POV: A Year In Review + a Look Ahead
Perspectives and predictions from Boostr’s co-founders
It was a challenging year in media—with earnings making their best Scrooge impression in the first half of 2023. “This industry has always been in a heyday—especially the digital side,” says Katie Schuele, Boostr’s co-founder and Chief Customer Officer. “All of a sudden, there was a real tightening of the belt. It wasn’t much fun.”
Boostr’s 2023 Media Ad Sales Trend Report quantified the downturn, finding a low average net recurring revenue (NRR) rate of around 45% for the first half of the year. “It put a lot of pressure on publishers,” adds Patrick O’Leary, Boostr’s co-founder and CEO.
Despite the challenges, however, the media industry is known for its resilience. In such a dynamic landscape where change is the most enduring quality, publishers have become creative and continued to innovate in spite of the obstacles.
“The end of the year is always a time of reflection,” Schuele says. In the spirit of looking back with optimism and gratitude for another year in the books, Schuele and O’Leary shared their reflections on 2023 and predictions for 2024.
“Next year is just flat out going to be better than 2023,” O’Leary says. “We have the presidential elections coming up, as well as the Paris Summer Olympics, both of which will put a lot more money in the market.”
Interest rates are anticipated to fall. And while the global geopolitical climate may produce some media headwinds, excitement is mounting for a sunnier 2024. “There will be a lot happening in our industry next year,” O’Leary says. “And those who can capitalize on the moment may do really well as a result.”
Schuele adds, “Early numbers for the back half of 2023 are already showing things picking up. We’re seeing a lot of hope to close out the year.”
Going old school
“With NRR down, I saw a lot of clients in 2023 returning to old-school sales practices like contact management and managing activities to generate new relationships and find new business,” Schuele says. “They’re looking at core metrics more and playing deal size, cycle time, and win rate, and really thinking about how they are managing those three things.”
Schuele and O’Leary also observed some partners leveraging grassroots tactics to win new business. “I saw more than a couple businesses that aren’t really local in nature using what we think of as more local practices—like maybe they reach out to the car dealership they drive past every day to see if they want to run something,” Schuele says.
End-of-year earnings will yield insights into the efficacy of such tactics, but regardless, these strategies underline a general move toward direct sales and in-real-life (IRL) interactions.
Make it IRL
“We all want community,” Schuele says. “We had a pandemic where we were all isolated, and now we have a new life where we work from home. It’s nice to get together with people.”
This thinking has resulted in a renewed focus on events.
“This was the second full year of a bear market for this industry with pretty low and normal-ish growth rates,” O’Leary adds. “Sure, there were some bright spots like retail media networks and connected TV, but everybody else was slogging it out. The events businesses, though—they seemed to have rebounded significantly.”
This emphasis on in-person meetings and IRL activities is expected to gain further momentum in 2024. “I definitely see our clients talking about interesting events in the industry and hosting them, too. They want to build relationships. They want to know the consumers. They want to know their colleagues and peers in the industry. And it’s a high-value premium thing to be doing,” Schuele says.
Direct premium drives ROI
Events aren’t the only premium investment publishers are making. They have also broadly moved toward leveling up offerings and rethinking how they are marketed. “There has been a big return to direct sales and less excitement around programmatic,” Schuele observes. “We’ve always believed in direct sales at Boostr. There really is value to these premium things, and the industry is trying to find it because there’s definitely fatigue on the consumer side from seeing a lot of clutter. The feeling is that maybe programmatic has contributed to that.”
Publishers have been challenged to assess their properties, differentiate, and lean into their unique premium placements. “There is a huge push among publishers to think through questions like: What do we have that is different? What events do we have? What do we have that’s premium? What can we do that is different than someone just picking up their phone and recording a video?” Schuele says.
Brands that can identify and deliver these premium opportunities are likely to see bigger returns in the new year.
Less scale, more value
High-value audiences deliver more benefits to advertisers, typically producing higher lifetime value and faster conversions. In a shaky economic climate, publishers are increasingly focused on cultivating engaged audiences in response to brands demanding more attributable ROI.
“Publishers are moving away from mass-scale offerings and putting more emphasis on high-value audiences,” O’Leary says. “If you're a publisher, you need to figure out how you cultivate a really valuable audience and make what you offer compelling to advertisers in specific verticals.”
O’Leary points out that publishers of all kinds can take a cue from the podcast world, where niche genres like true crime have become powerful for advertisers because of their captive, dedicated audiences. “I think you’ll see a bit more diversification as a result of this trend,” he adds. “People will go a little more full stack in their offerings and start developing digital content, audio content, and events that are geared toward packaging up their audience and extracting as much value as possible from them.”
Make this year the best one yet
Getting ahead is about more than crushing the competition; it’s about giving back to the people that drive your operations—whether that is your internal teams or your advertising partners. In that spirit, Schuele offers some advice: “Invest in operations. When you have a hard time like we have had this year, you have to make a lot of strategic decisions about how you will grow while staying profitable. You need good data and good systems that don’t distract your people from building the business that you want.”
As a growing company, Boostr is still most excited about its employees, she continues. “We have a company full of the best people. I wake up every day and think, ‘I am so lucky to work with the best people in the industry.’”
Those bright minds have been working hard to solve more problems for publishers in 2024. “Some of the recent advancements in generative AI have opened up the possibility to solve previously unsolvable problems,” O’Leary says. “We’ve got a list of things we want to solve for the industry that we will make some real progress on this year. I’m excited to continue changing this industry for the better.”
Boostr is chipping away at its list with the launch of Proposal-IQ, an AI-driven product that creates optimized RFP responses in record time. This year, we’re continuing to refine the solution and share it with more people, as well as developing more ways to connect and learn together, and we're continuing to support a thriving media industry.
Thanks for being with us this year. Stay tuned for more news, insights, and tools to help you make big progress toward your goals. We can’t wait to see what 2024 brings.
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