As we get deeper into the second half of 2014, it’s disappointing to see the news publishing industry continue to struggle. The biggest problem? Failing to accept the irrefutable realities of the news publishing industry today.
These realities aren’t shocking. They didn’t happen overnight. However, they are the source of many problems within the news publishing industry. Once the leaders of the industry make the necessary monetary, resource, and human capital investments to effectively address the realities of news publishing, the industry will continue to struggle.
Three of these irrefutable realities are:
1. Social search is taking over.
During the fourth quarter of 2013, research from Shareaholic revealed that Facebook drove more than twice as much referral traffic to websites than seven other social media sites combined (Pinterest, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Reddit, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Google+).
Claire Cain Miller of The New York Times reports that, “by the end of last year, Google and Facebook sent about the same amount of traffic to Shareaholic sites. By the end of the year, Facebook sent 3.5 times as much traffic as Google.”
Furthermore, during the summer of 2013, 40% of traffic to sites in the Shareaholic network came from search engines and just 14% came from social networks. Fast forward to the summer of 2014 and search engines and social networks tied with each sending 29% of traffic.
A news publishing strategy that doesn’t prioritize social search and discovery is doomed to achieve limited results.
2. Audience data is critical to survival.
Today, audience data is essential to selling ad space that will drive the results advertisers want. Run-of-site ads have lost favor while highly targeted, landing page-specific advertising as well as hyper-personalized advertising have grown in popularity.
There is no turning back now. If a news publisher can’t deliver advertising results to advertisers, they won’t generate adequate revenue to stay in business. Never has the value of audience data been higher.
3. No one cares who publishes news first.
Breaking the news is far less important than engaging audiences about that news. Considering that most people discover breaking news content through social networks and social connections (rather than directly through news publishers), it’s not surprising that news audiences care very little about which news organization published a story first.
Today, it is far more important to develop the right experiences and the right modes of distribution to keep audiences engaged with breaking news and the news publisher. First is no longer a guarantee of better.