Entertainment and lifestyle publishers thrive even as interest in hard news spikes
By Ross Benes
One publisher’s gain doesn’t have to be another publisher’s loss.
With politics — and specifically President Donald Trump — commanding so much attention, it is reasonable to expect that publishers who don’t focus on hard news would see a drop in traffic. But data indicates that non-hard news publishers haven’t suffered from the public’s intensified interest in political news. Sources told Digiday that soft news has maintained user attention as the line between entertainment and politics continues to blur, new platforms have extended publisher reach, and people need a respite from depressing or stressful news.
“People are moving forward with their lives,” said Bustle CEO Bryan Goldberg. “Young people are incredibly aware politically, but they are not going to let this administration come between them and their daily lives.”
For better or for worse, Donald Trump became a must-watch phenomenon during the presidential election. As Trump rose to power, news-driven publishers saw a boom in traffic and subscriptions, which led some of them to create politics-themed verticals.
Data from Keywee shows that hard-news publishers had higher click-through rates on their Facebook articles than soft-news publishers around the time of the election. But since the election, the click-through rates for soft-news publishers have climbed back up. Netta Kivilis, vp of marketing at Keywee, speculated that soft news may have had higher click-through rates in December and January due to a “combination of holidays and [people] being tired of Trump.”
Newswhip data also showed a lack of engagement drop-off for lifestyle pubs. And comScore numbers show that gains among top hard-news publishers are in line with gains in other sectors.
According to comScore, on average, the 10 most-visited hard-news publishers of December 2016 had about 2 percent more visitors than the 10 most-visited news publishers of December 2015. Similarly, the top lifestyle publishers, on average, had a 3 percent audience growth. Top entertainment pubs had higher growth, at 11 percent year-over-year on average, but their overall audiences are much smaller than top news and lifestyles publishers.
In past elections, a growth in entertainment traffic could be seen as people distracting themselves from the political news cycle. But traffic by category has become trickier to calculate as the lines between hard and soft news continue to blur. After all, a reality TV star is now the American president. As the lines between categories blur, publishers outside the traditional hard-news realm have found a bigger role in commenting on the news.
“Celebrities, artists, fashion designers, they are very much part of the conversation about the election and the changes upon which the world is embarking,” Goldberg said. According to Goldberg, Bustle had between 40 million to 45 million unique monthly visitors from September through December, and January will be the most-trafficked month in the website’s history, bringing in roughly 55 million uniques. ComScore data also shows that Bustle traffic grew incrementally from September through December.
A publishing analyst who requested anonymity said that people are unusually attuned to media right now. So a rise in political coverage …read more