Media fragmentation has impacted all players in significant ways. We have fully landed in a “pull” media economy where consumers are no longer beholden to the programming dictates of the vertically integrated behemoths in the traditional “push” economy. With consumers more in control of when and where they access their content, the consequence for publishers has been profound.
Nowadays much content consumption begins for consumers on Facebook, Twitter, Redditt and other social platforms whereby they are often redirected to publisher sites. And with the recent launch of Facebook’s Instant Articles on mobile, the prospect grows of even less traffic to publisher sites.
Consumers are increasingly forming relationships at the article level and media brands are becoming decreasingly wired into the synapses of consumer brains and there’s little to no brand loyalty. What is popular today may be virtually gone tomorrow. Think of all the flavor-of-the-month media brands—MySpace and Digg to name two-- that are all shells of their former five-years-ago selves.
While the steep decline of the most popular sites would naturally get the most attention, the demise of smaller, more narrowly focused online ventures like local online news sites is frequent, which for me, really shines a light on the notion that content, while consumed online at greater rates than ever before, garners very little lasting brand loyalty.
This makes publishers increasingly vulnerable to failure. To further the point, according to a report from SimilarWeb, many of the top content publishers have seen recent traffic declines. The BBC, New York Times and Huffington Post were some of the more prominent brands that saw traffic drop from March to April earlier this year.
Let's face it, it's difficult to build a digital brand and grow and keep an audience, no matter how great the content may be. The Internet as a medium seems to create new business models frequently forcing publishers to pivot in order to stay relevant.
Many publishers have struggled to accept that powerful distribution may be becoming more important than powerful brand. Publishers now need to pivot to expand their audiences beyond their owned-and-operated properties by purposing their content via a broad, strategic distribution model.
Let’s look at video content as an example. It shouldn’t matter where people see a publisher’s videos whether on television, YouTube, the company's Website or a third party site. A distribution model extends a publisher's reach and revenue opportunity beyond their O&Os. Vice Media has been one of the early adopters and its shining success is a validation of the power of video online and broad distribution beyond O & O’s as a viable monetization strategy.
And while distribution has helped Vice rise to become an industry giant, smaller publishers can also take advantage; the more obscure WatchMoJo.com is an example of a successful content distribution model at work. They create great video content and then find ways to monetize through ads and licensing on their O&Os, YouTube, TV, web syndication and other platforms—including cabs and malls-- where they augment audiences and grow revenue. Its success probably won't show up on comScore rankings, but WatchMoJo has built a sustainable model and business that others should take notice of and analyze for their own success.
Content is still king, but not without an ever-growing audience consuming it. So imagine what the multiplier effect of this distribution paradigm would mean if you're a Buzzfeed, Mashable, ViralNova, or another one of the bigger content sites currently sitting atop the Web mountain. In real estate, it’s always been location, location, location. In digital media, it is now all about distribution, distribution and distribution.