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SODP’s Path Forward

Fact checked by Vahe Arabian
Vahe Arabian

Founder and Editor in Chief of State of Digital Publishing. My vision is to provide digital publishing and media professionals a platform to collaborate and promote their efforts, my passion is to uncover talent and… Read more

Edited by Andrew Kemp
Andrew Kemp

Andrew joined the State of Digital Publishing team in 2021, bringing with him more than a decade and a half of editorial experience in B2B publishing. His career has spanned the technology, natural resources, financ…Read more

Founder and Editor in Chief of State of Digital Publishing. My vision is to provide digital publishing and media professionals a platform to collaborate and...Read more

Let me start my story by telling you where we are today: From the get-go, my mission has been to foster sustainable digital publishing and media models. And we do this through educational content, research, consulting, and community that together make a difference.

During my career, I’ve seen many platform updates, especially Facebook, that have driven many publishers to the wall but have also resulted in the renaissance of seeking new monetization avenues like subscriptions.

The past few years has been quite an evolution, from where State of Digital Publishing (SODP) started to its current state. In reflection, I realized a proper update was long overdue, and hope this open letter also excites and reinvigorates you on your and SODP’s journey ahead into 2023. 

From 2017, I spent quite some time investigating, interviewing industry professionals, and even coming up with different MVPs (even one platform that was offered pre-seeded funding) based on 1-on-1 feedback and surveys to determine the most pragmatic way of moving forward with the business. 

Every publisher needs surety that their efforts lead to a healthy mix of developing and catering to serve audiences while making it commercially viable.

In 2019, I began focusing on SODP full-time, but the company was treating its consulting and digital publishing efforts entirely separately. This was causing a large disconnect between where I wanted SODP to be and where it was, as well as a large financial strain. Having spoken with Anita from Small Biz Trends about how she built her publishing business with brand partners — coupled with my wife’s support and push to double down on Publisher SEO as a starting base — I began exploring content arbitraging. For more detailers on content arbitraging, feel free to review my presentation on content arbitraging here.

While for the next few years this did on the outside seem as though we were solely positioning towards Publisher SEO, it allowed us to grow our editorial capabilities and heavily productize our knowledge in SEO, and provide other complimentary value-added areas.

 Some of our other proud achievements include:

  • Our ‘day in life’ interview series where we able to interview over 300 industry professionals
  • Creating one of the leading guides on Google News SEO and growing an inventory of publisher SEO content with practical case studies
  • Running Optimize/Optimism just after COVID began in support of publishers, where we were able to gather 16 panelists and almost 250 registrants in two weeks
  • Producing our first publisher performance benchmark report in partnership with Small Biz Trends
  • Being mentioned in other key publications like Buzzfeed, Entrepreneur Magazine, The London School of Economics and Political Science, CMO Council, International Journalist Network, and more
  • Working with great clients of all niches and sizes, especially those who started from 0 or a low traffic base to reach international levels or won industry awards
  • Working with content/marketing referral partners to help connect publishers to solution providers and vice versa
  • Being a media partner to several industry conferences and supporting our colleagues with our collective goals. 

Needless to say the challenges that I’ve experienced along the way have been wide and many, with many uncertainties as we continued growth vesting in our membership and community. 

But what I had to come to terms with recently after having a few tough months is that unless you have $200K sitting in your bank to throw at making a product and audience profitable and visible, you’re going to likely need to persevere for several years to reach break even.

Putting my publisher’s hat on and taking inspiration from our existing B2B clients that focused on partnerships/sponsorships, a continued path to productization, and my team being the most important thing that makes SODP what it is today, I learned that if I kept muddling our message then the idea and vision we’re looking to achieve would die.

So with this in mind, here’s the plan for the next few quarters as we continue our evolution into a full-fledged market research publisher:

  1. We’ll soon launch our publisher SEO course — Join today and learn tried and tested methods for growing your audience with your editorial strategy, Google News, and organic search. Suited for solo media/publishing site owners and dedicated SEO publisher pros in larger media publishing organizations.
  2. We’ve relaunched our partner solutions that focus on streamlining our brand sponsorship/partnerships and research content that we will grow into in order to develop our market research platform in 2023. We’ve also launched our top tools, providing recommendations while offering martech companies sponsorship opportunities.
  3. The members’ hub will be relaunched once the course has been launched to expand on more industry analysis and reports at a lower price. This means current members will get access to this and the course content.

Having laid out what’s to come, I welcome your thoughts, feedback, continued support, and energy to reinvigorate your efforts from 2023 and beyond.

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