Publishers, This Is Your Ticket to Content Diversity

Sometimes 2018 has felt like a broken record. It seems every industry shift this year has been a result of Facebook's friends-and-family algorithm change. The January update put publishers on a scrambled path to diversify their distribution strategy, and in turn, the entire digital ecosystem changed its course. For one, search made a comeback, and that's been an exciting change. It's invigorating because it's a signal that readers are willing to consume content outside of the platforms — a shift from the tug of war we've been seeing these past few years between brands, new media companies, and platforms that are all trying to claim the upper hand.


But publishers are still trying to navigate exactly how to diversify their content away from platforms, including Google. BuzzFeed News CEO Ben Smith recently told Digiday that there is no "silver bullet" strategy for mature media companies looking for the right way to prioritize the platforms. Each and every web property needs a diverse business model to grow. "We were very dependent on Facebook in 2013. We've become steadily less dependent on them. Our strategy is to figure out quality news on every platform," Smith said.

BuzzFeed News' mission to find the right way to deliver their content on every platform is what publishers should be focused on as 2018 comes to a close. It's quite the puzzle to figure out exactly how to prioritize social channels and content outlets, and sometimes the data can be confusing.

Diverging Data

Content creators for brands, new media companies, and news outlets already have a lot on their plate. They need to not only create quality content, but also stay on top of their readers' emotional temperature with the platforms. While data shows that users check social media primarily to keep up with friends and family, 41% still say they use social to check out the latest news — and that can include updates from any type of page they follow. Let's take a look at the latest shifts in social, and the strategic questions they ask.

Video: The pivot to video created a shockwave throughout the publishing world. But the dramatic all-in strategy shift proved to be misguided in the end. Nearly two years later, confidential information made public in October 2018 revealed that Facebook may have grossly overblown metrics when the rush to video first began.

Still, recent data indicates that video ad revenue now accounts for 25% of all digital advertising in the United States. The report from eMarketer shows Facebook and Instagram's video ad revenue will make up around twice that of YouTube's, at $6.81 billion. YouTube is positioned to make $3.36 billion this year. So should publishers be focusing on a video monetization strategy?

Chart from eMarketer.

Instagram: While this year has been rocky for Facebook, 2018 has definitely been the year of Instagram. IGTV launched to give YouTube a run for its money, and Instagram Stories began to race ahead of Snapchat. This year, the platform served as a reprieve from Facebook, with less content saturation and a more personal, easier-to-understand algorithm. The viewership speaks volumes, too.

Check out these figures from PR Daily:

  • Instagram has more than 1 billion monthly active users (MAUs) or more than 13% of the Earth's population.
  • The typical user spends an average of 55 minutes per day on Instagram.
  • User engagement is 58 times bigger on Instagram compared to Facebook, and engagement per follower is 120 times more compared to Twitter.
  • 72% of Instagram users have bought a product they saw advertised on the app.
  • Instagram currently has over 25 million active business profiles.

With such impressive stats — 55 minutes per day using one app! — should your content strategy prioritize Instagram?

Facebook: Facebook's crazy year has been well documented. Thanks to the Cambridge Analytica scandal and #DeleteFacebook movement, the platform has had a hard time regaining trust. Regardless, it's where a lot of everyone's audience lives.

In August, Facebook went down for nearly an hour in Europe and North America. According to Chartbeat, during that time direct traffic to news sites increased 11%, and search traffic to news sites increased 8%. This illustrates how much of a massive audience there still is on Facebook. It's an audience that doesn't just read news, but is also willing to engage with quality content that's relevant to their interests.

With so much traffic living on Facebook, should you still be spending time and resources figuring out the tricky ways to grow organically and monetize on the platform?

The answers to these questions lie in the hands of publishers.

What's the Right Answer?

While the data and messaging may vary around the social climate, one thing is clear: People are still consuming content on the platforms. It's why Apple News is trying to court more publishers who have grown cold toward Facebook. Despite Apple News' efforts, publishers are still wary, citing this common problem with the platforms:

"Working with platforms is a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't proposition. Publishers don't want to invest a lot in a platform, only to get little audience or revenue in return. On the other hand, if things go too well, the publisher is dependent on the platform that calls the shots, putting a lot of its business at risk if the platform makes a business decision that adversely affects the publisher. Publishers are aware of being burned before and have wised up."

—Lucia Moses, Digiday

With publishers wising up, and platforms still controlling a large audience block, where does digital go in 2019?

Answer #1: The Right Technology

The easiest answer is to create content on a full-stack tech solution that's designed for both social distribution and sustainable site growth. As we enter the next year, there can no longer be two separate boxes: tech and strategy. They have to work together to navigate algorithm changes, fickle readership, and complete platform disruptions.

Answer #2: Don't Give up on Platforms Entirely

At RebelMouse, we power media properties that are growing tremendously on Facebook. Instead of discrediting the platform entirely, we've leveraged the audience that still lives on it. We recently were able to experiment with video in Instant Articles to not only grow engagement, but web traffic and SEO, too. It's how we merge mediums to maximize their potential.

We have other clients moving the needle with subscription models, content hubs, and community-based networks. The answer to the questions above isn't about where to prioritize, but rather how to cater each piece of content to the platform or medium that makes the most sense for your business. It requires a deep understanding of your site's own universe of creators, and leveraging their passion to build organic loyalty and real audience growth.

A snapshot of how RebelMouse clients grew on Facebook in 2018.

Answer #3: Mix up Monetization

Diversifying also means not relying on a single-layer monetization strategy. Instead of investing in internal development teams and a custom, in-house CMS, it's important to focus on lean tech that will solve all your problems at an enterprise level without legacy costs. RebelMouse is a lean-tech solution that cannot only create a fully customizable site, but also can give you developer guidance, design, content strategy, and, most importantly, free up resources to allow you to experiment with new revenue streams.

By blending tech and strategy, our clients aren't vulnerable to the whims of the platforms. Distribution and content diversification is built into our product. Our CMS is structured so every article is set up for success on site, search, and social, and optimized completely by the content creator. Get ahead of the next big pendulum swing in this tumultuous ecosystem that's bound to change many times more in the coming year. Request a proposal to see how we can help you today. We also offer our traffic-focused strategy services without the need for a full site replatform.

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Why RebelMouse Is the Best Content Marketing Platform

RebelMouse is a unique platform and company. The company was founded on the vision that media companies would need an always-modern solution to thrive in the new connected internet, and that brands would have to behave like new media companies and use the same platforms.

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How to Update Groups and Users

Easily adjust your group settings and user profiles from Posts dashboard

The content lifecycle is rarely a solo effort. This is why RebelMouse supports a network of online communities to streamline the publishing workflow among administrators, content creators, and everyone in between. Learn more about our online communities here.

Managing many creators means constant change. To help meet this need, we've provided you with the ability to view, edit, or ban user profiles within a community or group.

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Keep Readers Informed With Date Modified Element

This element will make sure readers know when an article is updated

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A Modern Story of Web Performance From RebelMouse Founder + CEO Andrea Breanna

If I had more time, this website would have loaded faster

In the first months of 2020, we've focused at RebelMouse on page speed and performance. We worked very hard and found ways to take 90% of the sites we power to 90+ performance scores via Google's PageSpeed Insights tool — even with sites that are loaded with ads, embeds, third-party analytics, and other typical slow-loading elements. You can read more about our victories here.

A few months after we started this process, COVID-19 hit the world very hard. Suddenly, every media company was faced with a huge problem: Advertising fell off a cliff in what seemed like seconds. The only way to survive this unprecedented downturn is to grow traffic and control costs at the same time. So we started to shave our code and made our websites faster. We dropped costs just as dramatically as we were increasing scores.

Here are some surprises we found when doing this: If you want truly exceptional performance, none of the JavaScript and CSS frameworks that developers love so much make the cut. We thought the React version of RebelMouse was going to be the huge page speed breakthrough, until we realized the only way to achieve this goal was to write the code carefully and refactor it endlessly until it was as short as possible. As any author will tell you, like editing a book or a blog post, the revision process is never really done. By stepping away from frameworks, and methodically shaving vanilla code, our customers continue to see major improvements in performance.

As we announced this to our site network and rolled it out publicly, many of our clients asked me personally, "How did you do it?" The answer is easy to understand regardless of how technical you may be. It's perfectly summarized in this wonderful quote attributed to Mark Twain:

"If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter."
—Blaise Pascal, 1657 (and later, more famously Mark Twain)

The universe is sometimes very beautiful, and especially when you keep it simple. If you would like to start publishing on a site optimized for both speed and sustainability, request a proposal and let's start working together.

How to Format a User’s Joined Date

With RebelMouse's Layout & Design Tool, it's quick and easy to change how a user's information is formatted and displayed on their profile page.

In this post, we'll go through the steps necessary to expose and customize the way a user's joined date is displayed and formatted.

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AMP on the RebelCMS Platform

How to guarantee your media and ads are approved for AMP

RebelMouse makes rich, dynamic and flexible implementations of AMP simple to deploy. The platform has a suite of out of the box tools for editors/journalists/creators as well as tools for developers and product managers.

Easy to Enable Rich AMP Options on Any Post

RebelMouse makes it easy for product managers to quickly design AMP pages that outperform industry standards with an average of five pages per user. With the RebelCMS, you can choose to enable AMP by default or implement it across articles individually with one click in our Entry Editor. This level of granular control sets us apart from other CMS solutions and allows you to decide how deep you'd like to go with AMP.

Pure AMP (Canonical AMP) Features out of the Box

To maximize the speed benefits of AMP, RebelMouse also provides a way to force AMP for mobile and desktop traffic on a per-article basis. When enabled, traffic for the article will be redirected to the AMP version of the page for better performance.

Google will still see your AMP-enabled pages as usual and provide all of the normal benefits for search, but now you'll also get faster-loading pages that increase user engagement and drop bounce rates regardless of the traffic source.

Simplified AMP Layout Creation and Management

Our Layout & Design tool allows you to easily implement dynamic AMP layouts either through the default canonical usage or when forcing AMP on mobile and/or desktop. Using this tool, it's possible to create complex, multi-column layouts with ease that will be served as lightning-fast AMP pages to your visitors. The RebelCMS intelligently serves the proper layout depending on the device that a visitor is using to view your site's content.

Add Conversion Units to Maximize Audience Retention

Interstitial conversion units can be placed within your content so you can build a mailing list, get leads, or just highlight a new feature to your audience.

Beautiful Support for AMP Stories

The RebelCMS has an gorgeous integration with AMP stories. Read more about that here.

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The RebelMouse Guide to a Modern Instagram Marketing Strategy

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It's estimated that Instagram users spend an average of 53 minutes on the platform each day. That's a lot of time to grab your targeted audience's attention. Whether you're a new media property just getting started, a legacy publisher, or big-box brand, Instagram can be a great way to move the needle on your social engagement strategy.

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Of course, since Instagram is such a visual application, it's essential that your feed has high-quality photos that are visually appealing. Here are some quick tips to help guide and optimize your Instagram marketing strategy for audience growth and engagement.

Refine Your Feed

Apart from maintaining on brand and quality content, all of the best Instagram feeds have one important thing in common: visual consistency. RebelMouse client 7X7 Bay Area is a great example of an Instagram feed with consistently beautiful photography that's equal parts refined and fresh.

Instagram accounts with a harmonious and attractive feed have a higher chance of retaining new visitors and converting them into followers, which helps to grow your brand's account overall.

Here are some tips to achieve visual consistency in your feed:

Use the same font for all text:

It's important to note that it can become visually overwhelming to users if there are too many photos collaged into one picture. The aim is for the feed to not look overcrowded with imagery.

If you would like to use multiple photos for the same post, use the multiple-image post functionality so that users can swipe through photos one at a time.

Try to make sure that each of your Instagram photos has a high resolution so they're clear and sharp. Colors should not be overly saturated, overly opaque, or too zoomed in.

Also, make sure your images are cropped correctly. Here's a link to Instagram's recommended image dimensions.

Find Your Filter Balance

The colors of pictures and videos can be enhanced with editing software, or by using Instagram's built-in filtering options. It's a good idea to be consistent in your editing or use of filters so that your feed maintains color uniformity.

It should be noted that Instagram's own filtering options often result in an overall aesthetic that is too strong, whether it be through the use of contrast, opacity, or saturation.

Too much contrast:

Not enough saturation or too pale:

A good rule of thumb is to not use more than 50% of any filter:

Use On-Brand Captions

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This is a great example of a fun caption that caters to RebelMouse-powered PAPER Magazine's audience. Their use of informal language is fresh and on brand:

Here's a more professional approach from RebelMouse-powered Work It Daily that still keeps the tone on target for their brand and community of support for the modern workforce.

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The usage of hashtags can greatly benefit an Instagram post because it allows the post to be found by users looking for a particular hashtag. This can lead to an increase in traffic to the post, as well as the account as a whole.

Developing Instagram accounts such as Work It Daily can benefit from hashtags.

It's important when using hashtags to make sure that they're relevant to your company overall, as well as to the post's content. Furthermore, it's also a great idea to use different variations of the same key hashtags to capture as much traffic as possible.

One thing to note is that the larger the account, the less necessary hashtags are since the account will already have a large reach. Figuring out how many hashtags to use will require a little trial and error, but the main takeaway here is that the number of hashtags to use is not static and will need to change over time as an account grows.

Currently, the limit on hashtags is set at 30 per post.

Aim for Engagement

Interaction with followers and other Instagram users who comment and like your content is also an extremely important part of a successful Instagram marketing strategy.

Instagram's algorithm currently prioritizes accounts with high levels of interaction. The greater the amount of interaction, the more your account's content will get prioritized when appearing in a user's feed.

Post New Content Regularly

Regularly posting new content shows users that a particular Instagram account is active, which is especially important for media and news companies that need to demonstrate to their users that their content is relevant and up to date. Besides helping to increase followers, this practice also helps accounts maintain their current followers.

One thing to always keep in mind when deciding when to post is that "quality over quantity" should always prevail. It's much more efficient to have two great posts a week with high levels of visibility and engagement versus five posts with low visibility and engagement.

Instagram Stories and IGTV

One of Instagram's newest and most popular features is IGTV. To access IGTV, tap the IGTV button located in the navigation bar of your search page.

From there, you'll be brought to a personalized feed of curated IGTV content. The content is pulled in from accounts you follow who have IGTV content, as well as IGTV content from similar accounts that you're not following.

Because a user's IGTV feed is composed of content from both accounts a user follows and new accounts that post similar content, any IGTV content that appears in a non-following user's feed has a greater-than-normal chance of seeing the person view the content and converting into a follower. This makes IGTV one of the most effective Instagram post-types in terms of user growth, since it provides higher levels of accessibility, opportunity, and possibility to reach new users. IGTV will soon feature in-stream ads as well.

Create IGTV Content

Although any sort of format can be used successfully when creating IGTV content, one of the most effective ways that we recommend is to create an IGTV series.

Series on IGTV are essentially short videos with a common format or related theme that help draw in users so that they become familiar with the type of content and format they can expect to see on an account. They're useful at driving loyalty because users will want to see what the next part of the series will cover, and will therefore be more likely to convert into followers.

Win on Instagram

At RebelMouse, we believe that the social ecosystem is made up of a universe of creators. Your brand already has a community of collaborators waiting to engage with your Instagram content — it's just a matter of nurturing your social strategy to find them.

If you have any questions about what's working or not working for your Instagram account, email support@rebelmouse.com or talk to your account manager today.

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