5 Things Publishers Must Consider As They Build Their Platform Strategy
Yesterday Publishing Executive hosted its inaugural FUSE Forum on the topic of distributed content. “Distributed content,” is publisher material that is hosted and consumed on external platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google AMP. This form of content distribution has reached new heights as platforms have grown in popularity and in number, becoming some of the largest sources of traffic for publishers. But publishers also risk forfeiting direct relationships with readers and operating at the mercy of frequent algorithm changes when they publish to external platforms. At the FUSE Forum, industry leaders explored how they weigh the risks and opportunities of distributed content and adapt their strategies for success on a platform-dominated web. Following are 5 takeaways from the FUSE Forum that publishers should consider as they build their platform strategy.
1. Most publishers don’t know how distributed content is affecting their business. According to a survey conducted by Publishing Executive, 22% of publishers surveyed understand how distributed content impacts their business and only 27% have a plan in place to deal with distributed content. This is a dangerous place to be, said Publishing Executive editor-in-chief Denis Wilson during his presentation on the survey findings. Platforms aren’t going anywhere, said Wilson, and it is likely that publishers will see more platforms emerge in the coming years. What that means is increasingly readers will expect to find their favorite content on platforms like Facebook, Google AMP, and Instagram. Publishers must adapt their strategies to account for this change in online behavior, said Wilson.
2. In order to assess whether a new platform is worth investing in, publishers must define their goals. For Rodale, the goal of distributed content is to increase revenue and audience acquisition, said head of digital partnerships Diego Sanchez during a FUSE Forum panel. Sanchez is looking for platforms that allow Rodale to sell ads at comparable CPMs to those on their own sites. Additionally, Sanchez said the platform must provide a way to drive readers from the platform back to Rodale’s sites. In the same panel, SVP of digital Justin Festa said that LittleThings, a women’s lifestyle site, wants to deliver content on the platforms its audience visits most, increase referral traffic to their site, and provide a positive user experience. Unlike Rodale, LittleThings earns all of its revenue from ads so reaching new audiences and increasing ad impressions on its site are critical to its success. “If you’re looking for audience extension, then Instant Articles is great,” said Festa. “You will get a good click-through rate and the users are really engaged on that platform.”
3. Frequent algorithm changes mean publishers must regularly assess platforms. In addition to choosing platforms that align with their goals, publishers must constantly reassess the value proposition of distributed content platforms. Google and Facebook are known for changing their algorithms without warning. Those changes often have massive impacts on publishers’ traffic. Publishers need analytics tools in place to continually assess how content is performing on third-party platforms. Rodale, for example, relies on its analytics team to assess the return on its Facebook Instant Articles. It has found that short, punchy articles garner the greatest engagement on the platform, and that focusing on specific verticals is more affective than a broad content approach. “We continue to change our strategies,” said Sanchez. “It all depends on what happens with the algorithm.”
4. Capturing email is a powerful way to drive social media audiences to publisher-owned sites. During a Q&A session at FUSE Forum Patrick Asbra, VP of sales at PostUp, advised publishers to focus on email as a way to move unknown users down the acquisition funnel. PostUp is working with publishers to develop email sign-up widgets that can be embedded within Google AMP articles, Facebook Instant Articles, and other platforms. “We have found that email performs the strongest in terms of referral traffic,” said Asbra, “It generates the most pageviews, and you own that data.”
Rodale is testing a beta one-click email sign-up that Facebook plans to roll out on Instant Articles. When a Facebook user clicks on the sign-up button, Facebook provides the user’s verified account email to the publisher. “We sometimes have issues getting fake emails when users hit the content gates on our sites,” said Sanchez, “But with Facebook it’s the real email, so that’s a great benefit. We’re seeing a high percentage of new-to-file names from these sign-ups.”
5. To execute distributed content at scale, publishers need to unite a variety of data sources. Asbra recommended that publishers look into Customer Data Platforms (CDPs), which can help unify audience data collected from a variety of platforms. Essentially, the CDP gives publishers a single view of user data and helps publishers better target content to users across the web. “Connecting all of your data is the promise of the CDP,” said Asbra. “The technology allows publishers to target their campaigns regardless of channel.” As more platforms emerge online, and as publisher content becomes more dispersed, having that single data repository that can weave together disparate data points becomes vital to publishers’ success.
Related story: Are Publishers Ignoring the Upsides of Distributed Content?