Google’s Antagonistic Relation with Publishers

Google needs publishers for content, but it’s a one-way relationship.

Google v Publishers

In this episode, we delve into the ongoing competition between publishers and bloggers, focusing on Google’s role in this dynamic relationship. After Greg posted about Google’s death blow to publishers (AI-based search results), I invited Greg to share his thoughts on the publishing industry and it’s long-standing dysfunctional relationship with Google

Balancing Revenue

Balancing ad revenue and subscriber revenue is a challenging endeavor for publishers. Implementing a paywall might result in a loss of page views and advertiser revenue. Introducing friction into the user experience is also unfavorable. So, what’s the solution?

We discuss how publishers are now beginning to understand the importance of giving readers what they desire. However, resistance to change persists within some publishing houses. To combat high labor costs, many publishers are turning to AI as a productivity tool. AI can be utilized to personalize content and provide hyper-focused information to users. It enables the creation of personalized publications or apps that cater to specific interests or niches.

But how do we balance hyper-personalization with the need for community and broader interests?

That’s a key question we explore, discussing privacy regulations, consent for tracking and data collection, and the role of customer data platforms in managing consent and personalization.

As we navigate the complexities of ad revenue and subscriber revenue, we discuss the challenges publishers face in implementing paywalls without compromising user experience.  Throughout the episode, we emphasize the need for publishers to prioritize the reader experience over ad revenue. We share personal frustrations with excessive ads on mobile devices and reflect on the evolution of publishing, from traditional book publishing to niche areas with tailored publications.

Episode Summary:

[00:01:34] Studied geology, ended up in publishing.

[00:06:01] Platform’s model: steal customer info from publishers.

[00:09:55] Websites removed paywalls during pandemic for COVID info. Subscription revenue increased during lockdown. Now declining.

[00:12:05] Publishing: books, journals, news media, niche areas

[00:15:22] Google’s revenue model is at risk if they change their interface to provide direct answers, as it may affect their advertising model. Another company could disrupt Google by offering a different revenue model.

[00:19:17] AI formats information, lacks proper referencing. Need original sources.

[00:23:40] Publishers need to strategize to compete.

[00:29:05] Incorporate AI, personalize content, and build communities.

[00:31:51] Tailored feed & content design for reader needs.

[00:37:48] Customer data platform improves marketing and sales.

[00:41:13] Privacy regulations misunderstood; consent needs improvement.

[00:46:02] No subscription podcast: challenge for publishers.

[00:48:21] Patreon and podcasts: old advertising methods apply.

[00:50:29] Thanks for tuning in, coffee lovers!

Show Notes:

Greg Krehbiel: Something I Learned Yesterday podcast: Google’s Death Blow to Publishers


Greg Krehbiel: The publishing companies had the foresight to think about this a little bit ahead of time. What they should have designed a Kindle, but made it something that worked for publishers and both in the publishers and the reader’s interest that way, readers would just have one account and that’s what you would use on different.

Websites to just pay for what you want. They could have done micropayments, they could have done subscriptions, they could have done so many things. If the publishers had been able to together, strategize and say, okay, this is where we need to be in order to beat the threat of the tech platform.

Introduction: Welcome to Endless Coffee Cup, a regular discussion of marketing, news, culture, and media for our complex digital lifestyle. Join Matt Bailey as he engages in conversation to find insights beyond the latest headlines and deeper understanding. For those involved in marketing, grab a cup of coffee. Have a seat, and thanks for joining.

Matt Bailey: Well, hello and welcome to another edition of the Endless Coffee Cup podcast. As always, I’m your host, Matt Bailey, and today again, we’re going to continue on our series of just looking at different areas of digital marketing.

And different aspects of how businesses use the digital medium to communicate. And, and today I wanna focus a little more on publishers. Good friend of mine, Greg Rabble. We have met at numerous conferences and specifically publisher conferences. You’ve got a lot of history with publishers. And Greg, give us a, a little bit of your background please, as before we launch into this discussion.

Greg Krehbiel: Sure. Well thanks so much for having me all today. Matt, you know, the funny thing is I studied geology in college, so ending up in publishing was a, was a strange thing. But I ended up working for a data company on natural gas information and that led into doing, having an editorial job at a publishing company on a natural gas publication.

Now, at the time I couldn’t spell and I couldn’t write and I didn’t. I had never taken a journalism class in my life, so I had to, had to do the typing tutor during my lunch hour and then read Strunk & White and the dictionary as much as possible to try to catch myself up with how to do any of this stuff.

Very much on the job learning in business to business publishing, and then very quickly, My bosses realized that I had more of a pension for technology than for, I mean, I, I was, did a lot of writing for many years, but then moved into the technology space and managed their internet platform and moving all their content from print to online back in those days.

And then just over the years I’ve really been sort of on the technology side of publishing, both on the marketing side, on the editorial side, and then nowadays on the customer data side.

Matt Bailey: I am always amazed at the background of people in the digital marketing industry especially. Those of us who have been in it for a few decades, y you know, there was no digital marketing courses back then.

So hearing the background that people had and how they found their way in is so fascinating. And I love that you mentioned Strunk and White. It’s still on my bookshelf. I still refer to it. It’s one of the most invaluable resources for writing.

Greg Krehbiel: Yes. I think it’s still a top seller, and if you haven’t read it yet, get it and read it.

Refer to it all the time.

Matt Bailey: And there, the cool thing is, and, and what I love about the Strunk and White is I actually tell people there’s some good advice about digital marketing in there. Um, not to, you know, think like not to overstate things. If you follow those guidelines, you’re gonna have a pretty well optimized site because it teaches you to write correctly.

Greg Krehbiel: With the

Matt Bailey: customer in mind. Yeah. Uh, so I think good writing just naturally produces good results.

Greg Krehbiel: Yes. I think that’s true. It reminds me a bit of something I saw recently called the Bluff Method. Bottom line upfront. Ah, get, get to the point,

Matt Bailey: you know? Yeah, absolutely. And that follows the, the Strunk & White Method.

But so the reason why we we’re talking today, Greg, is you made a post about Google and publishers and. Knowing your history and I, I’ve spoken at, uh, some of the conferences and you, you’ve spoken as well, you know, with publishers. I mean, going back, let’s say I, you know, I wanna say, you know, a decade or two, the publishing industry has always had this love-hate relationship with Google.

And of course you have Google publishing information that people want, but how has this relationship been? I describe it as antagonistic. I mean, has it always been that way with publishers from day one when Google hit the scene? Or did it just sort of form over time with different moves that they’ve made?

Well, honestly,

Greg Krehbiel: Matt, I wish it was more antagonistic. I think publishers have kind of submitted a little more than they ought to have. And you know, if you think about publisher revenue, if we go back before Google, Publisher revenue was a mixture of subscriptions and ads, and there were some other things going on, but generally speaking, they were trying to balance subscription revenue and ad revenue.

Google comes along and their mission is to organize the world’s in information and make it universally accessible. Well, what does universally accessible mean except free. Right, right. So that’s Google’s bias. Google’s bias is that all information should be free, and that obviously undermines one of those two pillars.

Publishing revenue, which is the subscription model. So Google, by their very nature, by what they do, they’re trying to push all information to be on the internet for free, but for free, supported by ads. Ads, which Google controls. Absolutely.

Matt Bailey: And I’m trying to think back, it was the publishing platform that they created for publishers that it was kind of a concession that will will give you the, the amp pages.

Yes. Uh, now they will load fast. People will see your information. And that was kind of a bait and switch Yes. That they


Greg Krehbiel: Yeah. That’s typically the, the. Platforms model is, do you remember that? That funny little meme that went around all your based are become ours. It was a bad English translation of some Japanese computer game.

Yes, yes. Came things that just people said in chat boards, all your based are become ours. Well, the tech platforms model is all your customers are become ours. Right? So basically what they’re trying to do is they’re trying to get publishers. To feed their content into the platform, whether that’s Google or Facebook or any of the other platforms.

Get to use the publisher’s content to steal the customers, to get the customer information. Cuz we all know where Google makes its money is on mining everybody’s information and knowing all kinds of data about all these people. So that’s another way where publishers have. Just gone along with the Google business model and basically if it weren’t for content providers, Google wouldn’t have a business model, right?

That Google is living off of publisher content, but the publishers have just been going along with it and giving them all this information. And allowing the big tech platforms to basically steal their customers from them. Absolutely.

Matt Bailey: And like you pointed out, it’s not just Google, it’s, it’s Facebook, it’s, and you know, there’s a lot of, I think with the EU and some countries now with their news and Facebook are undergoing a lot, uh, conflict as well, to say the

Greg Krehbiel: least.

Yes. And I think that’s the, first of all, I don’t expect Google to be in the business to support publishers. Google’s in the business to support Google, right? And Facebook’s in the business to support Facebook, and that’s what they should do. But publishers should be in the business to support publishers.

And unfortunately, publishers have found the next new shiny object and they chased after it. And they’ve gone after all these things as if Facebook was trying to help them, as if this was this great opportunity. And you know, if you, it’s a friend of mine says, if you’ve gotta wave surf, you know if something is gonna help you.

Okay. But keep your long-term strategy in mind and remember that trying to skew your revenue scheme too much towards the traffic revenue side is not gonna be stable in the long run because that platform that’s getting you traffic today can change their algorithm tomorrow. Right? Or they can decide, we’re not gonna do this tomorrow, and now you’re stuck.

You’re relying on all this ad revenue and all of a sudden it’s gone. So you have to diversify and you also have to try to get. More of a relationship directly with the reader, not through all these other external programs.

Matt Bailey: Absolutely, and that’s, I, I think the thing that people might be starting to realize right now is that a lot of these tech platforms, Google, especially the, the social platforms, they don’t produce.

Anything they, they use what other people are producing to leverage those audiences, to leverage the, the ad revenue. And I like to joke, I mean, that, that really fits the definition of a parasite. Yeah. They, they absorb all of this content because they don’t produce anything other than the platform

Greg Krehbiel: itself.

That’s right. Now, of course, Google is an incredibly useful tool and Yes. You know, having a lot of. Businesses, probably nobody would’ve known they were there except that they were found on Google. So there have been a lot of opportunities created because of Google, and there’s definitely a smart way to work with Google, but it’s just too frequently, I think publishers have allowed Google’s business model to control their business, and that’s not the way to go.


Matt Bailey: Right Now there has been some examples of some publishers that have, you know, especially since the pandemic, and I think that. Really exacerbated. The problem is people were looking for information. We have things behind paywalls. How do we get information out to people? I think it brought a lot of things to a head, didn’t it?

Yeah. Well, a

Greg Krehbiel: lot of websites decided to take down their paywalls during the pandemic, at least for covid information. Mm-hmm. It was more like a public service, which is a smart thing to do, and not only smart thing, but a good thing to do. They, they took down their paywall so people could get access to covid information, which was great.

There did seem to be a covid lockdown change in publisher strategy. Everybody’s at home now. How are we gonna adapt? And there you had a couple things going on at the same time. On the one hand, you had people changing their payroll rules, but on the other hand, you had a lot of growth in subscription revenue.

For some reason people who were at home, it’s kind of like, you know, if you went out to dinner during the, during the lockdown, you gave a really good tip to your waitress. You know, I’m sorry, you’ve gotta be working during all of this. So you were very solicitous to your waitress and to the other people who were in service.

And I think. There was somewhat of that going on with publishing that there was a, there was a bump in publishing revenue because people were saying, yeah, these people are giving us information that’s valuable and they were willing to pay. And I think that’s starting to decline now that the lockdowns and the Covid emergency is over.

Things are getting a little bit more back to normal. Hmm. Back to normal. And then we get AI. Right,

Matt Bailey: right, right now, and, and I do wanna take a little bit of a step backward when we talk about publishers. This is one thing that I think maybe the average person may not realize is the amazing amount of publishers.

And, uh, you, you know, I think I, I met you at sipa was the specialized in specialized information publishers association, and then through a couple iterations that there are publishers. In almost every aspect, every industry and what I would call micro publishers about very specific things. That is one thing about the publishing industry that as I got involved in it, I realized how massive it is.

But it’s made up of small publishers. Mostly we think of the random house, the, you know, Wiley’s. But for every one of those, there’s gotta be, 5,000 smaller publishers that are trying to make a living. It’s

Greg Krehbiel: very interesting. When I tell somebody that I’m involved in publishing, they immediately want to tell me about their book.

You’re right, right. And if you think about publishing there, there is book publishing, there’s adult publishing, book publishing, children’s book publishing, there’s academic publishing, academic journals and academic books and books for schools. There’s the news media, which is another big. A lot of people don’t really think that, that as publishing, but of course news.

Mm-hmm. Newspapers and news media is publishing. And then as you say, where I’ve done most of my work is in more niche areas with publications that are tailored. I remember I worked at one point on an underground storage tank guide, right? Regulations about what you had to do for, and if you’re the guy who runs a gasoline series of gasoline stations, you darn won’t let her know what you’re supposed to do with the underground storage tech.

See, if you think about it, There are a lot of needs for very precise, specific information, and there’s a lot of publishing going on there, and then there’s, you know, nowadays the idea of publishing has changed so much. Is Joe Rogan a publisher? Mm-hmm. Yeah. You know, I mean, he’s putting out all this content every day.

So I guess he’s a publisher too.

Matt Bailey: That is a great, great point that anyone is putting out. You know, we’re calling ’em content creators, but in real reality, they are publishing. I think some of the examples, I love what, you know, the underground storage tank. I know some of the, the people like there are, there are publishers that are just for emergency room.

Doctors, uh, for radiologists. Yeah. So in the health industry, almost every specialty has its own publication or multiple publications that they, they have, I remember I, I worked with one that was, it was a guide to where all the oil wells were Sure. Uh, around the world. And it was just, every month they’re updating what are the status of each of these, and I’m like, This is just amazing amounts of data and content that, you know, goes unknown to I would, you know, 99.9% of people.

But to people in that industry, it’s critical information.

Greg Krehbiel: Yes. Uh, you know, I, when I first started working as an editor, I was working on a natural gas pipeline book, and the question then was they had just the Federal regulatory commission had just changed the rules on natural gas transportation. And they, it was becoming more of a open market for being able to purchase natural gas transportation.

So the question was, if I have gas here and I need to get it to there, how do I get it there? So we would put together a. Maps of pipelines. And my boss at the time, Richard Thompson, the Thompson Publishing Group, he wanted to have something like a, a triple a trip tick book, you know, or this point to this way, you flip through.

There’s a brilliant idea, but there wasn’t any good way Wow. To, to make that happen. But you’re right, there’s all this niche publishing going on, absolutely crucial for specific industries. And

Matt Bailey: what’s happening now is as Google is integrating ai, Which I have to say, Greg, and, and maybe you’ll share this sentiment with me, this is like the first time Google’s gotten a couple, they’ve gotten a couple of black eyes, they’ve gotten pounded in the past few months when it comes to ai, and it’s a little bit of fun to see them getting beaten up by the new kids.

Greg Krehbiel: Yes, and and honestly, I think Google is in a dangerous position right now because their revenue model is send. Traffic to websites and then sell ads on those websites and sell ads in their, in their search results, right? Mm-hmm. Well, if they start just answering questions, you know, Google is gonna change their interface in a, in a couple of weeks where Yeah, like in a query, instead of getting a bunch of links to websites, they’re just gonna give you the answer right there.

Well, if they do that, how does their advertising model survive? Because they’re no longer sending you to pages that have advertisers advertisements on them. So I’m, I’m very curious about that. And I think there’s an opportunity here for somebody to disrupt Google and sort of take their place as to make, cuz some other, some other company comes along that doesn’t have the need to keep this advertising engine going.

Right. They’re starting with a new revenue model, a new business model. That’s gonna answer the question right then and there, rather than sending traffic to webpages. We could see Google becoming, you know, the MySpace well, or,

Matt Bailey: or, you know, the AskJeeves the, uh, you know, AskJeeves was a great thing. It was Google.

Google stole all their stuff and, and made it a little better. But it’s, it’s interesting because, you know, I’ve been using the Bing search engine with their AI built in, and I love. The separate interface alongside. But like you said, with the preview of the AI coming in, I shared this with someone in the travel industry and they coach real estate agents.

And one of the examples was, I’m going from here to there, what do I see? What’s worth seeing? And the answer was right there in the interface. And now you know, the travel industry, which is another industry that’s gotten beat up by. The, the tech giants. Yes. Uh, they’re seeing this and, and you called it a death now you said this is, this is death for publishers.

Greg Krehbiel: Yeah. Well, it’s certainly gonna be a death now to the free content paid for with advertising model. I think publishers are gonna have to move, they’re gonna have to move towards two things. They’re gonna have to move towards paywalls and subscriptions and, you know, a relationship with the customer and they’re gonna have to move towards personalized content.

Because if, if I can go to chat G B T and say, I’m this old and I’ve got this family situation, here are my finances, am I better off with a Roth IRA or a traditional ira, and it just gives me the answer, then why am I gonna go read 20 pages worth of material on somebody’s website about to try to try to get that same answer right?

So publishers are gonna have to start incorporating AI into their own content delivery so that they can give personalized answers. To what people were looking for. That is


Matt Bailey: great, great integration there. I, I love the idea of that training that on your own content to give simple. Clear answers for someone and, and you know, like that example, I could not deal with reading 20 pages of content about investing.

Greg Krehbiel: Exactly. Exactly. I, you know, there are so many things where I just want an answer and, you know, it’s, it’s funny because when I was a kid, if I wanted an answer, I had to put on my coat and walk a few blocks to the library and then find the right books and then find where it is in there and then read a whole, or just to get an answer to a question.

Right? But now, Search engine. Wow, that’s amazing. You type in stuff and it gives you a bunch of pages. Now I know what to read, but still it’s gonna take me five to 10 minutes to get my answer. AI makes it. I don’t even need that. I just asked. Yeah. Bang. I get my

Matt Bailey: answer. Just yesterday, I, I asked for some statistics and then I asked for sources and right there, everything was right there.

Everything I needed cited. Of course, I was doing it on Bing, everything was cited and I, you know, I found exactly what I needed, which normally yeah, would’ve taken about an hour. To, to do that kind of research. So it’s absolutely amazing what it is

Greg Krehbiel: producing. Yeah. Two, two things that that brings to mind.

One is you can also ask these engines to format the information in a certain way. Like you can say, make me a chart that shows this versus that, and it’ll, it’ll just make the chart. The other thing is what you mentioned about sources is very interesting because one of the criticisms of AI is that it’s sucking in all this proprietary information from all these publishers.

And not referencing it in the answer. So that’s not necessarily a good thing. Like for example, Bob Bly in his newsletter the other day was saying that trying to use chat, G P T for some of his clients won’t work because they require giving the sources for the information. So if he gets a bunch of information outta chat tbd, he has no sources, it doesn’t help him.

Right. So that’s gonna be a big interesting question on a couple of different fronts on the copyright front. And also, you know, as you say, just being able to look into it yourself. I want, okay, I wanna check it. I wanna make sure that what you’re telling me is right. So I wanna go back to the original source.


Matt Bailey: I think you may have saw this as well, that, uh, I think Google cited someone else’s research. I, I think it was a, uh, a retailer that was testing different graphics cards or, or graphics configurations. And they published their research. This performs at this level, this level. Google cited it as if Google had done the research Ah, and gave no, no citation to the website.

And there it was word for word off the website into Google’s Bard. Right. And now here’s a retailer. They’re a publisher. They’re putting information out there. Yes. And as you said, it got sucked up, spit out as if it’s coming directly from Google. Yes, with no citation to the original author and that that presents a number of issues.

Greg Krehbiel: Yes, there are gonna be the copyright lawyers. I tell you, if you’re a kid listening to this and you’re wondering what to do, go into copyright law because the copyright questions rounding how AI is gonna work with all these things, it’s gonna go on for decades trying to figure out. Who gets credit for what.


Matt Bailey: And, and then, you know, and right now we’re right in the middle of the writer’s strike in Hollywood and that’s one of the things is they don’t want the AI trained on their writing. Right. That’s one of the particular I found that so interesting that these writers know exactly what they are up against.

Mm-hmm. Do you see where publishers understand what they’re up against right now? Or is it, you know, a little bit of slow understanding of what’s happening?

Greg Krehbiel: Yeah, so I’ve had been of two minds about that over the years, and on the one hand I’ve sometimes thought that publishers are just surprisingly dull in figuring out what their strategy ought to be and what’s happening and, and what the long-term consequences of their actions will be.

Like, for example, when publishers decided to start putting their, putting their content into the app, Or to try to, to try to go along. You know, they thought the Kindle was gonna be the great big new thing. So everybody had, everything had to go on Kindle or the iPad was a great new thing. Everything had to go on the iPad, you know that well.

There was some lack of foresight in a lot of the decisions that publishers were making. However, another way to look at this is they were just looking for incremental revenue opportunities, however they could get them. And they, you know, sometimes it was this, sometimes it was that you gotta try a bunch of things and see what works.

So it’s kind of hard to know in my mind how much of what publishers actually do is based on kind of a lack of forethought and thinking about it and strategizing or just saying, Hey, we’re gonna try different things and see what sticks to the wall. Because to some extent, Things are a matter of chance.

It’s kind of hard to predict exactly what’s gonna work. So you try a bunch of things and, hey, this one works. Let’s, let’s go with that. Wow. I, I like

Matt Bailey: that Sometimes I, I feel like being slow to move might be an advantage, might be, um, you know, otherwise you would’ve sunk a couple million dollars into the metaverse about six months ago.

Greg Krehbiel: Segues.

Matt Bailey: Exactly. Exactly. So sometimes I think being slow to move might be an advantage, but one thing I wanted to come back to is, and And when you’ve referred to the paywall a couple of times, is there a fear I. Uh, you know, implementing paywalls of requiring, I know that’s always, you know, at, at the publisher conferences, what’s free, what’s paid.

That is always a subject that publishers are debating among themselves.

Greg Krehbiel: Yeah. Well, it is a difficult. Question from a bunch of different angles. One, one question is trying to get that balance of ad revenue versus subscriber revenue. And if I start putting up a paywall, I’m gonna lose page views, so I’m gonna lose advertiser revenue.

Right? So, so that’s part of the question. Another part of the question is, you’re introducing friction into the relationship and that’s, that’s not so good. Another part of the equation is if I go to a website and, and I want, I say, okay, fine, I wanna subscribe. I’m used to being able to go to Amazon and just click a button and buy the thing.

Right? Mm. And there’s nothing like that with publisher websites. And this brings me back to actually to the Kindle. When, when I was first examining whether one of the publishing companies that I worked for back, well, it was Kiplinger back in the old days, and we were first examining whether we should put Kiplinger content on the iPad and the Kindle.

The thing that frustrated me was why are publishers allowing Amazon and Apple to run the space? Why don’t publishers come up with some sort of a reader app or a reader device or something that works within their ecosystem? Mm-hmm. You know, team up with C V S Global, which is the big fulfillment house, and come up with some sort of technology that works across all publishers that would allow them to control this whole thing.

So that you could have an environment where I go to a website and I say, yes, I wanna subscribe to that. I push one button and it goes into that account. I’ve set up that account cause I know I can use that across multiple different platforms. Unfortunately publishers never really cooperate like that, and that’s been something that the tech platforms have been able to use against them.

If the publishing companies add the foresight to think about this a little bit ahead of time, what, what they should do. They should have designed a Kindle. And, and then made it not specific to, to Hearst, or not specific to the Washington Post or something like that, but made it something that worked for publishers and both in the publishers and the reader’s interest that way readers would just have one account.

Just like now you have a, you have a PayPal account and you have an Amazon account, right? So you’d have one other account, it would be your, your my reader account. And that’s what you would use on different websites to just pay for what you want. They could have done micropayments, they could have done subscriptions, they could have done so many things.

If the publishers had been able to together, strategize and say, okay, this, this is where we need to be. In order to beat the threat of the tech platforms.

Bumper Intro-Outro: Hey everyone,

Matt Bailey: this is Matt, and thanks for listening. Just a quick break in the middle of the podcast here to let you know there’s a couple ways that you can connect with us. The first is That’s the learning site where you can see courses on analytics, courses on digital marketing across paid search seo.

Multiple disciplines and then also you can connect with us on Slack. Go to Slack if you’re there and look for us at endless coffee Connect with us. I’d love to hear from you, hear what ails you in the realm of digital marketing. Are there courses you need information that you’d like to hear, or maybe some past guests that you’d like to hear more from?

Thanks again for being a listener of the Endless Coffee Cup, and I look forward to hearing from you. Yeah, and that comes back to being slow to move and, and honestly, you know, I think a lot of it comes down to is how is this technology going to affect us? The big tech platforms, they, you know, they knew content is the way they’re going to survive and they found a way to own it, essentially.

Yes. Uh, or, or they’re the bridge and it’s, you’ve gotta use us to get to the people you want. And, you know, I love that, that example. I think it would’ve been, you know, If someone were to come up with that and had the, the backing of that, you know, I look back at rss, you know, RSS and, and an RSS reader was, I mean, that was how I spent my mornings getting all my news in one place.

It was the most ideal way, and, and nothing yet has come up to match the convenience and ease of, of an SS feed. That’s right. Or, or or a reader. And, uh, every once in a while I see my, you know, my Safari homepage is made up of some of those elements still left over.

Greg Krehbiel: That’s right. Did you ever have a Palm Pilot?

Matt Bailey: No. No. I went from the Blackberry to the iPhone.

Greg Krehbiel: This was, this was pre Blackberry. The Palm Pilot was like a very simple little device that would read. Uh, you did, you know, it couldn’t, you couldn’t access the internet out there. You had to be right in inside. You had to actually look it up to a docking station, and then you would download a bunch of content and then you’d read it on the train or, or whatever.

Okay. Yeah. You relied on RSS feeds to pull in the content that you wanted stored in there, and then you could read it while you were on the bus or on the train or wherever you were going. Wow.

Matt Bailey: So what is the way forward? For publishers, you know, we’re, I would describe, we’re behind Google setting the rules, the terms of engagement.

What can publishers do? What are you recommending?

Greg Krehbiel: Yeah, so three things. One is definitely figure out ways to incorporate AI because at a minimum as a productivity enhancing tool, cuz if you don’t do that your labor costs are gonna be outta whack at the rest of industry and you’re gonna die. But secondly, look at AI as a way to personalize content.

So, and that leads me into my second, Recommendation, which is look for hyper focused, personalized content, ways that you can provide services to, like for example, I think I mentioned this in the video you watched, I, if I want a fishing magazine, I don’t wanna know about fishing in in Virginia or in North Carolina.

I wanna know about fishing off the kayak in the sever river and around the Chesapeake Bay pilings. That’s what I wanna know, right? So if I could get. Publication an app or a, a magazine, God forbid, or anything else, you know, so something that was what I want to know specific to me, you know, for my garden, what, what should I plant when in my garden?

Right? Right. So, so the thing is to be very, very personalized to use AI to get into those micro niches. Then the second thing, which is just maybe a little bit of a contradiction or the other side of that, People also want to be part of communities. So not, I don’t only want to know, you know, what’s the best day to go fishing on the sever river this week?

I also want to know, uh, I, I’m part of other things. I have interests. I, you know, I’m, I’m a home brewer, so I’m, I’m interested in home brewing. I wanna know what’s going on in home brewing, or I also dance, so I wanna know what’s going on. What are the dancing opportunities, right? So all these other kinds of more broad interests, That’s another area.

There’s, publishers have been in those areas for quite a long time, but I think there’s gonna have to be some sort of a combination of the broad interest and the narrow interest. So that if I had, if I wanted to have a publication on, on dancing, then maybe you would tell me broad information. But also where are the opportunities in, you know, within 10 miles.

So, so I think those are a couple directions that publishers need to go. And then, So they, they need to research ai, use it as a productivity tool, use it to enhance their content, and then go in these, in these somewhat contradictory two different directions. One into the hyper-personalization, but then also helping people connect with larger, you know, the, you know, let’s say somebody was, uh, political junkie and they wanted to know what’s going on with these five personalities.

And so, Merge that information together in a way that would help that person follow the things that they wanna follow. Yeah,

Matt Bailey: a tailored feed. I mean, that’s, that’s exactly, we’re right back to that. Absolutely. Yes, exactly.

Greg Krehbiel: It is like a tailored feed, but into a, into something useful, into something practical where I can, so I, I saw this, this great post a little while ago that said, whenever you’re producing content, you should think of fi.

I’m looking up, because I have it written on my whiteboard here, it’s Update me. Educate me, give me perspective, divert me, keep me on trend. And I think those are the kinds of things that people are looking for. Like, for example, I was never big into Twitter. I only recently signed up for Twitter because I figured I could use it to promote my business.

So I’ve been, I’ve been wandering around on Twitter. I don’t understand. Just this endless feed of junk. Yeah. And you can follow certain people and all that kind of stuff. But wouldn’t it be nice if it had those five buttons at the top, you know, update me. I could click that and it would show me all the things that were updates.

Educate me, show me the things that educate me, divert me. Okay. Sometimes you just wanna watch a silly cat video, right? So if you could design your content, So that it’s meeting reader needs, and that’s where I think publishers really fall down in that area. You know, we’ve done all this stuff to increase our ad technology.

We’ve done all this stuff to make our websites more efficient and everything else. What have we done to make the reader experience better? Almost nothing. As a matter of fact, the reader experience is getting so awful. But I try to read something on my, on my pixel. I’ve got a little tiny bit of landscape and the top is a, is a fixed ad, and the bottom is a fixed ad.

So I’ve only got this little bit of text I can deal with, and then there’s this little floating ad that I have to make sure I don’t actively tap on. So it’s almost impossible to read an article on a mobile device because the publisher doesn’t care about the reading experience. They don’t care right.

Much pads, as Robin knows they can. And then

Matt Bailey: there’s the button that says Continue reading, which I’m always like, well, this is why I’m here, is to read. Why do I have to click again to see the whole thing?

Greg Krehbiel: And that’s just so that they can get feedback on how far the person read down the article, I think.

But still, yeah, thumb button. I mean, there’s got, you know. Well,

Matt Bailey: it’s interesting how you form that answer because it’s almost like you see, my next question that I wrote down here is, If the publisher is not giving the reader the experience. Okay. Who is giving the reader the experience? Are these content creators?

Yes, that I don’t have to go to, I don’t have to subscribe to a publication. I can go to YouTube. I can follow someone on Instagram who’s creating content without ads, and they’re like you said, they’re entertaining me. They’re educating me, they’re updating me. So we’ve got Google with an antics antagonistic relationship.

Is this the competition for the professional? I would say the professional publishers, well, the, the name is the prosumer, the, the producer, consumer. Sure. Uh, is this the competition

Greg Krehbiel: that they have? Well, you know, there, there has been, ever since the beginning of the internet, there’s been this competition between publishers and bloggers.

Right. So the publishers always thought there was this challenge that some retired lawyer who just liked the topic of underground storage tanks, you know, was gonna write a bunch of stuff on his blog about underground storage tanks and undermine the market value of Thompson Publishing Group’s underground storage tank guide, you know?

Okay, so, so there’s always been that issue of the professional journalist versus the blogger. The loud mouth on Twitter, the loud mouth on YouTube, or whatever it is that’s always been there, but I think. What what you’re raising, which is a, which is a very good question, is aren’t they being a little more responsive to the reader?

Because they have to be, if you’re trying to make a YouTube channel successful, it doesn’t matter what the editorial director says. What matters is, what are the people saying? How are they responding? What’s, what’s working with the audience? So we have, for the last, I don’t know, 10 years, there’s been this whole idea of.

You know, getting people what they want, being responsive, and that’s only very slowly working its way into, into publishing houses. I don’t think that they’ve really learned that lesson. I think there’s still a lot of, we know best, uh, this, that’s not what we do. You know, this is the way we do things. Right.

That’s, that’s gonna have to change. Publishers are gonna have to be responsive to what readers want.

Matt Bailey: Wow. Yeah, that’s something, you know, on my side dealing with and, and, and teaching content creators is they’re getting better. The quality’s getting better, their tools are getting better. Uh, and now with ai, uh, it, it, it is stepped up.

The quality of what, you know, we used to joke about the home blogger. But now the quality of what some of these creators are putting out is, it’s amazing. Yes. Uh, and so I think, yeah, that’s something publishers are gonna have to either adopt, adapt something in order to


Greg Krehbiel: with that you Yes, very much.

And you also have the sort of the Subtrac sub stack trend where you have journalists who are no longer attached to a big brand. The journalists themselves become a brand. And that’s another developing thing here where. Maybe publishing companies won’t be as necessary five years from now as they are now.

Maybe it’s going to be a bunch of independent people, and why do you need a research team and a fact checking team and copy editors and all that kind of stuff when you’ve got AI to do all that stuff for you. Right.

Matt Bailey: It’s gonna change the publishing process, that’s for sure. That is for sure. Well, Greg, we’re gonna take a little bit of a shift here, and you’ve been doing a lot of work in, and, and now you’re focusing on customer data platforms.

Yeah. Could you explain a little bit about that and, and why that is critical for a publisher or, you know, really any kind of business? I, I think anyone who’s dealing with customers, this is going to be a very critical area to know moving forward. Yeah.

Greg Krehbiel: So for a bunch of reasons. On, on the one hand, Both marketing and sales have always wanted to have a single place where they could get as much information as they can about their customers.

So the, so the salesman, before he get reached out to a prospect, wants to know what are the touch points? Did, what is this person already? How is this person already involved with us? What, what do we know about this person? So for a long time, that used to be customer relations management, right? Where you’d try to get data from a bunch of different sources and bring them into one place and say, okay, this is everything I know about this customer.

And that’s good for creating lists, for direct marketing, for email marketing. It’s good for salesmen. It’s good for a lot of different things. It’s good for segmenting your audience to figure out how many of my people are retired, how many of my people are men, how many are women? All these other different questions that you want to have about your audience.

The customer data platform takes it a little bit further in that it does all those things, but it also brings in website data. So it, it looks at how people are interacting with your brand on your website, and then tries to tie together, you know, everybody who comes to a website starts off anonymous. The internet is based on an anonymous connection.

So you have all these anonymous visitors to your website and you’re trying to figure out who they are. So one of the missions of a customer data platform, It’s to convert these unknown anonymous visitors into known visitors so that you can then tie together all the data that you have about that particular person.

Now, you might do that by asking them to sign up for an email newsletter. Once you get their email address, you can try to stitch together records from other sources and. The mythology of the customer data platform is that you’re gonna create this golden record where you have all the information about the customer in one place, and it’s a nice vision, it’s a nice model, but it’s, it never really happens.

You ne you never get all the information together and you never have one record for everybody. It’s, it’s just practically speaking, it’s impossible. It can’t happen. But you’re, you’re trying to get there and the benefit to the company is that they have more information about their users and they can.

They can make better pitches to advertisers. They can say, look, we’ll display your advertisement only to people who signed up for our retirement e-newsletter. Or we’ll only show your advertisement to people who looked at the car section of our, of our website, or something like that. So it helps the, the publishing company or the media company in terms of how they can run their business.

But it also helps the reader because it allows the publisher to be responsive to them. So, I used to have a cat. I don’t have a cat. Uh, I don’t have a cat anymore. So if, if I wanted to see cat stuff, then it’s good for me to see the cat stuff. But if I don’t wanna see cat stuff, I don’t wanna see the cat stuff.

Right, right, right. The extent that the content creator can personalize for that particular reader, it’s a benefit to the reader. Absolutely. Our data platform does. It brings all that stuff together and it allows you to do different kinds of activations and, and use cases with your data on your website, not only on your website, but with short messaging services and with emails and with o other things that you can do to reach out to your, to your

Matt Bailey: audience Well, and, and with the increasing emphasis on privacy, what are the advantages to implementing this or, or what are some of the, the obstacles to implementing this with the, the emphasis?

That’s it com. Always

Greg Krehbiel: increasing. Yeah. Well, first I, I’ve just gotta take a little jab at some of the privacy regulations, they, people, people who, who write those regulations don’t actually understand how things work. They say things like, I don’t want you to track me. Well, I can’t not track you unless I track you to know that I’m not supposed to track you.

Right. So, yeah, like for example, if, if somebody comes to a website and says, I don’t want you to save my information. Save some information so I know next time not to save your information. Right? So I, there’s, there’s a bit of a vicious circle going on there. But anyway, right? Customer data platforms are one way that you can manage that kind of consent.

And I think nowadays consent has just become a joke. You go to a website and it says, allow cookies, and that’s just, it’s ridiculous. The consent really needs to be more targeted. It needs to be, it’s okay for you to do this. It’s not okay for you to do this. I have a couple times challenged publishers to think in terms of writing it as if you were writing a marketing brochure to your customer to say, here’s why.

It’s to your advantage for me to be able to know this. Here’s why it’s to your advantage for me to be able to know this. Not I’m doing this cuz I’m an evil person collecting all your data and selling it to the hungry wolves out there. Right? That that’s what, that’s everybody’s impression, right? Of why com companies are collecting information.

So that they can monetize you and, and, but there’s, there are benefits to personalization as well, and I think publishers ought to try to move in that direction to try to make privacy management and, uh, opt-ins and all that sort of thing as a benefit to the reader, to the user, rather than just a sneaky way for me to get your information to make

Matt Bailey: another buck.

And I see a lot of those that where they, they say, in order for us to give you more personalized ads. And my criticism has always been, well, I’m not seeing them, you know, I’m sharing the data, but I’m not seeing more personalized ads. Yes. Uh, I’m seeing the same ads that you ran last month, last year. Uh, you know, so I, I like that of.

Let’s sell it a little bit better. Let’s tell ’em what we’re doing and why it’s their advantage again. It it, it, it’s a customer focused, uh, approach. Uh, but yet at the same time, you gotta do it.

Greg Krehbiel: Yes. Yeah. You have to do it. And so in the United States, we’ve got the California Privacy Regulation, which a lot of US companies comply with anyway, for reasons I don’t quite understand.

I don’t live in California. But anyway, still you have to some extent, you still have to deal with that. And then if you, if you work in. In the eu, of course, you have to comply with their, their standards. So it is a, an area that publishers need to keep a close eye on and a, a customer data platform or other sorts of consent management technology is the way you do that.

You make sure that you’re getting consent for whatever you’re doing with that information. Great. Wow.

Matt Bailey: Greg, this has been a great, great talk. I, I wanna thank you for, for spending the time with us. And, and dear listener, I hope you have learned a little bit about the, the publishing industry. As I am sure that most of you probably subscribe to at least one source, source of news or information.

And so, Learning about this industry and, and some of the struggles that they’re going through. I hope this has been educational for you, Greg. Where can people find you and, and get more information and, and follow along? You do a lot of reporting on the publishing industry, so I highly recommend that you follow

Greg Krehbiel: Greg.

Well, thanks. Probably the easy, easiest place to LinkedIn. Um, my last name is difficult to spell. It’s K r e h b i e l, but you can also go to my website, which is kra But follow me on LinkedIn and I post links there to my My daily podcast. It’s called something I Learned Yesterday. Which is just every day I pick something out of the media landscape and then give a three minute reflection on it in my, in my daily podcast.

Matt Bailey: I love it. I love it. It’s, I am doing long form and I watch you do a three minute, and I love the title. Uh, I’m like, man, this is so much easier.

Greg Krehbiel: Well, this you love, there’s something to be said for both that, that I like. I listen to a lot of long form podcasts and mm-hmm. I, I was just, yesterday, I was listening to people versus algorithms, which is Brian Morrisey’s.

Oh yeah. So that, that’s, that’s a fun one if you wanna learn about media. Yeah. But a lot of times, something short and quick is helpful as well. And that’s what I’m going with. My iPad. It’s just once a day. Three minutes. I’m gonna to give you a quick summary on something that I thought was

Matt Bailey: important.

That’s a fantastic, and, and, and you know what? We’ve talked about publishing. We haven’t even talked about podcasts and how they, I already thank you, but I’m like, this is, let’s, let’s, let’s talk if you have a few extra minutes. I do. Yeah. How’s pod, how is podcasting changing the publishing industry?

Greg Krehbiel: Wow.

You know, the. Once again, this gets one onto one of my hobby horses, which is why isn’t there a way to do a subscription podcast? I mean there, there are a couple of random ways that you, you could manage a subscription podcast, but once again, the tech platforms have set the agenda and said, no, this is gonna be free content supported by advertising.

Cuz that’s what all the tech platforms want. Free content supported by advertising. Yeah. Well what if you have a niche publication? And you have really valuable stuff on your podcast and you only want subscribers to be able to listen to it. Not easy to do that. So that’s one area where podcasting has been a bit of a challenge for publishers because they have to decide, you know, it’s kind of like what’s behind the paywall, what’s in front of the paywall?

They have to decide what is it okay to put out there for free on the podcast? Is that undermining our, our subscription? All three. But anyway, I think podcasts are a great way. I mean, who would’ve thought E? Everybody thought things were moving up the technology scale, you know? And here we are. So basically radio.

Yeah, absolutely. It’s like going backwards on the technology side, but people love it. People you can listen. Yeah. When you’re mowing the lawn, you can listen when you’re taking a jog. I haven’t quite figured out yet how to listen lit. I’m swimming, but I need to.

Matt Bailey: Well, and it’s interesting that, you know, we, we’ve moved backwards with podcasting because, like you said, it, it’s free.

All we can counter downloads or views. I have no idea who’s listening. Right. Um, you know, unless people contact me, because now this is like one of the only areas. We’re given content out, but no one’s registering. No one. Yeah, I don’t get any emails or anything like that. So from a publishing standpoint, I, this is the wild West.

I’m just putting it out there and who knows? Um, and, and, and there’s no, you know, as a publisher, typically you get an understanding of who’s consuming and you can engage at some level. This has absolutely none of that. So yeah, you’re forced into this model, and I know a few people have been looking into that paid podcast and, and it, it’s near impossible to figure it out.

Yeah. Unless you’ve got a hidden URL or something. That’s about what it

Greg Krehbiel: is. It is hard to do. I think. I think there’s, there’s one that’s escaping my, uh, Patreon. I think Patreon, yes. Allows you to do paid podcast. But the other thing, I think publishers who want to. Do a podcast should probably go back and read about old advertising methods.

Because if you think about it, in the old days, if somebody picked up your magazine in the newsstand and they looked at an ad, how does that advertiser know anything? Right? Yeah. You have different sorts of calls to action. You’re not relying on a click, you’re not relying on a on a view, you’re not relying on those things.

You have to get somebody to respond to you, to call you, to send you something. So one of the things that podcasters have to figure out, Is a way to, to break that barrier between the anonymity of the podcast to get somebody to come to their website, to sign up, to buy something, whatever. So it gets back into like old radio advertisements, different, just a different way of how to handle customer information.

Matt Bailey: Absolutely. It, it’s funny because, I mean, when I first, I took a couple of marketing classes back, Ooh, I don’t wanna say when it was, but before the internet. And to me it was all mystery. The equations that they had to figure out impressions and ad views and things. And I’m, I’m looking at this going, it’s all made up.

You’re just guessing in order to please someone. And now I find out a couple decades later, we’re right back to that exact same thing exact, with the bridge of, I know people are looking at my ads or something like that. Or I like to believe that people are looking at the ads, so it’s just funny how we’ve come full circle around on that.

Yes, Leslie,

Greg Krehbiel: it is interesting and it’s funny how, you know, sometimes the technology doesn’t work out the way you expect it to. Not I, I look out my window every day. I had never seen somebody go by on a segue and it was supposed to revolutionize transportation. Yes. Yeah.

Matt Bailey: Well, we get enough of those headlines in one year.

You know, that, uh, that, that, that’ll take care of it. That’s right. And Greg, this has been an absolute pleasure to talk with you. Thank you so much for making the time.

Greg Krehbiel: Sure. Thank you. Mad it’s delight.

Matt Bailey: Alright, dear listener, thanks again for tuning in into another episode of the Endless Coffee Cup. And I look forward to our next discussion over coffee and the Endless Coffee Cup podcast.

You’ve been listening to the Endless Coffee Cup. If you enjoyed this episode, share it with somebody else. And of course, please take just a moment and rate or review us at your favorite podcast service if you need more information. Contact Thanks again for being such a great listener.

Endless Coffee Cup podcast

Featured Guest:

Greg Krehbiel

President, The Krehbiel Group

Greg Krehbiel



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