How Ziff Davis AU has built a 21st century revenue model for its digital content

Ziff Davis

• And a look back at IGN’s 25th anniversary

In the month of September, IGN celebrates its 25th anniversary globally. Mediaweek spoke to James Whitehead, general manager Ziff Davis Australia, about its place in the Australian media sector and how Ziff Davis has created a modern diversified revenue stream.

“IGN started out focusing predominantly on games but our content has expanded over the years,” Whitehead told Mediaweek. “We love games, we’re obsessed with movies, we geek-out over comics and we binge-watch everything! Our content reflects this, be it written reviews, long & short-form articles, video, live events, podcasts, or more.”

Ziff Davis Australia reaches 1 in 5 Australians online each month across its portfolio of brands in the gaming and entertainment, tech, health, parenting, and shopping spaces but Whitehead said that IGN has long been the most recognised brand within the Ziff Davis stable in Australia.

The site functions with a global editorial team that is supported locally by a domestic editorial team who have won “Best Gaming Coverage” 3 years in a row (2017-2019) at the Technology Journalism awards, known as The Lizzies.

Whitehead said that one thing that has changed for the brand over the last 25 years is the different ways in which gaming and movie content is consumed.

“Gaming and Movies are visual mediums and as content consumption habits changed to become predominantly video-focused, IGN evolved with the times. For many years now, almost every piece of written content has had a video version published as well. This has contributed to the growth of our YouTube channel that now has 21.4 million subscribers and the growth of our social channels where we have over 51 million followers.”

Diversified Revenue Streams

According to Whitehead, the content is the only thing that has changed at IGN and Ziff Davis, with the revenue models evolving as well over time, incorporating elements that include e-commerce and affiliating marketing.

“Diversification is the key to IGN’s continued success and profitability in the local market. We adopt multiple monetisation methodologies beyond general display/video, especially across the 34 different distribution platforms we publish content to. We continually develop new high-impact non-intrusive ad formats, specialised custom programs, event/virtual event sponsorships, and immersive video & written content.

“We recently launched IGN1 which is our linear OTT distribution strategy which can be found on Samsung TV, Roku, Plex, Pluto TV with more partners coming on soon.

“On YouTube we recently launched a dedicated eSports channel – IGN Compete which sits alongside the main IGN, IGN Games, IGN Movie Trailers, Gametrailers, and CineFix – IGN Movies and TV channels.”

In 2021, Ziff Davis expanded its commerce team with writers now in the US, UK, and Australia to help bolster the company’s service journalism that helps generate revenue through revenue streams such as affiliate marketing.

Whitehead said another area that is important for the company is mergers and acquisitions as part of Ziff Davis globally.

“All our content is designed to service our audience and provide value – whether that is the review of a game, movie, or TV series to the latest updates on forthcoming releases or streaming content,” said Whitehead. “Adding commerce to the mix is extending this relationship and providing our audience with valuable insight into the latest deals, shopping hacks, or guides on the best products in certain ranges/categories.”

Whitehead said that commerce revenue is a growing area of the business and that it serves both the audience and Ziff Davis’ retail partners, which has been accelerated by the pandemic.

“I’m sure there are technical & retail reasons online shopping has been slow to grow in this market, but the pandemic has accelerated adoption and we know online retailing will only continue to grow as the general public becomes more familiar and confident in its safety.”

Whitehead said that more and more Ziff Davis is working with media agencies and direct clients throughout the full-funnel marketing mix – a strategy that involves tailoring marketing messages to the particular stage of purchase a customer is currently at, rather than focusing only on sales.

“Beyond our traditional advertising solutions, we work closely with brands on affiliate models to drive users straight to purchase and to increase their overall cart size. Brands license our awards and independent reviews to use across their marketing collateral on our platforms, on-pack, and across their wider marketing channel mix. The result is a true marketing partnership between the brand and our sites that generates greater returns for both parties.”

The Future of Digital Content Monetisation

Whitehead said that the key to generating revenue from digital content in the future relies on maintaining the audience’s trust.

“Our influence with them is key to the future of revenue generation. Whether it be display or video ads on IGN, affiliate links, or the competitions we run – our goal is to inspire our audience to take action. If we’re able to maintain that trust then we will continue to diversify our revenue streams and be the first to adopt the latest monetisation strategies.”

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