My Take on the 2018 Maven Coalition Conference in Whistler
In April 2018 Maven had a conference with over 200 Maven Coalition journalists and authors in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada, to discuss their business plan for the Coalition. They asked HubPages to invite 50 of their authors to attend the three-day conference, of which 21 showed up.
We learned that Maven’s goal is to create a revolution (James Heckman’s words in his keynote address). That business plan is necessary in the wake of large media firms that are too powerful.
HubPages has always worked hard at doing whatever is necessary to help us succeed while other writing sites have come and gone. Maven is continuing that effort, in many unique ways, so that we will all survive.
Combining the three companies, Maven, HubPages and Say Media, is a self-fulfilling prophecy with a combined 98 million monthly visitors.
James Heckman, Maven's CEO, said in his keynote address, “This makes us bigger than the New York Times, bigger than Yahoo News, bigger than CNN.com, and heading towards Twitter size.” He explained that the plan to combine the best authors and journalists, who have survived the latest struggles of the Internet and have a passion for writing intense and superb content, creates the most powerful union that demands a premium opportunity for advertisers.
Maven’s Journalism Platform
The way I understood what I learned is that the Maven platform is mainly for journalists who dedicate their work to the business of writing for a particular audience.
This includes best-selling authors, top analysts, and those involved with important causes. These are the writers that Maven invites—offering to have their content hosted on their site.
I spoke with several Mavens during these days at the conference and a couple of them told me that they pay Maven 50% of their earnings. I asked if they meant that Maven splits the earnings 50/50 similar to how HubPages splits ad impressions 60/40. I was surprised to learn that they need to get their own revenue source and they pay half of that to Maven for hosting their channel.
Journalists, who are considering joining the coalition, have a following of loyal readers. Their readers pay to register with them for access to additional content beyond a pay wall.
This is totally different from the way we have it on HubPages, and I’m not even sure this is the norm for Maven or if it was only unique to the Mavens I spoke with.
However, later in the week I learned that Maven is creating a tool to allow readers to subscribe at a fee to specific channels. I’ll discuss Maven's monetization tools in a moment.
How HubPages and Maven Are Different
I see the two platforms as unique in their own right. Maven is more related to building a coalition of journalists and bloggers, while HubPages is a community of writers for magazine-type articles (our hubs).
The two can definitely exist as one while sharing the brains and business backbone of their respective founders.
Changes will be expected, but the tools and publishing methods HubPages has put into place will not be pulled out from under us. No one should have any fears of that happening.
For example, our individual network niche sites will remain under the domains as they have been created. For that matter, Maven is already linking to them from their new search engine (maven.io). In some cases the links go direct to subcategories in our niche sites.
The work that HubPages has done has already proven to help improve our ranking with search engines. I spoke with Paul Edmondson on a number of occasions over these days together, and he agreed that HP understands that. There is no reason to unravel that progress.
In any case, our method of income for writing hubs will not change. For that matter, it will only get better with new income streams being created such as Header Bidding and Exchange Bidding Dynamic Allocation (EBDA), not to mention new technology from Say Media.
Maven is expanding their efforts for our success with the acquisition of Say Media, a technology and advertising firm.
I personally had the opportunity to chat with an employee of Say Media on the shuttle back to the airport and we discussed their use of Header Bidding. This is a method of selling ad space on our articles to the highest bidder, thereby leading to increased revenue for us all.
What Does Maven Ownership Mean?
On the last day of the conference Josh Jacobs, one of the founders and a media and technology innovator, gave a speech that made everything clear. He was addressing the authors who are Mavens or who are under consideration.
Josh explained that Maven invites writers to join the coalition who already have an existing audience. Writers continue to own their content and are free to use it as they see fit, but in return for bringing their audience to the coalition they will be rewarded with shares of Maven publicly traded stock (Ticker symbol MVEN).
Writers can concentrate on content creation and not worry about how to make everything work. Technology is changing really fast and Maven engineers are working on methods to engage readers, keep them on the site longer, and keep them coming back often.
Maven's Monetization Tools
Maven is also working on integrating various monetization tools that writers can use on their channels. The advantage writers have is increase in revenue through various types of monetization.
The Maven platform offers a subscription service. Readers have a choice of engaging with content and ultimately deciding to pay to see the best content. Maven subscription provides an added revenue stream.
Josh Jacobs compared this to the way the New York Times sells subscriptions to readers. He says that readers are more and more ready to pay for content. I guess that all depends on the type of information.
Maven will soon be rolling out an advertising portal built right into the site with a custom media kit where the reader can buy a subscription with a credit card online.
Loyal readers who do not subscribe will still create revenue because of ad impressions.
Socializing with Other Hubbers
It was wonderful to have had the opportunity to finally meet other Hubbers and get to know them personally. We’ve shared socially over these few days in Whistler. It wasn’t only conference meetings.
We ate together in restaurants, traveled into the mountains where the skiers were enjoying the snow, and some took excursions on Friday to enjoy the morning hours away from the hotel.
The experience of getting to know other Hubbers has been most delightful. I’ve learned that no matter what their beliefs, attitudes, or backgrounds, they are all genuine people with kind manners and respected insight. One can see why they are successful with their writing.
Peak to Peak with Paul
I felt privileged to ride the Peak2Peak gondola on Whistler Mountain with Paul Edmondson. This was another opportunity to get to know him and hopefully for him to get to know me a little.
Ironically, I used this opportunity to share a few system bugs with him that he will convey to the programming staff.
I also learned from Paul the reason why we were having trouble understanding the way the new Q&A works. I mentioned that there seemed to be a discrepancy with the way each of us were experiencing it as we discussed it in the forums.
He explained that this is because they are running an A/B test. Some Q&A become individual pages that Google can index and others simply are included in the respective hubs. This test is being done to determine which works best.
Writers on HubPages will continue to have the tools to publish articles on our vertical network niche sites that are monetized by Google AdSense and the HubPages’ Ad Program, as well as Amazon sales.
Mavens who join the coalition to write on the Maven platform will have the built-in tools to allow readers to purchase subscriptions to read additional content.
The way I understood everything, we will remain as two separate platforms with the publishing tools that we are both familiar. That’s not to say that the technology of one will not be used by the other. I’m sure that may happen, and it already is in some cases.
All in all, I came home with a new appreciation for this entire business plan that we are all part of in one way or another.
Don’t underestimate the revolution. I expect us all (Hubbers and Mavens, or Maven Hubbers, whatever) to be around for a long time while the Internet, and media in general, changes over the years.
© 2018 Glenn Stok