News Take Episode 111: Outsmarting Google and Facebook: Helping Publishers Grow Their Audience Outside the Dominant Platforms

Guest: Rand Fishkin, SparkToro

“My position is, How do we help marketers find the sources of influence that their audience pays attention to outside of these big ecosystems? Because we think that’s not only good for the advertiser, it’s good for the publisher, too. If you’ve built a great audience, you should have people coming to you who want to reach that audience, you shouldn’t have to participate in Google’s extremely low payout advertising network or FB’s or put all your content on TikTok for free. Those mechanisms for driving revenue, we think are fundamentally biased and unfair.”

– Rand Fishkin, SparkToro

What can publishers do to get out from under the dominant tech platforms that control the digital advertising space? How have other industries pushed back on Google’s scraping of their data and coming between them and their audience? How can publishers take back control of our audience data so that we’re not having to go through Google, Facebook and the other tech platforms to reach our own audience?

In this episode of News Take, News/Media Alliance President & CEO David Chavern is joined by Rand Fishkin, cofounder and CEO of audience research software firm SparkToro, for a fascinating conversation about the big tech platforms, their algorithms, and how the Internet has evolved from a once equitable environment that was mutually beneficial, to now favoring only a handful of giant tech platforms today. Rand paints a picture of the digital marketing landscape businesses must navigate today, highlighting concerns with tech platforms’ walled gardens in which they intentionally try to keep you from leaving. He shares SparkToro’s research on “zero click searches” that has gained attention from marketers worldwide on how few web searches now result in a click through to the original content. And he explains how his company helps marketers understand their audience’s behaviors and preferences without having to rely on Google and Facebook, and the importance of taking back ownership of your audience relationships and data.

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Speaker bios

Rand Fishkin is cofounder and CEO of SparkToro, a software company that provides unique audience research and insights, aggregated from tens of millions of verifiable public social and web profiles, to make channels outside Facebook and Google accessible to everyone. Rand started SparkToro in 2018 with Casey Henry. Prior to that, he was CEO of Moz, where he raised two rounds of funding, led three acquisitions, and a rebrand. From 2007 to 2014, he grew the company to over 130 employees, more than $30 million in revenue, and web traffic to over 30 million visitors a year. He’s dedicated his professional life to helping people do better marketing through his writing, videos, speaking, and his book, Lost and Founder. Rand previously co-contributed to two other books: Art of SEO, and Inbound Marketing & SEO. He’s been profiled in the Seattle Times, featured in Puget Sound Business Journal’s 40 Under 40, named to BusinessWeek’s 30 Under 30, written about in Newsweek, The Next Web, the Inc 500, and hundreds of other publications.

Additional Resources

In 2020, Two Thirds of Google Searches Ended Without a Click (Sparktoro)

White Paper: How Google Abuses Its Position as a Market Dominant Platform to Strong-Arm News Publishers and Hurt Journalism (News/Media Alliance – features SparkToro’s zero click research)


Watch the next episode: Lessons in Practicality from The Daily Memphian: “A Lot of People Don’t Know We’re a Nonprofit” 

Watch the previous episode: Update on News Deserts and Local News Trends

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