Publisher vs. agency: thoughts from someone who’s crossed over.

Publisher vs. agency: thoughts from someone who’s crossed over.

Welcome Natalia Krslovic, who joined 3rdspace six weeks ago as a content strategist and creator. This week she shares her thoughts on publisher vs agency and her observations on their unique strengths. 

There seems to be a “path most journeyed” in media. You go to uni and study communications or marketing. You get a grad job as a media buyer at a big agency. You learn the ropes and get a promotion every 18 months. After a few years, you make the leap to publisher side, where the hours (and the pay) are better.

This wasn’t the path I followed. I did things a little backwards.

Having written for different publications during university, taking a job at a publisher seemed like a natural fit. Sitting in a branded content team, between the editorial and commercial sides of the business, I was exposed to the intersection between journalism and advertising.

So in the great battle of publisher vs agency, where do I stand? In a nutshell, they both have their strengths.

Here are a few things agencies and publishers can learn from one another.

1. Engaging with an audience

The whole purpose of an agency is to help brands talk to their target audience. Many agencies interpret this to mean ‘how many eyeballs can we get on our content?’

While that’s one piece of the puzzle, it’s certainly not the whole picture.

One of the biggest strengths of publishers is their knowledge of their audience. It’s not just that they read the numbers every day; they’re responding to comments on social media, replying to reader’s emails and talking to their key demo about issues they care about.

They know them on a deeply personal level. They know how to get into their heads and their hearts.

For publishers, content is about serving their audience. While CPMs may be a metric of success for publishers, they’re not the driving purpose of their content – which ironically often leads to higher CPMs anyway.

Agencies: leverage the qualitative knowledge that publishers have about their audience. They’ll help you meaningfully connect with them, as opposed to just reaching them.

2. Creativity is about looking wider

An easy way to get creative is to look outside your industry. As agencies work across different industries and categories, they’re constantly exposed to different ideas and executions. Working across different audiences and target demographics means that agencies are constantly asking what’s the best (and most interesting) way to reach the consumer.

As publishers often specialise on one platform and speak to one type of consumer, they often get caught in the trap of ‘this worked before, let’s do it again.’ Enter the law of diminishing returns. The same tactics can only cut through so many times, so originality is key.

Publishers: look to the innovation and creativity of agencies. While you have the audience, they’re often the ones bringing new technologies and ways of communicating to the industry. Use them to throw around ideas for creative executions.

3. Work culture is personal

There are many stereotypes and misunderstandings about the culture of work in an agency vs. a publisher. Which is better, which is worse?

Before I started in agencyland, I had a lot of well-meaning people tell me that I’d hate it. The hours are ridiculous, they said. The pay won’t be worth it, they said.

On the other hand, friends at agencies prepped me for the ‘shock’ of adjusting my workload and productivity to timesheets, assuming that thing were always slower and easier publisher side.

It’s true, agencies work hard. But so do publishers.

Perhaps I’ve been lucky, but I’ve found the culture and expectations of the two workplaces to be quite similar. The nature of the work is different, yes, but whether one is a better fit for you comes down to your skills and personal preferences.

Like anywhere, your job and your time is what you make it. Your remuneration is what you and your employer are happy to negotiate and accept. I’ve found that whether I come into work every day loving it or hating it is a reflection of how aligned I feel to my interests and personal goals, rather than the structure of the organisation I work for.

Your work is your choice. And I feel like by crossing over to agency side, I’ve made a great one for me.