How to Create a Successful Digital Publishing Brand of the Future with @Mark_Barrera #vcbuzz

How to Create a Successful Digital Publishing Brand of the Future with @Mark_BarreraWith Buzzfeed losing search and social media traffic and many other huge publishing brands restructuring (remember, we cannot help but wonder: What is the future of digital publishing?

What’s changing and how to adapt to those changes? Let’s discuss!

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About @Mark_Barrera

@Mark_Barrera is Senior Director of SEO @ziffdavis, a leading global digital-media company. Mark leads SEO for the Ziff Davis Tech and Commerce brands: PCMag, Mashable,, Geek, AskMen,, ExtremeTech, ComputerShopper and TechBargains.

Mark is also #StateofSearch Founding Chairman.

Connect to Mark on Linkedin

Questions we discussed

Q1 How did you become a digital marketer? Please share your career story!

As a kid, I was a computer nerd and ran a BBS. When the Internet and HTML came along, I would rent books from the library to teach myself how to code. I then found out how easy it was to rank sites in the search engines (Lycos, Excite, Yahoo, etc) and loved it.

So, I’ve been doing SEO forever (pre-Google days) but evolved since then to learn the broader skills needed to become a well rounded digital marketers (PPC, Display, Social, Affiliate, etc).

I worked agency side working with all sizes and types of business and learned a lot from this diversity of clients. I made the shift to brand side with Ziff Davis about 3 years ago and have loved the ability to be more focused on the overall strategy and implementation.

Q2 Overall, what do you think are the major changes in digital marketing landscape effecting big and small brands? As an SEO of huge digital publishers, what have you been doing differently to adopt the trends?

There have been and always will be big changes that will impact how digital brands and digital publishers operate. Facebook was sending lots of traffic to publishers but that changed recently and traffic there is falling off.

Google has been trending toward more no-click searches thanks to featured snippets and the way they continue to try to answer more queries directly in the SERPs, so we’re seeing a small decline in Google opportunities on the SEO front.

Apple News, Flipboard and others are growing as a source of traffic for digital publishers as well.

On the SEO front, we’re seeing YouTube and video as big opportunity and are investing more there for a few reasons . 1) The audience on YouTube is massive and basic SEO principles can be used on YT to reach these audiences.

About 1/3 of the queries we care about have video results in them. People Also Ask (aka Featured Snippets) are now on 80+% so being able to win at Featured Snippets and answering questions in your content is also very valuable to win SEO traffic.

Local is also getting more prevalent for broad queries so publishers need to understand where opportunities may lie in creating content for specific cities.

Two parts of local as we look at it – The Maps results and the organic content that is localized. We focus on the latter as that can’t be as easily spammed.

Our brands are getting beat on YouTube by people working from home producing video content on a specific topic. Definitely lots of opportunities for the little guy still on YT. Costs of video is low if you take the time to learn and perfect a process.

Q3 You retweeted this interview with Dotdash CEO: What do you think was wrong with model and what did Neil Vogel do to fix it?

The main problem was that they had a dying source of traffic in Google and had to change. They had good content, but also a lot of bad content and Google stopped rewarding them with traffic. They had to make a change to try something new.

The thing that yielded good results was breaking the site down to focus on the user needs. Specific brands around specific content. Then doing this with a user experience (and ad experience) that put the user first.

They have seen great initial results from this and we’ll see how it stands the test of time.

Q4 If you were to start a publishing platform today, how would you proceed? Which innovative / different publishing models are emerging and winning bringing something new to the web?

Pick a topic you know well. Focus on quality. Focus on engagement. Make data driven decisions and do your research upfront to size the market/opportunity.

Have a business model that works. Make sure to have multiple revenue streams (Events (Virtual/Physical), Subscriptions, Ads, Commerce, Leads, etc). For our ZD brands more than half of our revenues are not display ads which helps us weather changing trends.

Don’t be dependent on one thing (Google, FB, etc). Plan on how your content can live outside of your Owned and Operated platforms. Plan for ways for your content to live everywhere.

Epicurious is an example of how to diversify content and platforms. Their site has recipes and great content, but their YouTube has a much different approach. A year ago, the channel was posting recipes getting small engagement but shifted that YT content.

Now their entire channel is focused on videos for trying new foods and guessing what you are eating. They now see 6-7 figure views on each of these.

Distributed channels are a big means of getting our content spread and building audience that we can funnel back to our O&O properties to re-engage with that audience in different ways.

Q5 Who are you following and read to keep an eye on digital marketing trends?

I read lots of things, from AdAge to Digiday, to a huge list of bloggers, etc. So I read a ton. But my main way to keep an eye on trends is to observe. Observe who is winning in Search, who is winning on Social. Who is winning with email, etc.

What things are others doing differently and what is leading to their success. You also have to keep a keen eye on what people want and cater to that. Try to know what the future consumer wants and give it to them.

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