I'm not providing any great insight when I tell you that 2017 was a pretty tough time for digital journalism. Larger VC-driven sites like Buzzfeed struggled to meet revenue goals and an industry-wide "pivot to video" was more effective at generating lay-offs than profits. Things were even tougher for smaller, independent web sites such as AllYourScreens. The growth in programmatic advertising led to the double whammy of a decrease in ad revenue per pageview combined with less money overall being spent on smaller sites.
What that meant for AllYourScreens is that while we had about a 40% growth in readers in 2017, revenue was essentially flat. Those results were probably a bit better than the average for sites of our reach. But it's led to some soul-searching on my part about how to evolve in 2018. We can continue to exist at this level, but in the world of online media, simply existing is tantamount to giving up.
There are changes coming at AllYourScreens this year. Some of them will be more obvious to the readers than others. But all of them are designed to help the site grow both reach and revenue while still maintaining the reader-friendly approach we've had since the beginning. So we will still stay away from autoplaying embedded video you can't turn off and those Outbrain-type content recommendations you'll find on even the biggest of television industry web sites. Respecting a reader's experience severely impacts our bottom line. But it's one of the things that differentiates us from our larger competitors. So it's worth the trade-off.
So what can you expect to see in 2018? Here are some of the highlights:
1) A Brand-New Web Site
I am well aware that the current incarnation of AllYourScreens is a hot mess. The site is built on Joomla and we are long past the point where that makes sense. It's difficult to update and it doesn't provide the infrastructure we need to best support our advertisers. We are going to be migrating our 6,000-plus pages to a new Wordpress web site during the first quarter of 2018 and the new site will be both easier to use as well as a more profitable. That being said, it's going to be a painful and expensive process internally.
2) An Expansion Of Non-Core Editorial Projects
AllYourScreens is a name that allows us to cover just about anything and in 2017 we wrote about everything from streaming television to classic rock music. That mix sometimes might seem a bit schizophrenic, but it's also opening up some new business opportunities. One of the first new projects you'll notice in 2018 is a new semi-standalone section of the web site devoted to 1970s music. We are teaming up with a couple of labels to highlight releases of that era and it provides a steady revenue stream for the pieces. Project number two is a section focused on reviewing and covering current international TV shows. We do a bit of that already, but we have a content partnership coming that will increase the number of shows we cover. The upside for American readers is that most of these shows will eventually become available in the U.S. So when they do, we'll already have content ready for you.
These type of projects aren't advertorials, the advertisers aren't dictating what we cover. They just want a section with content that is compatible with their new releases and/or their advertising. It'll give us the chance to highlight some stuff we love, while increasing our revenue in a non-intrusive way.
3) An Increase - But Not A Pivot - In Video
In the past, we haven't created a lot of original video. But in the second half of 2017, we did experiment with a couple of smaller projects. Those limited experiments did well, so you'll see them rolling our site-wide in the first quarter of 2018. We're not going to add the video to the top of every content page like CNN or Uproxx and nothing is going to be autoplaying. But you will see more original video available. First up is a "TV highlights of the Day" video that is set to launch later this month.
4) A Re-Pivot To Text
I'm not even sure if re-pivot is an actual word. But what it means is that you're going to see a lot more original pieces on the site. Beginning on Tuesday, Jan. 2, you'll see a minimum of ten new posts a day. That will increase to at least 25 pieces a day by the end of the second quarter. And the goal is to make these pieces as robust and useful as possible. So I won't be padding the count with posts that just highlight some new key art. These will be pieces with useful, original information.