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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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Meet RebelMouse

Build on a better platform that supports far-reaching content distribution, impactful conversion, and unparalleled loyalty.

The world's largest companies trust us to power their global, multiplatform content experience. As a platform, we're now one of the largest in the world, reaching 50+ million people every month. As a creative agency, we build mass pop culture hits that grow organically to become household names — Axios and The Dodo, for example.

We work strategically with United Airlines and many other brands to establish the new media roadmap for their future and implement it. RebelMouse was founded by the CTO who built The Huffington Post. The founding vision and mission is still the same today: to be the right new media platform for both media companies and brands. It's working exceedingly well, and we're delivering some staggering results for our clients.

Read our latest deck here!

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Publishers No Longer Have to Submit Their Site to Google News

Google's Publisher Center creates new opportunities for audience growth

Just before the start of the next decade, Google announced an important change to its Google News offering with the launch of Google Publisher Center. The new interface merges Google News Producer and Google News Publisher into one to streamline the partnership process for publishers.

Overall, the change should make it easier for publishers to manage their Google News settings, including updating themes, directing URLs to section pages, and configuring user permissions. Read the full list of features here.

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Custom HTML Class Names for Rows and Columns

Assign attributes to your site's rows and columns

You can now add custom HTML class names to rows and columns in RebelMouse's Layout & Design tool. HTML classes can be used for many things, particularly to style elements within a wrapper that has a certain set of CSS properties, or to trigger JavaScript.

This feature eliminates the need to use a separate Element Wrapper to add a class to a set of elements, because the row or column itself can call that specific ID you would typically assign to the Element Wrapper. This creates cleaner, more efficient code in our Layout & Design tool.

You can find the HTML Class within the Properties card of your row or column:

You can also highlight more than one row or column at a time to assign it to the same HTML Class.

This is how it looks in Document Object Model (DOM):

For a refresher on all of the elements available in our Layout & Design tool, click here. If you have any questions about this feature, email support@rebelmouse.com or talk with your account manager today.

How to Create Author Badges

Customize every author profile for a personalized approach

The digital publishing ecosystem is a universe of creators. At RebelMouse, we've created a collaborative publishing experience that allows creators, editors, and influencers to work together in a community-style, customizable workflow.

We recently updated our community features with Author Badges, a feature that gives authors on your site a unique image to compliment their avatar. For example, if an author tends to write about "Trending" topics, you could assign a "Trending" badge to them.

To add an Author Badge from our Badges Dashboard, first navigate to /core/r_dashboard/badges on your site. From there, click the blue ⨁ icon in the bottom right-hand corner to create a new Author Badge.

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What You Need to Know About Facebook News

The social platform's dedicated news tab is now being offered to select publishers

It's estimated that 43% of American adults get their news on Facebook. With an upcoming U.S. presidential election in 2020, the massive social platform has an opportunity to mend fences with its reputation after 2016's fake news fallout and corresponding Cambridge Analytica scandal. In October 2019, Facebook announced the launch of Facebook News, a dedicated tab for news on the platform that aims to give users more control over the news they read.

Facebook News launched to only about 200,000 U.S. users, with articles from local publications in major cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington D.C., and Houston. Roughly 200 publishers are working with Facebook on the initial rollout. The feature is still being tested and is currently only available on mobile.

According to an announcement from Facebook on the feature, users can expect to find a wide range of content on Facebook News, including:

  • Today's Stories chosen by a team of journalists to catch you up on the news throughout the day.
  • Personalization based on the news you read, share, and follow, so you can find new interests and topics, and so Facebook News is fresh and interesting every time you open it.
  • Topic sections to dive deeper into business, entertainment, health, science & tech, and sports.
  • Your Subscriptions, a section for people who have linked their paid news subscriptions to their Facebook account.
  • Controls to hide articles, topics, and publishers you don't want to see.

Some of the articles served to users on Facebook will be curated by humans, but the feed will mostly be organized through an algorithm that should become more personalized based on each reader's behavior.

Currently there are several hoops to jump through to become a Facebook News publisher. Pages must serve a large audience, follow Facebook's integrity standards, and be registered in the platform's News Page Index to be considered.

Click here to begin the registration process for your Page to become part of Facebook News.

At RebelMouse, we're dedicated to sustainable growth across the entire digital publishing ecosystem. We power sites with a rich user experience, but also enable our publishers to create content that easily travels across platforms, including Facebook. We're closely monitoring this newest feature from Facebook, particularly the screening process for publishers to be accepted into the program. If you have any questions about Facebook News and its current rollout, please email support@rebelmouse.com or talk to your account manager today.

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Organize your text with horizontal rules

Horizontal rules help editorial teams build content that is both visually appealing and structurally solid as they break up articles into clear and understandable sections that audiences can easily identify.

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