Commentary

Embracing Social: The New Formula for Online Publishers

The shift from print to online has been excruciating for many in the publishing industry. The old economic formula that governed print has been completely transformed by technology, the rise of social media and free-for-all content.

The dominance of page views is one unfortunate consequence of the move online. Print dollars have turned to online cents, but publishers still need to create quality content. Social can restore the balance.

Publishers now need to embrace what’s happening to their content off of their own site and on the larger social Web. Here's why it matters.

Future-Proofing

One of the biggest traps that publishers fall into is focusing only on Facebook and Twitter. Depending on the vertical orientation of a site or content, neither may rank as their strongest social channel.

The FB/Twitter myopia also prevents them from getting a comprehensive view of their content’s presence on the breadth of the social Web. Most importantly, these two social giants aren’t going to be at the top forever.

Look at the rise and fall of MySpace or the rise of Pinterest this last year. Pinterest became the fourth-largest social channel in most categories in terms of Web-wide content sharing.Channels like Reddit and StumbleUpon aren’t to be ignored either, an outbound share typically generates an average of 2,500 and 3,000, respectively.

In order to stay ahead of the game and be ready for the next social up-and-comer, publishers need a comprehensive way to gather insights into how their content performs across the entire social Web.

Get in the Game

Publishers whose social referral traffic is less than half the volume referred by search have untapped potential. If 50% of a site’s traffic is generated from search, then at least 25% should come from social. The best publishers make it easy for readers to not just read, but comment, engage and share their content. As the social activity around content increases, it feeds a virtuous cycle of deeper insights that help editors create better, more social content in the future.

Defend CPMs with Social Metric-Based Monetization

Greater insights into the social quality of content can help publishers defend the CPMs they’re trying to get and combat the commoditization of online ad space. In print, the focus was on the circulation metric. Now, the standard is site traffic and referrals.

Comprehensive social metrics enable publishers to see what’s happening to their content once it leaves their site. The ability to prove this expanded reach to new, equally loyal audiences is reflected in higher CPMs.

Publishers need to leverage this proof to restore the balance between producing high quality content and their current fixation on page views. There is a way to get the monetization that great content merits.

In the days of traditional, print media, advertisers shaped editorial direction. They put up the money and they got the control. That model is evolving in a highly engaged, multiplatform social environment and the publisher and online editor don’t have that same level of control. Comprehensive social metrics puts them back in control, allowing the model to evolve.

With a greater understanding of their social audiences, publishers can improve the quality of their content, distribute it to more channels and actually attract the CPMs they deserve. Amid the noise and chaos of the social Web, tapping into the metrics that measure engagement and the social quality of content can actually help publishers.

The key for publishers is to use comprehensive metrics that don’t focus on a single platform to truly understand how their content spreads and returns traffic through social media.  

 

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