How one viral publisher uses Facebook groups to grow big numbers
Facebook traffic tricks come and go. Crowdsourced publisher Blasting News, which produces a staggering 23,000 general-news and entertainment stories a month in 24 languages, is paying people to distribute its content through niche interest groups.
Since last June, Blasting News has recruited roughly 1,000 people who manage groups, mostly on Facebook, on topics covered by the news and entertainment site, like politics, lifestyle, health, beauty, technology and entertainment. Group owners — largely based in Brazil, but a growing number are coming from France and the U.S. — are vetted by the company, Blasting News said.
“It’s not an open program, and we don’t want it to be because we know it could start spamming people,” said Andrea Manfredi, founder and CEO of Blasting News. “We’re doing this in a healthy way; it’s sustainable and legitimately good for readers.”
The company attributes a lot of its growth from the second half of last year to the distribution led by these “social blasters,” which drives clicks back to the site. The Blasting News Facebook page itself only has a small following of 50,000. According to Manfredi, if the quality of traffic brought back by the social blaster is low, such as high bounce rates and low dwell times, they are kicked off the program. As groups are closed, viewing how people engage within them is not easy. ComScore figures for Blasting News in the U.S. show that unique monthly visitors to its own platform doubled to 3 million in July. Global figures are a lot higher. Most of its traffic is driven by Brazil, where in January comScore ranked it as the is the second-most popular general-news site.
Blasting News doesn’t have a huge sales force, but a core global team of 36, a mix of tech, commercial and content managers. Instead, it taps into programmatic ad exchanges. Visiting a Blasting News article can be a bracing experience, with content confined to a narrow well, hemmed in by in-banner video, multiple display ads, several Taboola widgets.
The company was unwilling to disclose how much money it pays group owners. Blasting News has a contributor network model where its global 2,500 writers are paid up to €11 ($11.70) per article, based on traffic generated. This earned it funding from Google’s Innovation Fund. According to Manfredi, all stories are checked first by a proprietary technology that detects plagiarism, then passed to one of 200 editors, before going live. In January, 5,000 submitted stories never made it to the site. Even so, the site has been flagged as “untrustworthy,” despite Manfredi stressing it has a zero-tolerance attitude to fake news and click-baiting.
This hyper-targeting via micro-influencers in closed groups skirts paying Facebook for reach, and the content is less vulnerable to algorithmic changes than elsewhere on the platform. However, like other audience “growth hacks,” targeting groups doesn’t play by Facebook’s rules, which introduced a branded-content tool in April 2016 so that publishers can disclose easily when a post had been sponsored by a brand. “That tool sits in …read more