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September 16, 2021updated 07 Nov 2023 5:42am

How to grow audience and find new content channels: Future of Media Technology highlights

By Freddy Mayhew

The first of Press Gazette’s Future of Media Technology series saw our panel discuss how publishers can increase audience engagement and maximise revenues through content syndication.

The webinar was hosted by Press Gazette editor-in-chief Dominic Ponsford, with the following panellists:

  • Robert Hahn, director of business affairs and platform partnerships at Guardian News and Media
  • Federica Cherubini, head of leadership development at Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism
  • Martin Ashplant, managing director of product at GlobalData Media
  • Phil Crumm, senior vice president of marketing and growth at 10up.

Panel highlights

A snap audience poll asked: “What’s the most important platform for your business, revenue-wise?” The responses (47) were:

  • 45% Google
  • 28% LinkedIn
  • 21% Facebook
  • 2% Apple News

According to Cherubini, three-quarters of people access news through a “side door which is not directly controlled by publishers” – including search and social – and this group is growing, up 2% this year. The figure rises to 80% for younger audiences.

Facebook is still a leading platform for news, but this is declining. Facebook is “becoming less important for news” while “visual networks” like Instagram and TikTok are on the rise, where users are getting their news through celebrities and other online personalities, she said.

Hahn said Google’s News Showcase, paying member publishers a share of $1bn over three years, had “offered a material change in terms of our revenue mix” from a licencing point of view for its Australian operation.

The Guardian has not signed a deal with Google in the UK, however. “Like any of these deals it’s a long process of evaluation and balance or risk and reward and a dialogue continues with those platforms,” he said.

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LinkedIn: “If you’re a b2b publisher, there is probably no better platform…”

Martin Ashplant, managing director of product at GlobalData Media, said LinkedIn had particular value for B2B publishers when it comes to reaching “MVPs” in markets served by niche publications.

[Read more: Platform Profile – LinkedIn News: Editor Daniel Roth on what site has to offer business publications]

“What I find really valuable about LinkedIn is it allows you to reach those niche audiences. And if you get it right they become your advocates really quickly,” he said.

“You can get to the ten most important people in a particular sector, then just by virtue of them sharing your content or putting it out to their network you then reach all the others, who you perhaps don’t even know, because they’ve done the hard work for you by creating those networks.

“I think LinkedIn is as a means to get really high-value, engaged, niche interest audiences is really valuable.”

He added: “One thing I would say is that, from what I’ve seen, in terms of engagement it still seems to be most effective when you actually have an individual sharing content.

“So it’s an individual within that network, saying: ‘Have you seen this?’ that seems to have a much higher cut through than you as a publication or as an organisation. So getting it in front of those advocates is key.”

Crumm said: “If you’re a b2b publisher, there is probably no better platform to spend your time trying to build an audience on [than LinkedIn].

“It is especially unique and exciting because the distribution of journalism and content on LinkedIn is still relatively new, it’s not something that a lot of publishers are taking advantage of. So the signal to noise ratio that you get as a reader is significantly better. To put that in another way, there are a lot fewer things competing for the eyeballs of folks who do want to engage.”

He said the social network for professionals also offered publishers the unique ability to reach out to MVPs and contact them directly.

Apple News: ‘It’s very difficult to monetise through effectively…’

Crumm said what he termed more “traditional portals”, such as Apple News, are “seldom worth our clients’ time at this point”, saying the engagement with content was “pretty trivial”.

[Read more: Platform profile – Apple News: The traffic is ‘incredible’ – but money is ‘particularly bad’]

“I think there might be a particular class of… quick production journalism that could win a volume game through some of those portals,” he said.

“But knowing that, one, there are a lot of large publishers being syndicated through there who are probably going to get name recognition and thus attention prior to your content, and two, it is just becoming less and less a place where people look for news these days, it’s a little bit of a hard value proposition for most of the folks that we work with.”

Crumm said that in its early days Apple News saw good levels of engagement with content. “Apple did a good job of building some excitement around Apple news, driving a lot of audience into the app. And there was a period of time where there was not a lot of content published on it, so you could do pretty well there.

“As it’s matured it and as it’s become more table stakes for a lot of publishers, many of our clients [have] found that it’s very difficult to monetise through effectively. And it’s almost impossible to take that audience and continue to engage with it down the road to build a deeper relationship with them to sell them subscription products, or however it is your business monetises.”

But he said “for sheer brand recognition or name recognition, and given that it is not a lot of engineering effort on the whole to get your content in Apple news, it’s still probably worth [joining]”.

Guardian: Being on Apple News in US has ‘paid dividends’

Federica Cherubini said the relevance of platforms to a publisher varies across the world, with mobile aggregators having a powerful position in many Asian markets with players that aren’t seen as relevant in Western markets.

Apple News has grown significantly in the US, she said, where the platform reaches a third of iPhone users.

“To me, the crucial question for each publisher is not only in what context they operate geographically, but also what kind of different audiences they have on different platforms, and really thinking much more specifically, not as the audience [as one thing] but a lot of different segments”.

She said publishers should look at applying “specific user engagement strategies according to what the audience looks for and wants on specific platforms”.

Hahn said the  Guardian had taken a “local market approach” to Apple News. “In terms of the strategic direction of The Guardian, its model is not an obvious fit for us,” he said, “however, in the US where we have been seeking to clearly build a brand and build a market, we are in Apple [News] and that has paid dividends.”

Remaining events in the series

  • 16 September, 3pm: Life after cookies: Why publishers should act now to update their AdTech
  • 23 September, 3pm: Content management in the age of digital disruption
  • 30 September, 3pm: What are the latest and most lucrative online subscription strategies?

Visit the Future of Media Technology event website to find out more and book a place.

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