The Profitable Publisher: Defining a Maturity Curve for Media Companies

Blog   |   Emily Riley   |   April 13, 2015

Operative and Digital Content Next recently surveyed over 100 senior digital media company leaders at the request of our premium publisher clients who wanted a clear benchmark around the state of digital publisher operations. Our goal was to discover the operational factors that contribute to publisher maturity and profitability.  This week we released our latest white paper with the results.

The first thing we discovered is that there are four major attributes that all successful media companies share:

  • Differentiated content offerings
  • An empowered multi-channel sales team
  • The ability to change and adapt quickly
  • Efficient operations and technology

“We’re a newspaper company, not a tech company, but instead of just throwing bodies at the problem, we try to have smart technology partnerships that will help us with best practices.” – John Jordan, Director of Digital Revenue Development, The McClatchy Company

Defining Publisher Maturity

Operative’s next goal was to quantify publisher maturity in more granular detail and provide a benchmark for future growth. With the results, Operative was able to clearly categorize participants into stages of maturity based on several key indicators:

  1. Ratio of Sales to Operations: The more mature operations are able to support a larger sales team with relatively fewer operations staff members.
  2. Makeup of Tech Stack: The most mature companies embrace the use of a wide variety of technology, including audience targeting tools, analysis engines, video and mobile ad servers, programmatic and yield optimization systems.
  3. RFP Turnaround: The speed at which a company is able to respond to an advertiser request for proposal (RFP) is an indicator of the general empowerment of the sales team and their support structure.
  4. IO Line Processing: The time it takes an ops team to move a signed contract from their sales system through to a live campaign in the ad server indicates the agility of the internal trafficking and campaign management organization.

The Publisher Maturity Curve:

From this information we created the Publisher Maturity Curve, in which each stage of maturity equates to a step change in digital functionality.  Here is where the publishers we surveyed fall on the curve:



The stages of maturity are defined as follows:

STAGE 1: Publishers solve operational challenges by adding headcount and implementing isolated processes.

STAGE 2: Publishers improve existing operations by adding point-solution technologies or processes.

STAGE 3: Publishers improve overall yield/revenue by unifying digital technologies and processes on a single platform.

STAGE 4: Publishers offer innovations to customers/the enterprise by transforming focus from execution to value creation.

STAGE 5: Publishers maximize enterprise value by translating the value of all enterprise assets into simple but powerful client solutions.


Maturity Drives Profitability

The results of the study clearly show that higher profitability is directly tied to maturity. The most significant increase is seen when publishers transition from stage three, a more reactive stage, to stage four, where they begin using technology to create value and innovate:


The most important factor when it comes to moving up the maturity scale and, in turn, increasing profitability, is the differentiator you can offer as a premium publisher.

For the full results of the survey, download The Profitable Publisher white paper. (It’s free – this information is important for you!)