The TV ad works because it’s good for TV. The magazine ad works because it’s good for magazines. You know what Instagram and Snapchat and Facebook (to some degree) and Pinterest figured out? There’s an internet ad that works really well, it just isn’t the box that is on every website.
Figuring that out is the key to unlocking what advertising should be on the internet, and the key to unlocking what good advertising looks like, and very few people have done it well. Almost no one – I would say zero – publications have built a system that is holistically, like from the ground up, designed around the marriage of both interesting, digital-first content and interesting, digital-first advertising.
The Outline isn’t for everyone, and that’s by design. Their content/ad strategy has been super fascinating to watch, especially in connection to the media manifesto Topolsky published in 2016. It appears to be going very well indeed.
No I'm describing advertising that works well and looks good and doesn't force itself on a user and is clearly labeled (what we do)
— Joshua Topolsky (@joshuatopolsky) May 10, 2018
It’s been doubly interesting to compare The Outline to the launch of The Ringer, Bill Simmons’ media company, which he spun up after breaking from ESPN. The Ringer launched on Medium first to minimise their launch runway, but moved to the Vox media stack less than a year later. The Ringer is a heavily staffed blog, and I think it can be safely argued that their written content is not particularly compelling or well presented, and there has certainly been very “bog-standard” approach to advertising (with Vox handling the ad sales after the move).
Now – all that said – in addition to the site, The Ringer has a hugely successful podcast network with Bill’s podcast alone estimated to be bringing in around $50,000 per episode. Simmons is clearly leaning heavily into podcasting (as well as experimenting with a variety of video stream/show formats), with the development of the site and it’s associated ad strategy taking a relative back seat.
None of this is zero-sum, of course. There’s room for a lot of ‘winners’ in the online media space. But watching it all unfold is a great spectator sport.
The Pod Pod is a selection of recommended single podcast episodes.