“Ceding control of content inevitably means making compromises, not just in the way the content is presented, but what happens to the data the content creates.”
For many in the publishing industry, it’s a tough idea to wrap your head around. There are some vocal voices questioning the value of having a homepage, as distributed content becomes the norm and a handful of publishers ditch their websites in favor of social channels.
“Even maintaining a website could be abandoned in favour of hyperdistribution. The distinction between platforms and publishers will melt completely,” said Emily Bell of the Columbia Journalism School, according to this article by Ashley Norris in Fipp.
From a distribution point of view, the idea may have merit…publishers are sharing their content like crazy anyways, tired of struggling to get readers to engage onsite when they can simply connect entirely on Instagram. And now with Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News making it even more alluring (and maybe profitable, although the jury’s still out), publishers may see some value in this approach.
Yet there are pitfalls in the road, with one critic going to far as to call the idea “suckerdom.”
“For many publishers the growth of the content-driven social platforms (from Facebook’s Instant Articles to Twitter’s Moments) is bittersweet. Sure, many have seen huge leaps in traffic and engagement, but ceding control of content inevitably means making compromises, not just in the way the content is presented, but what happens to the data the content creates,” Norris cautions, although she cites several brands that are trying this idea of a wholly distributed content strategy.
“If you have a small audience and are just replicating the work you do on social, then it’s a waste of money; you’re better off trying to increase engagement on your social channels,” said Phil Mitchelson of Copa 90 at a Content Marketing Association event. “Admittedly, sometimes social channels change their algorithms and your audience drops, but learning how to gain your fans attention again is all part of the challenge.”
It’s a bit dicey to say the least. Let’s not forget two critical things that got the industry into its current state: 1) publishers giving away their content for free; and 2) trying to recoup by selling cheap ads. Not only did this train an entire generation to think of free content as their right, it also fostered the ad-heavy mobile bloat that turned this same generation into rabid ad blockers and spawned the digital ad meltdown. So, where’s the revenue going to come from again? Oh, right, the data, which publishers now are giving away too. Hmmmmmmmm.