Media Threads March 23, 2019


In the world of digital media there are a few companies that stand above the rest. Facebook and YouTube instantly come to mind, and get most of the headlines. It seems like each week at least one of these three is involved in another controversy. And this week is no different.

This week Facebook and YouTube came under heavy scrutiny after allowing video of the terror attack in Christchurch, New Zealand to be broadcast on their platforms. I’ll never understand how either company continues to allow things like this to happen. Now that advertisers are responding by boycotting, it will be interesting to see how quickly things get done.

Given the ongoing content distribution, as well as privacy, issues that most social media sites struggle with, I’m still surprised when I see publishers and brands that continue to spend more time and money on these platforms. Not only are these platforms no longer a safe environment for publishers and brands – in some cases they are downright hostile – they are a time suck.

I continue to push for publishers to move away from organic posting on social and into SEO and performance marketing. Instead of spending money on a team of people posting to social media, chasing algorithms, hire marketers and put money into performance marketing.

As users, at least in the United States, begin to shift from mass social sites into niche platforms, publishers of all sizes need to look at new methods of reaching audiences. Post and pray just won’t cut it anymore.

Finding Younger Audiences

Speaking of finding new audiences, here’s an interesting story from Digiday on how Nordic publisher Schibsted is attracting more young readers.

News publishers are scrambling to get younger audiences acquainted with their brands. Nordic publishing giant Schibsted, which pinned its hopes on the development of a new app two years ago, is now finding that it’s helping: 60 percent of the app users are under 25, and retention — measured by those using the app for the fifth consecutive week — has grown from 25 percent to 35 percent.

After seeing a decline in younger readers on Schibsted’s most widely read newspaper, Norwegian tabloid Verdens Gang, a team of 15 people — across editorial product and research — started working on a news app, Peil, targeted at readers between 18 and 25 years old in 2016, and launched it at the end of 2017.

It’s impressive that any publisher can find a solid audience in an app environment. People outside of publishing – and many of those inside – underestimate how difficult it is to build a brand via an app. It’s an extraordinary difficult task.

ISO: Publishers

Another story I’ve been following comes from another in the top tier of digital media – Apple. Apple continues to court publishers to try its new Apple News subscription service. Of course it’s being touted by Apple as the (next) savior of publishing. Reminding publishers about its success with Apple Music as proof.

During Apple’s meetings with news publishers, the company is reportedly pointing to its success with Apple Music to showcase evidence of its previous subscription success and convince partners to join. One source said that the company is pitching itself as a savior to the publishing industry, but some publishing executives have said that Apple’s logic is flawed.

“Based on our experiences with Apple Music, we’re very good at running a subscription business,” said one publishing exec, describing how Apple pitched the service. “We know how to build a subscription business, and we’re going to do that for news.” 

And while Apple is looking for sacrificial lambs partners, New York Times’ CEO Mark Thompson thinks publishers should be cautious.

“We tend to be quite leery about the idea of almost habituating people to find our journalism somewhere else. We’re also generically worried about our journalism being scrambled in a kind of Magimix (blender) with everyone else’s journalism.”

I’m in agreement with Mark Thompson here. I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad idea. As a news consumer I would love to be able to purchase a subscription, or even a single edition of my favorite local newspaper without going through the hassle that comes with the process.

As a publisher, I just think that enough digital companies have built their business off the backs of content publishers. We’ve seen this movie before, we know how it ends.


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