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