Research Shows Most Publishers Don’t Have a Plan to Address Distributed Content
Today Publishing Executive released a research report on how publishers are managing the challenges of distributed content (content hosted and consumed partially or in full on external platforms, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Google AMP, or Medium). The report is based on a survey of Publishing Executive’s audience of senior-level executives in the media and publishing industry on how they’re sizing up and managing the threats and opportunities associated with distributed content. (Download The Distributed Content Conundrum: Special Report on the Opportunities & Threats of Distributed Content for Publishers here.)
What stood out the most when reviewing the results of the survey was that while most publishers are concerned about the impact distributed content is having on their businesses, few publishers have a plan in place to do anything about it. 63% of publishers indicate they are concerned about distributed content, but only 27% of publishers have a plan to address distributed content – and only 8% say they have a thorough plan in place. Further, only 22% of publishers feel they are very aware of the impact that distributed content is having on their businesses.
So while the publishers surveyed largely acknowledge that distributed content presents big benefits and that social is increasingly where new audiences will discover their content, it’s clear many are taking a wait-and-see approach. And this presents a risk for publishers. If the history of the web has shown us anything, it’s that the early movers get the upper hand and publishers have been left in the wake many times in the past.
Digital-first publishers like Buzzfeed, Mic , and Ozy have made social platforms and online discoverability a central component of their publishing models, not an afterthought. These publishers are winning the battle for attention with younger generations and legacy publishers may regret not giving distributed content the high-level attention it deserves.
B2B Be Behind
The B2B market is at an even greater risk because they’re response to the realities of the social world we live in has been even more sluggish. Despite the fact that most B2B publishers (66%) consider audience development an important objective for distributed content, they’re not taking it all that seriously: according to the survey, most are only considering a distributed content plan and none have a thorough plan. On open-ended response to the survey might sum up the attitude for some B2B’ers, “In the B2B world, social media is not a big factor in getting content out. We see it more as a B2C model.”
While the survey does bear out that B2B publishers rely much less heavily on social referral traffic than consumer publishers -- 70% of B2B publishers had 15% or less of their traffic derived from social platforms, while 69% of consumer publishers derived more than 15% of their traffic from social platforms -- B2B media is under increasing pressure to develop an audience that includes the next generation of decision makers and buyers. Social media presents an opportunity to reach that younger cohort.
And just like consumer publishers, B2B media are facing a crop of upstarts in their markets. For every Northstar there is a Skift. For every ALM there’s a Breaking Media They might not have the market entrenchment or diversity of revenue streams, but they “get” the web precisely because they are younger and they often move faster.
A Wake Up Call on Social Media
One thing I want to clarify is that the term “distributed content” shouldn’t obfuscate what we’re really talking about here, which is essentially social media (Google AMP being the outlier.)
You know about social media, right? The thing that is everybody’s job and nobody’s job at the same time?
For too long companies of all stripes have relegated social media to the lowest rung on the later. “Just give it to the intern.” At publishing organizations, social media was often tossed of to the editors as just one more task on the list.
I’m a firm believer -- and I think this study backs it up -- that social platforms need to be evaluated at a higher level to determine the strategic threats and opportunities. And then publishers need to look at ways to optimize and scale these efforts through processes and technology.
To be sure, distributed content presents very significant resource drain. That’s exactly why it requires strategic attention.
The Distributed Content Conundrum report offers an overview of some of the strategies and tactics peers in the industry are doing and that others would be wise to consider. Publishers would be wise to devote a cross-functional team with a clear captain to steer distributed content strategy, drive decision making with analytics, and investigate technology that can support distributed content workflow and associated audience development and revenue objectives.
Perhaps you can start by asking the question, “Who is in charge of our distributed content/social media strategy?” If the answer is a laundry list of stakeholders, you probably have no strategy to speak of.
Denis Wilson is editor-in-chief of Book Business and Publishing Executive. In this role, he analyzes and reports on the fundamental changes affecting the publishing industry and aims to serve content-driven businesses with practical and strategic insight. As a writer, Denis’ work has been published by Fast Company, Rolling Stone, Fortune, and The New York Times.