Today’s publishers are focused on creating high-quality content to meet consumer demand and retain viewers in an evolving video landscape. With all the consolidation that’s happening in media, publishers have realized they can’t be entirely dependent on social platforms to drive traffic, and furthermore, have little control over the environment in which their content is surfaced to viewers. As a result, it’s more important than ever for digital publishers to drive the conversation with platforms and ensure that they work to create a better environment that provides context about sources and legitimacy of content.
But while it’s easy to talk about creating this environment, publishers and platforms must work together to show any actionable results and really drive this change. Platforms need to shift gears and focus on how to surface premium content, in a way that is more beneficial to publishers.
With Facebook’s news feed algorithm change earlier in the year, plus user questions around the role of social media in “fake news” and low-quality content, digital media has come to a critical fork in the road. One where user loyalty can fluctuate daily, depending on their interactions with platforms. Consumers need to feel they can trust the platforms they are on and the publishers whose content they read. And for both publishers and platforms, this should be a wake-up call. If you don’t work together to rebuild trust, not only will you lose views, but also your user base.
Finding the right balance with user-generated content
While a key selling point for platforms is users’ ability to upload their own content to share with their network, platforms must also find a way to moderate and facilitate the content being shared. The first step in rebuilding trust is a balance between user-generated content and premium, quality content. Once that understanding is established, publishers must work alongside platforms to build a model that more successfully connects viewers with trusted publishers. This would mark a significant shift away from platforms’ historically lopsided focus on traffic monetization at the expense of providing trusted, quality content to viewers. It’s on publishers today to take the reins and drive that conversation with platforms in order to ensure that they increase visibility and transparency to consumers about why they are getting the recommendations they are seeing.
The media arms race and consolidation only hurts consumers
The really big platforms are not hurting for supply, yet consumers still struggle to find content that’s relevant to them from trusted sources. Even though recent consolidation in media may improve business terms with the Big two platforms, digital media publishers still only account for a portion of the content available on these platforms. Eventually, this hurts consumers who lose out on having access to multiple trusted sources, contributor opinion and content. Platforms should think about how media is consumed in general — not just on their platforms — but how they can help consumers find content they can trust. This will ultimately benefit everyone and their bottom line in the end, as building dedicated and safe environments for publishers to share their content only increases the value of the audience and CPMs.
Put consumers first
Ultimately, publishers and platforms must work together to create and distribute content in contextual, trustworthy environments. In doing so, they are placing the needs of consumers first. Platforms inherently make their feeds trickier for publishers to navigate, in a push to focus on what they think a user wants to see at the top. And while a user-friendly interface is key, for publishers, it makes it harder to navigate the terrain. Having no influence over the content that appears next to their own posts on platforms proves to be tricky – especially if content is associated with negative material. And not only does it result in a context switch for the user, but it can create a sticky situation for the publisher.
The bottom line: publishers are recognized for their credibility and clout, and platforms are struggling to regain consumer trust in the wake of 2018. Rather than focusing on advertising negotiations with platforms, publishers need to remember that their credibility is their biggest negotiation lever. In 2019, they should look to leverage this for better discoverability, more relevant and trustworthy recommendations, and a better contextual environment. This ultimately leads to higher revenue.
If platforms can take a step back and focus on the best way to surface publisher content, they can begin to organically regain consumer trust.