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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

Want to build your audience? Consider the fediverse

The decentralized nature of the fediverse offers a compelling alternative to traditional search and social. Importantly, this approach helps media companies retain their direct relationship with audiences.

June 11, 2024 | By Rande Price, Research VP – DCN

The fediverse buzz continues to grow, with articles highlighting the potential to revolutionize the digital landscape. Proponents say it’s similar to the Internet’s early days, before Big Tech platforms built their algorithmic fiefdoms. Instead, the fediverse is about interoperability and flexibility.

Media companies are always on the lookout for ways to attract new audiences and engage more meaningfully with their readers. And – given Google’s experimentation with AI answers and social sites “distancing themselves from news” – finding new routes to audience development has become an increasing imperative.  

The decentralized nature of the fediverse offers a compelling alternative to traditional search and social. Importantly, this approach allows media companies to retain their direct relationship with audiences, which removes the dependency on social and big-tech platforms for reaching new people.

Unlike traditional social media platforms that operate within closed ecosystems, fediverse represents a decentralized network of interconnected servers and platforms. It comprises a federation of independent servers, each hosting its social media platform.

These platforms, which range from microblogging to image sharing to video hosting, communicate using standard protocols. Their interoperability allows people on different servers to interact seamlessly. The fediverse decentralizes media companies by enabling them to distribute their content across interconnected servers and platforms rather than relying on a single, centralized platform.

Emphasis on choice and control

Unlike centralized platforms, where a single server owned by the platform provider stores user data and content, fediverse lets people choose their server. This server is selected based on individual preferences regarding privacy, content moderation, and community guidelines. This decentralized approach empowers audiences by putting them in charge of their online experience. It also mitigates concerns about data ownership and platform censorship. For media companies, this translates into an environment where people are more likely to engage with content they trust and have control over.

Encouraging diversity and inclusivity

The fediverse enables people to connect across different platforms and communities within the federation. For example, a user on a microblogging platform can follow and interact with users on a video hosting platform. This functionality breaks down the barriers that typically separate content and conversations on traditional social media platforms. This cross-platform interaction fosters a rich tapestry of ideas, perspectives, and content, creating a more vibrant and dynamic online ecosystem. Media companies can leverage this aspect of fediverse to reach diverse audiences actively seeking varied content.

Organic and community-driven engagement

In contrast to the centralized model, where platform algorithms often dictate content visibility and user interactions, fediverse promotes a more organic and community-driven approach. Users have greater control over their timelines and content visibility, allowing for a more personalized and authentic online experience.

This user-centric design aligns with evolving expectations of digital privacy and autonomy, resonating with individuals seeking alternatives to mainstream social media platforms. Media companies can benefit from this by creating content that naturally finds its way to interested audiences without algorithmic interference.

Media companies test the fediverse

At least two digital media companies are exploring the fediverse to gain more control over their referral traffic and onsite audience engagement. The Verge and 404 Media are building new functions that allow them to simultaneously distribute posts on their sites and federated platforms like Threads, Mastodon, and Bluesky. Replies to those posts on those platforms become comments on their sites.

This functionality means people from different platforms can interact with the content without creating individual accounts for each platform. For media companies, this interoperability can significantly enhance audience reach and engagement.

Advantages for media companies using the fediverse

Usability and interoperability are ideal for enhancing user experience. This approach enables seamless communication between platforms, ensuring autonomy, and providing robust content control.

  • Interoperability ensures that different platforms can communicate using common protocols like ActivityPub. This allows people to interact with content across various platforms seamlessly, thus creating a unified and interconnected ecosystem.
  • User autonomy empowers people to select their servers (instances) based on their preferences for privacy, moderation, and community guidelines, offering greater freedom and reducing the dominance of any single platform.
  • Content control enables media companies to host their servers or collaborate with trusted ones, giving them direct control over content distribution and audience engagement. Therefore, it mitigates risks associated with algorithm changes or policy shifts on major social media platforms.
  • Cross-platform interaction allows content like a media company’s article shared on one platform to receive comments, likes, and shares from users on other platforms, broadening reach and engagement without being confined to a single platform.
  • Community-driven moderation decentralizes content moderation, allowing it to occur at the community or server level. Media companies can set moderation policies to ensure their content meets their standards and audience expectations.
  • Enhanced privacy through decentralization gives media companies more control over their data and privacy settings, protecting user data from being exploited by large platforms.

Although federated platforms have smaller user bases than the larger walled gardens like Facebook and X, they offer significant audiences for media companies. Federating sites allow media companies to tap into the growing demand for decentralized, user-centric platforms, attracting new audiences and fostering a more loyal and engaged user base.

Federated platforms offers the potential for a fundamental shift in how media companies interact with their audiences. Media companies that experiment with the fediverse can initiate engagement and have an opportunity to build stronger, more direct connections with their audiences.

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