Local newspaper conglomerate Digital First Media is going to focus a lot more on email this year, with plans to launch e-newsletters for its markets beyond Denver, Colorado, and the San Francisco Bay Area. The push will help Digital First, which gets about a fifth of its traffic from social, much of it Facebook, diversify away from the platform.
The shift away from Facebook will take on more urgency in 2018 now that Facebook is privileging users’ content over publisher pages’ content. Some are returning to old standbys like search and email; others are putting more resources into different platform products. For example, Stephanie Fried, evp of research analytics and audience development at Condé Nast, said some of the people the company now allocates to Facebook may wind up focusing on Instagram Stories.
In most cases, the goal is to build sustained engagement with publishers’ content, rather than chasing the flyby traffic that Facebook sometimes drove. “We need to focus a lot more on engagement and conversation,” said Dan Petty, digital director of audience development at Digital First Media. “The focus is much more on, ‘How do I get someone who’s coming two to three times a month to come four, five, six times in a given month?’”
Facebook is no longer the top source of referral traffic for publishers, but it’s been a top priority, particularly for ad-supported lifestyle publishers. In some cases, Facebook was responsible for 70, 80 or even 90 percent of their referral traffic. Facebook drove so much traffic and demanded so much attention that publishers had to have Facebook-specific teams.
“Social is the only place where we have brands focused on one channel,” said Fried. “That may change now.”
One reason Facebook required so much attention is because the platform’s priorities were always changing. And as they shifted, from shares to reactions to video to friends and family to live video and so on, audience teams have found themselves more focused on decoding Facebook than on building relationships with the audiences they amassed on it.
“We just learned the rules of the game and played it,” said one audience development executive, who asked not to be identified. “[Facebook] wasn’t great at driving loyalty. It just sucked up our time and gave us cheap traffic.”
Even though last week’s news has dominated conversations among digital publishers, many of them had begun shifting how their audience development teams were used well before the announcement.
The Economist, for example, grouped members of its audience, product and editorial teams together into so-called “tribes” last summer to improve site performance indicators like time spent and increase the publisher’s mobile app usage.
The Texas Tribune, in a bid for more membership revenue, now looks at membership growth as its primary metric rather than pageviews. It embedded its membership team, which pursues donations of $1,000 or less, inside the audience team back in June.
Even though Facebook’s signaled that publishers should rely on it less, publishers say they’re weeks away from knowing the true impact of Facebook’s announcement. But even if there’s near-term pain, many feel that Facebook distancing itself from publishers will be positive in the long run.
“The feeling, both public and private, is that people seem quite relieved,” said one audience head at an international publisher, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “We were feeling hostage to Facebook for quite a while.”
BuzzFeed, Hearst, other publishers, replace lavish holiday parties with more subdued celebrations
BDG, BuzzFeed, Hearst and The Washington Post will host in-person holiday parties this year, though they will not be the stereotypical soirées.
Member ExclusiveMedia Buying Briefing: The latest media agency estimates for 2023 revenue are out and they remain, well, upbeat
Two holding company media agency analysts continue to hold a more positive, if slightly tempered outlook on 2023 given strong results for 2022.
The case for and against publishers continuing holiday-specific commerce coverage post-Black Friday weekend
Black Friday is over but publishers are up in the air about whether or not to continue covering holiday sales in the lead up to the holidays.
SponsoredPublishers are adapting advertising strategies for a privacy-first world
Tina Iannacchino, senior publisher director, Seedtag So much of the attention around the death of third-party cookies and its impact on the digital advertising industry is focused on the implications for brands and consumers, which is far from the complete picture. The digital publishing industry in the U.S. is massive and set to be shaken […]
Why PMG’s Nike win doesn’t seem all that unusual for the indie media agency
The Texas-based independent agency continues to grow its roster of clients after landing Nike's media AOR business for North America.
Media Briefing: Publishers see a bump in commerce sales during Black Friday weekend despite economic downturn
Publishers' commerce businesses show positive signs that consumers are still shopping despite the economic downturn.