Don’t just survive: A three-step publisher strategy to beat Facebook at its own game
Get a group of digital publishers together, and you won’t get five minutes into the conversation without someone addressing the elephant in the room — Facebook. You’ll hear that their audiences are spending more time on Facebook, advertising dollars are getting vacuumed up, and that Facebook is unilaterally resetting the terms of their relationship, sending dwindling audience numbers to publisher sites while politely threatening to hold their content hostage with Instant Articles.
But that’s not the surprising part. The surprising part is what comes next, when publishers say: “how can we work more with Facebook?”
Publishers publicly treat Facebook like their oldest frenemy, but in their own board rooms their smartest minds can’t map out an endgame that leads to a positive conclusion.
Great Content is Imperative — But It’s Not Enough
Let’s recognize that publishers have to capture the hearts, minds, and attention of their users to survive. They do that everyday with content, and there’s no substitute for creating great content, any more than a restaurant can find a substitute for serving great food.
But just creating more content, or better content, isn’t enough.
While everyday people should recognize the shining light of true, civic journalism and reward it, that’s not the reality. If digital publishers want to win, then media companies need to think bigger. In fact, they need to think like tech companies.
Publishers say they want to be better data and technology companies. That’s the right thing to say, but understanding the call-to-action that lurks beneath those simple slogans is what’s missing today. To do that, we should focus on the three details that Facebook itself thinks matter most – Personalization, Data and Automation:
The magic of Facebook is not simply social, but lies in its personalization. Every person who logs into Facebook sees something different. The same goes for social platforms like LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter. We take this customization for granted, but it’s personalization that makes Facebook irresistible.
Now think about what happens when you log into the New York Times. Even if you’re a paying subscriber and registered user (which, I urge you to be), you see the same news that anyone else sees. Granted, news is a different animal from cat photos and baby updates: publishers have a journalistic responsibility to deliver the news of the day. To achieve any semblance of an informed citizenry, we need a common view on what’s important.
Like most publishers, the deep levels of personalization are absent in the actual content, and appear only in the advertising. For example, the Times relies on deep layers of user targeting, creative media testing, and personalization, even though most of those ads are completely ignored.
Despite generations of attempts by media companies, personalization remains largely uncracked in publishing. As with Facebook, users don’t want a generic version and a personalized version. They want one version. The one they see every time they log in, that adapts to the mode they’re …read more