With the migration from a large print audience to a large digital audience, publishers have had to adapt their approach when connecting with their audience. Their digital revenue models have shifted, and so has content distribution.

Print ad revenues have fallen for The Economist, and digital ad revenues have yet to make up for this loss. The Economist is not the only publisher who is struggling to generate revenue, The Guardian, whilst successful in their digital presence, have “managed to build a big reputation but no revenue”. Even The New York Times, who have more than 1.5 million digital-only subscriptions, say that;

“But such success isn’t enough, apparently. Transitions never go fast or far enough – unless of course they go too far, too fast.”  Peter Preston, The Guardian

So what is the secret to publishers increasing their digital revenue?

There are a few obvious priorities that digital publishers should adopt, according to Penmaen Media:

  • Mobile ease and speed
  • Visual and audio
  • Subscription and membership
  • Events and networking
  • Data, analytics, and insight
  • Marketing solutions
  • Import tech thinking

Although each point is valid, the word on the street is that subscription and insight of your audience are the golden nuggets to close the gap between content exposure and revenue.

Digiday talks to The Economist and discusses how The Economist aims to turn social visitors into subscribers.

“The Economist is very clear about what it wants out of platforms: to reach non-subscribers and give them samples of Economist content to eventually turn into more subscribers.”  Lucinda Southern, Digiday

These samples of content are best distributed on social media platforms. The Economist have grown their social media followers by 25% in the last year, across platforms such as Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and LinkedIn. One strategy is to have a metered paywall that allows non-subscribers to see a limited number of articles per week. The debate that now arises, is just how much content to give away for free.

Michael Brunt, The Economist’s CMO and managing director of circulation, says;

“Converting through Facebook is cost-effective and scalable. It’s a soft sell as they are already slightly engaged. Then it’s appropriate to ask them to subscribe.” 

By providing a portion of free content, the ad scale is increased and you reach new readers. A seemingly balanced mix for increasing subscription numbers.

The Washington Post is also investing in their relationship with social media to increase content, exposure, and subscribers. The Washington Post plans to break news on Snapchat through their Snapchat Discover team (the media section of Snapchat) which offers daily content from a number of publishers.

Christopher Meighan, director of emerging news products for The Washington Post, comments on this development;

“Social platforms are so in the moment, to not have a breaking news presence, seemed to be a gap that needed to be filled.”

With breaking news as the area of focus, the plan is to pump out multiple daily editions for the platform every day of the week.

Publishers, acknowledging the need to integrate their content with social media to build subscribers, are reaching out to various building tools to allow them to build their business. NewsWhip is one tool available, tracking the trending stories and themes on these platforms, and sharing the data with publishers and brands to develop their editorial strategy.

Quigley, NewsWhip’s CEO, has remarked;

“Across the media ecosystem, NewsWhip is replacing hunches and guesswork with hard data and predictions. Each minute, we’re matching content and stories with the people who need to know about them. Our long tail data helps shape editorial strategy at the most important media outlets and brands.”

It seems that a new love-affair is springing up in media – let’s hope that publishers and social media have a happy ever after.

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