Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Celebrating Independent Publishers: Andy Roughton. Managing Director, BusinessBecause

The Independent Publishers Alliance was set up to champion and empower independent publishers. To celebrate the work of the organisation, NDA is running a series of interviews with its members, Next up is Andy Roughton. Managing Director, BusinessBecause.

Why did you join the Independent Publisher Alliance and what do you hope it can achieve?

There’s an army of small publishers out there, not competitive in our verticals and facing many of the same challenges, but no opportunity or forum to share knowledge, ideas, best practices, or gripes!

The AOP do a great job representing the industry but are understandably tech-focused and skewed toward the news media and publishing giants. If we can find a common voice for the issues facing our businesses, whilst helping each other build then the Alliance will be a successful endeavour – kudos to the team who got it off the ground.

What is the biggest challenge for your business in 2022?

Retention and recruitment of talent I think is going to be a challenge for us and many of the Alliance’s members this year – particularly in the area of Product Management, but also Developers. We’re fortunate to have a really strong group at the moment it raises the bar for bringing in new people – that’s a nice problem to have but there’s so much competition out there finding and keeping them is huge.

What is the biggest opportunity?

We’ve got a niche, but global, audience and have been able to grow it significantly over the last couple of years through a focus on our technical and creative SEO strategies – organic traffic is higher than ever and seems to be good quality too.

As we (hopefully) appear to be finding our new ways of working post-pandemic there’s an opportunity to really take advantage of this growth commercially – both in terms of the increased sophistication of our services that scale allows, and in the conversion of this audience to useful first-party data – privacy and consent considerations notwithstanding.

How is your business adapting and evolving to take advantage?

We need to be smart with how we understand the different dynamics in our different markets. Our audience is typically in their twenties, Facebook is becoming increasingly marginal in the US and Europe so we must figure our how to reach them on other social channels.

However, Facebook is still relevant in Africa and South Asia regions so we can’t abandon it completely. We’re trying to figure out how we can use WeChat to reach our audience in China too. It’s still the publishing fundamentals – got to get the work to the audience.

As an independent publisher, how are your relationships with advertisers and agencies changing?

We’ve never been, and never will be, about volume. We don’t trade programmatically any longer and sell over 40% of our display inventory direct so our relationships mean everything.

Clients are becoming more demanding than ever when it comes to proving the return on their spend and so we’re now often operating at the cross-section of publisher and marketing agency for many of them – consulting on strategy and creative as well as providing the platform to deliver. Agencies account for 20% of our billings, but they’re typically specialist shops too so they understand the value of our audience and that they can’t buy it anywhere else.

And with tech partners?

We’ve had four years of consecutive revenue growth working overwhelmingly on our own initiatives (thanks to that strong team again) and operate a very limited tech stack right now.

Someone would have to offer something genuinely transformative for that to change right now.