The social media issue for publishers

While editorial content is increasingly being consumed by mobile users, newspaper publishers are questioning how to disseminate content to social networks and mobiles. Social media, a threat or an opportunity for publishers? Analysis.

Since the beginning of the decade, content producers have been reflecting upon the issue of social networks. Indeed, the latter can prove to be a real opportunity because mobile users are consuming more and more articles and videos on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter or Snapchat. On the other hand, media publishers are wondering how to keep Internet users curious about social media in order to retain their interest for as long as possible. Social media has seized the opportunity by proposing to publishers from all walks of life that they adopt specific formats facilitating the consumption of content from a smartphone. In return, they guarantee to the content producers a growth in audience numbers and notoriety, as well as increased advertising revenue.

What are the specifics of these new formats?

Social media has adopted formats that speed up the download of content on smartphones. In November 2015 in France, Facebook launched Instant Articles (IA), followed by Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) in 2016. Content producers who have converted to these formats offer improved reading comfort to Internet users and enhance their SEO. Thanks to AMP, Google has convinced half of the fifty most powerful media sites to convert to its format. AMP has already imposed itself on many content producers. For its part, Facebook’s format, IA, conquered Libération, Le Parisien, 20 Minutes and soon AFP.

But do these formats have a real impact?

And yes, some media draw a significant portion of their audiences through these formats. Le Parisien, which converts all its contents into this format, last February achieved 20% of its mobile traffic (8 million visits) using the IA format. Guillaume Bournizien, digital marketing manager at Le Parisien, declares that, “Since we started using Instant Articles, we have been reaching a wider audience. So, it’s an opportunity for our brand”.

Social media vs own distribution

Nevertheless, some publishers are afraid to become dependent on these formats and thus popularise the diffusion of their content through their own channels, such as Le Figaro, L’Équipe or Le Monde. Figaro’s digital media manager, Bertrand Gié said: “We want our articles to be read in our environment and to maintain a direct relationship with our audience”. Instant Articles is perceived for some press publishers as too closed and rigid in its operation. In England, despite a process that is more advanced than that in France, content producers have recently told the English government that external platforms that aggregate information, such as Facebook and Google, threaten media plurality by stealing their readerships and their advertising revenues. But the real problem is financial, because the loss to newspaper publishers of access to their visitors’ data ultimately makes it more difficult to sell advertising, content and digital subscriptions. Some publishers such as The New York Times, Hearst Group, Vice News, Forbes and the Los Angeles Times have announced their withdrawal from Instant Articles, as this program favours speed of downloading but limits advertising, so these publishers must compensate with an increase in audience numbers in order to sell their space at a higher price. Yet, these hopes have been disappointed in the United States.

What about new publishers?

New publishers prefer to distribute their content on social media rather than via a specific website or mobile application. The advantage: saving on IT development costs, immediate exposure on high-audience platforms and a rapid growth in the targeting of young adults, if the content meets their expectations.

The future clearly involves the broadcasting of videos on mobiles, but the choice the newspaper publishers make between the diffusion of their contents on social media via formats that accelerate the downloading of content on mobiles, or the dissemination of their contents through their own channels, is certainly a story worth following…



Strategies No.1904