So­cial me­dia ver­sus me­di­arich so­cial – Where do you want to be?

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Do you re­mem­ber how you felt when Face­book an­nounced in 2015 it was bring­ing In­stant Ar­ti­cles to the world’s largest so­cial net­work of over 1.7 bil­lion peo­ple? Many pub­lish­ers I spoke to didn’t know quite what to make of it. But the agree­ment Face­book made with ma­jor pub­lish­ers, like The New York Times, helped to quell many con­cerns from those who tend to fol­low the iconic pub­lisher like sheep.

How­ever, many of us still weren’t buy­ing into the pipe dream. Face­book has al­ways done things its way, for­ever “tweak­ing” its al­go­rithms in the in­ter­est of two things – prof­its and peo­ple. And it was never go­ing to stop that in fa­vor of main­stream me­dia.

I tried to warn pub­lish­ers a year ago that Face­book will never be their “friend”, but it did lit­tle to stem the en­thu­si­asm as pub­lish­ers flocked to their fren­emy to find what they thought was the Holy Grail of new read­ers and rev­enues.

Less than three months af­ter it opened the In­stant Ar­ti­cle arch­ways to the en­tire pub­lish­ing com­mu­nity, the so­cial chameleon showed its true col­ors, yet again, by ma­nip­u­lat­ing its news­feed to give pri­or­ity to con­tent shared by peo­ple at the ex­pense of pub­lish­ers. What me­dia ex­ecs thought was an easy road to riches turned out to be a road­block on their re­fer­ral high­way.

Now, it’s not my place to tell Face­book to give peo­ple what they need in­stead of what they want. Qual­ity is in the eyes of the be­holder and “Face­book­ers” have clearly demon­strated that qual­ity on Face­book is any­thing but ob­jec­tive. So, if peo­ple want more cat videos, baby pic­tures and fake elec­tion news than hard­core journalism, then I’m all for giv­ing it to them on so­cial me­dia sites, where “so­cial” takes top billing and con­tent is dis­cov­ered more by chance than by de­sign.

So­cial me­dia is good, but it’s not great

So­cial me­dia has a lot of pos­i­tives go­ing for it and is a good op­tion for help­ing pub­lish­ers grow aware­ness with an un­tapped mas­sive au­di­ence. But the prob­lem pub­lish­ers face with sites like Twit­ter and Face­book, is that they are not op­ti­mized for qual­ity con­tent con­sump­tion or dis­cov­er­ing like-minded peo­ple around top­ics of in­ter­est.

In so­cial me­dia, peo­ple are forced to fol­low friends/fol­low­ers on vir­tu­ally ev­ery­thing they do/ post/share. Dis­cus­sions are lim­ited to within a cir­cle of friends/fol­low­ers and of­fer no real sense of com­mu­nity and unity among read­ers and their opin­ions. And prob­a­bly the most frus­trat­ing thing is that they make it next to im­pos­si­ble for peo­ple to eas­ily con­trol and man­age the con­tent they re­ceive through their news­feeds.

With Twit­ter, tweets are posted in chrono­log­i­cal or­der, but un­less one sets up lists to man­age and keep track of spe­cific peo­ple’s tweets, they vir­tu­ally dis­ap­pear within min­utes of their post­ing. Find­ing them is like look­ing for a nee­dle in a haystack.

Face­book has sim­i­lar is­sues when it comes to ephemeral con­tent, but adds a whole other di­men­sion of com­plex­ity with al­go­rithms that de­cide who sees, or doesn’t see, posts. What makes it even more in­fu­ri­at­ing is that Face­book dis­plays dif­fer­ent con­tent on mo­bile de­vices than it does on desk­tops; and no amount of pref­er­ence set­ting on a user’s part will en­sure they see con­tent in the or­der in which it was posted by their friends or brands they like.

Pub­lisher web­sites aren’t much bet­ter; ar­ti­cles and reader com­ments (if they’re even al­lowed) evap­o­rate as quickly as in­ter­est in yes­ter­day’s news.

The re­sult of all these de­fi­cien­cies is a mas­sive frag­men­ta­tion of user-gen­er­ated con­tent, com­ments and opin­ions which leads to de­clines in en­gage­ment with pub­lish­ers and brands, and, ul­ti­mately, rev­enues.

In­tro­duc­ing Chan­nels

To ad­dress the void that is left by so­cial me­dia and pub­lish­ers’ dig­i­tal prop­er­ties, PressReader has in­tro­duced Chan­nels within its plat­form. By de­fault, ev­ery reg­is­tered per­son, brand and pub­li­ca­tion on PressReader has a Chan­nel, which, on the sur­face, re­sem­bles a page on Face­book. But look un­der the hood and you’ll dis­cover they are noth­ing alike.

Chan­nels are specif­i­cally de­signed to fa­cil­i­tate deep reader en­gage­ment with qual­ity con­tent and multi-way con­ver­sa­tions be­tween “like-minded” peo­ple, pub­lish­ers and brands — not just with friends and fol­low­ers.

Chan­nels al­low peo­ple to eas­ily ac­cess the lat­est con­tent re­lated to their in­ter­ests (e.g. pol­i­tics, golf, fash­ion, tech­nol­ogy, etc.) through per­son­al­ized search mon­i­tors that work be­hind the scenes and

alert them when ar­ti­cles that feed their pas­sions are pub­lished. They can or­ga­nize their fa­vorite con­tent in col­lec­tions and share them with oth­ers along with opin­ions (not just com­ments) that take on a life of their own.

Why Chan­nels mat­ter

The abil­ity to dis­cover and en­gage with like-minded peo­ple around qual­ity con­tent, shared opin­ions and top­ics of in­ter­ests has ob­vi­ous ben­e­fits for read­ers, but what about pub­lish­ers and brands?

Chan­nels have trans­formed PressReader from a news­stand into the largest me­dia-rich so­cial com­mu­nity of qual­ity con­tent con­sumers who main­tain pub­lic, per­sonal Chan­nels that pro­vide pub­lish­ers and brands valu­able in­sights into their in­ter­ests and pas­sions.

Think of it this way…

Imag­ine be­ing in­vited to an ex­clu­sive party where mil­lions of so­cially-ac­tive news con­sumers con­gre­gate specif­i­cally to dis­cover, con­sume and con­nect with oth­ers around ob­jec­tive, qual­ity con­tent.

Imag­ine if that party never ended be­cause ev­ery minute of ev­ery hour of ev­ery day thou­sands of new read­ers joined the party be­cause tens of thou­sands of brands (e.g. ho­tels, air­lines, li­braries, restau­rants and other busi­nesses) spon­sored their ad­mis- sion to the largest buf­fet of qual­ity con­tent in the world.

What could you do with that kind of reach and that kind of tar­get­ing? Well, be­sides the ob­vi­ous reader en­gage­ment and data min­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, un­lim­ited co-mar­ket­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties be­tween pre­mium brands and pub­lish­ers ex­ist through is­sue gift­ing, spon­sored is­sues, con­tent mar­ket­ing and ad­ver­tis­ing.

Oh, and did I men­tion that ev­ery is­sue read counts to­wards au­dited cir­cu­la­tion and in­creased rev­enues?

But read­ers and pub­lish­ers aren’t the only ones ben­e­fit­ing from this fea­ture. Jour­nal­ists should be re­joic­ing that a new op­por­tu­nity for a vi­able fu­ture has emerged for them through Chan­nels.

In an era ripe with lay­offs and news­room cuts, Chan­nels of­fer unique op­por­tu­ni­ties for en­tre­pre­neur­ial writ­ers, colum­nists and re­porters to grow brand aware­ness and en­gage­ment with a huge con­tent-hun­gry au­di­ence through self-man­aged Chan­nels pop­u­lated with their con­tent — in­clud­ing pub­lished ar­ti­cles, opin­ions, RSS feeds and even cus­tom con­tent.

It’s time to start a stop­ping list

As pub­lish­ers try to prof­itably trans­form their busi­ness from print to dig­i­tal, they typ­i­cally strug­gle with what new things they should be do­ing. But what’s just as im­por­tant is stop­ping the things that aren’t work­ing.

There’s no doubt that so­cial me­dia has its place in the dis­tri­bu­tion of ar­ti­cles and na­tive ad­ver­tis­ing, but it will never be the one-stop-shop for qual­ity con­tent around which read­ers will want to in­ter­act and en­gage.

With Face­book’s re­cent move to lower the pri­or­ity of pub­lish­ers’ con­tent in its news­feed, pub­lish­ers will need to switch from post­ing long­form, full-con­tent ar­ti­cles and fo­cus on re­leas­ing tempt­ing morsels of con­tent and break­ing news that mem­bers are more likely to share with friends. I know it sounds a lot like click­bait, but it’s the only way to rise to the top of the news­feed and see an in­crease in re­fer­ral traf­fic on the likes of Face­book.

If pub­lish­ers want to truly reach and, more im­por­tantly, en­gage with read­ers at a more in­ti­mate scale, a ded­i­cated net­work of qual­ity con­tent and Chan­nels that fa­cil­i­tate con­nec­tions be­tween pub­lish­ers, read­ers and brands is the ticket.

The only ques­tion you need to ask your­self is, “Do I want to bank on the un­pre­dictable world of so­cial me­dia to grow reach and rev­enues, or on a me­dia-rich so­cial com­mu­nity where my con­tent mat­ters to mem­bers and is fairly mon­e­tized?”

Once you have your an­swer, let’s talk!

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