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How publishers align business models with strategies for social media distribution

October 24, 2018 | By Rande Price, Research VP – DCN

Publishers use social distribution to keep up with  consumers’ news consumption habits. And despite the annoyance and uncertainty of platform policy changes (e.g. Facebook news-feed changes), publishers continue to align their business strategies and social practices.

To better understand this alignment, the Reuters Institute explores distribution strategies across 12 news publishers in six European countries in their new report, Digital News Project.

Strategic objectives

While distribution strategies may vary in approach, they center on one of three core objectives:

  1. driving on-site traffic through referrals
  2. driving off-site reach through native formats, and
  3. driving digital subscription sales.

Based on this sample, social platforms offer limited opportunities for publisher monetization. Nevertheless, news organizations can receive indirect benefits in terms of traffic, off-site reach, and/or subscriptions.

Platform differentiation

Understanding and differentiating between platforms is important for social diversification:

  • Facebook accounts for the largest share of publishers social media traffic. It also delivers higher levels of audience engagement and is considered more cost-effective at driving digital subscription sales.
  • Twitter offers the most value for generating off-site reach and greater visibility with breaking news. It’s the go-to platform to reach journalists, opinion leaders, trendsetters, and influencers.
  • Instagram has the potential to deliver high audience engagement and promote news brands, especially to younger audiences. It’s a great fit for light content like entertainment news. Publishers view Instagram as experimental.
Publisher practices

The Digital News Project also examines publisher practices on Facebook after the January 2018 policy change to deprioritize news publishers’ content in favor of family and friends’ posts. Analyzing these practices provides a performance review of news sites social platform strategies.

For example, Iltalehti, the Finnish tabloid, continues to publish as often on Facebook after the policy change. However, Facebook’s new policy resulted in a 28% decline in Iltalehti’s average daily interactions. Unfortunately, Iltalehti’s bottom line is severely impacted since the publication relies heavily on social traffic referrals for monetization.

In contrast, the French publication, Le Monde, decreased the frequency (13%) of their Facebook posts after the policy change. The decline in Le Monde posts resulted in a 29% decline in average user interactions. Le Monde is deliberating on their longterm Facebook social strategy since they too use traffic referrals as a significant part of their overall monetization strategy. Insert le monde chart

It’s important for news publishers to identify their objectives before implementing social distribution strategies. The social approach should allow publishers to experiment with new opportunities to drive on-site traffic, or to build awareness and brand recognition or to engage users to subscribe to paid service.

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