.
Every item in our ‘cultural database’ is mapped and connected to all the other relevant items to form a ‘graph’. By combining this graph with our analysis of each user’s behaviour, we can tailor the content they see to make it as relevant and interesting as possible. Essentially, we create a personalized environment for each individual – one they can’t experience anywhere else. And because of this, the engagement we create is much higher than average; we’ve seen that a majority of our unique visitors complete more than 90 percent of each post.
I like to think of it as an amazing book that guides you (not a guidebook in the traditional sense), individually personalized to each user and our long term goal is to cover every single place on earth in this way. There are some big tech challenges, certainly, but if we do this our users will have every reason to come back to us directly, and commercial success will follow.