Social media has seen the good and bad in 2014. Earlier labelled as a boon for publishers to gain organic reach, sadly, the same no more holds true. Facebook has dropped its reach and more so attention spans have dropped on the medium.
2014 also witnessed the growth of listicle sites like ScoopWhoop, StoryPick and BuzzFeed opening stores in India. Social media stared paying attention to such publications posing a tough challenge for online as well as offline publishers. “The competition is indeed high, and these sites cater to the biggest challenge for any mainstream media outlet — attention span. Buzzfeed, Upworthy, and their Indian copycats have done a great job in attracting new audiences, with just the right kind of short-attention-span content,” said Sachin Kalbag, Editor, Mid Day in a recent conversation with Lighthouse Insights.
2015 will be different with mobile playing a bigger role and publishers focusing more on drawing traffic to their properties rather than diverting it to networks. To understand how social media will evolve for online publishers in 2015, LI spoke to a few of them. Listed below are the edited excerpts.
Nikhil Pahwa, Founder & Editor, Medianama.com
So much of 2014 has been focused on building a presence on Social Media and incorporating sharing via Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. This is important because on Mobile, Social Media is more impactful as a mode of discovery than Search, and Internet usage in India is growing faster on Mobile than on the web.
More important than how social media will evolve for publishers, I think it’ll be interesting to see if publishers try and evolve outside of Social Media in 2015. Why this is important is that gradually companies like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn will try and compete with or even absorb content from Publishers. LinkedIn has its own publishing platform, Facebook recently asked publishers to publish directly on its site in exchange for advertising revenue share, and Twitter might embed news articles directly in the timeline.
This is dangerous because it takes our audience away from our sites, and reduces our direct monetization ability. Publishers need to develop their own newsletter bases, because that’s a direct relationship with a reader. We saw the first signs of this in 2014, with Times Internet creating newsletters for ET Retail. If publishers are smarter, we’ll see more of this in 2015.
Arun Prabhudesai, Founder, Trak.in
Social Media has now become an integral part of any web publisher’s branding and “attracting visitors” strategy. Many publishers took (and are still taking) advantage of viral nature of these platforms and adopt click bait strategies to drive millions of visitors originating from Facebook, Twitter and others. However, the social platforms are also evolving - they are tweaking their algorithms to weed out low quality content.
In my view, Social media platforms will increasingly get better at identifying good content from a low quality ones, and they will further improve how (and which) content has to be presented to their visitors.
2015 will be all about engagement and quality rather than quantity (Likes, Shares, RTs). You will increasingly see better quality content in your social timelines - you will see what is interesting and relevant to you. For web publishers, it is important to be patient and concentrate only on quality content.
In my view 2015 will mark an end to fake followers and bought likes - It will be all organic!
B. G. Mahesh, Founder & MD, Oneindia.com
Twitter & Facebook will become a very important source of information for online publishers. For every journo it is important to write things based on what people are talking about in the real world. Very important for publishers to be able to feel the pulse of the people – what can be a better source than social media?
Crowd sourcing always takes things to a very high level, social media as a source of information can really bring in a difference to publishers.
It is important for publishers not to blindly jump to conclusion on what they read on social media. One has to verify the facts before publishing content from social media.
Anshul Tewari, Founder, YouthKiAwaaz.com
I think publishing in 2015 will be more about mobile than about web based publishing. Organizations are already adapting to faster, more streamlined mobile publishing techniques and come 2015, the industry will definitely see this shift in India as well. I also feel that for many small publishers the opportunity is ripe now to develop a niche.
Looking at how India has seen a surge of publishers such as Scoopwhoop and Scroll, it is evident that the next big market for online publishing is India - specially with Quartz and Huffington Post setting base here. The market as well as the business opportunity is getting hotter by the moment.
Sachin Kalbag, Editor, Mid Day
Organic reach growth on social media has slowed, but I do not think it is dying. What is happening is the transformation of a media-brand-loyal based viewing to curated viewing. It is this that is mostly driving the new traffic to news sites.
The real trouble for media houses is that in the online space, there is little or no loyalty. Therefore, social media took on a new significance in 2014. It will continue to grow in 2015, too, and perhaps at a faster rate. Advertising will necessarily have to follow suit (it already is doing so in many cases), and social media’s importance as a driver of traffic will assume greater importance. (These thoughts are a part of the extended interview with Sachin on social media, technology and how listicle sites like Buzzfeed are challenging mainstream media.)
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