RebelMouse’s 7 Facts About Contagious Media + How to Sustain It

RebelMouse Founder and CEO (and former CTO of The Huffington Post) Paul Berry has obsessed about contagious media — and how people consume it — for decades. He chatted with Steve Rubel, Chief Content Strategist at Edelman, for Rubel's podcast on all things storytelling, Content Convergence.

Click here to listen to it for free and get up to speed on ad blocking, audience growth, and the future of media companies and marketing in 2016.

In addition (and only in supplementary fashion!), digest some of the key points in our true gif-listicle form.


1. The Core of Contagious Media Hasn't Changed

When The Huffington Post turned on the lights in 2005, it sparked a launching platform for viral content. Everyone had a tab with HuffPo open at work, refreshing when something big happened to see what the big bold headline would be.

The same thing still happens, but now everyone is refreshing social feeds. Publishers declared the home page dead in 2014, but its gradual death began way before that. It doesn't mean contagious media isn't sustainable, but instead it breathes new life on social.

2. Contagious Media Is Fueled by Belief (or Nonbelief)

Time for a little #throwback: When social media was a lot of shifty chat rooms, RebelMouse CEO Paul Berry and BuzzFeed CEO (and advisor to RebelMouse) Jonah Peretti began a little site called Dog Island. The concept? Register your dog for a one-way ticket to a (fictional) island where it could "live free forever."

The site went viral, making international headlines, and was fueled by two kinds of people: Those who knew it was fictional, but remained bewildered at its existence, and people who believed the island was real and were outraged at the cruelty of pet owners who would give up their best friend to an island of unknown circumstance.

Either way, it was a viral moment that sustained life through belief and nonbelief. The same way your feed is likely dominated today by people impassioned by both belief (a touching holiday story that renews your faith in the modern world) or something Donald Trump said (the opposite of faith renewal, depending on your outlook).


From GIPHY

3. Stories Must Be so Shareable You Can't Stand It

The only way you can spark passion of belief or nonbelief is to give your content creators the tools they need to not only create viral moments regularly, but also sustain them. Contagious moments are on a huge bell curve, and it's only viable if it is shared. Social distribution allows viral moments to resurface again and again.

Think of when you dip your nose into a great-smelling candle, and it's impossible not to turn to the person next to you and say, "smell this." With content, that should happen five times over.

How do you know what will prompt the curiosity of the masses? Obsess over the dynamic content you see in your feeds every day the pop culture trends, language directions, and the general oddities of day-to-day life that ignite your interest and the interest of the communities you follow. Build your presence to match, and do it at scale.

4. Your Slogan Must Be Your Editorial Thesis — So Hire More Writers

If you want to master #3, the slogan of your brand, agency, or media company must also be your editorial thesis. You have to wake up every day ready to follow through on that message.

The best way to do this is not though a one-of-a-kind interface that requires an enormous, expensive office with a huge dev team, UX specialists, and SEO consultants. Good content comes from good writers who have already mastered the skill of carrying out a thesis. Hire more of them, build out your content strategy, and see audience growth.

And it can be done organically.

5. Cater Your Publishing to Distribution

Tabitha was able to see success because she won the great content race, but she also got part two right: Distribution. There's a saying at RebelMouse that's a spin on an old favorite: If a tree falls in a forest and nobody hears it, does it make a sound? If you have great content and nobody sees it...well?

The traditional content cycle begins during the "before publish" process — which consists of an SEO guessing game that still has value. But at RebelMouse, we believe the story begins after publish.

It's after publish when your story becomes contagious. You build a bigger audience when your story is shared by profiles and pages with large followings. And the good news is that every topic of content already has a big fan base in the land of distributed platforms.

This is where content now lives.

6. There's a Big Human Factor to Distribution

There's a myth out there that writers have seceded to a MacBook and just want to be left to their creative devices, but that isn't true.

Writers are intensely curious and obsess over data just like anyone else. This is why the lines between writers and social media managers must completely blur. Writers should know how to cater their work across platforms, and should be given the tools to manage and tweak a distribution strategy that works.

It's the writer-turned-social expert who knows their content in and out, and can use an editorial eye to reach out and discover new relationships across platforms. RebelMouse products have ways to maximize every piece of content in the social ecosystem.

7. Media Companies Aren't Tech Companies Anymore

Brands are already beginning to transform, and should all become media companies. If you are hiring a huge team to launch a new website, you are doing it wrong. The nature of the website has changed dramatically and decreased in value since 2012. In 2016, democratize and publish in sync with the constant rhythms of the platforms and be everywhere first.

More good news: Becoming a media company can happen not only more quickly, but also at a fraction of the cost. RebelMouse builds and grows new media properties that give your content creators the tools they need to create contagious moments and sustain them on the daily.

Why RebelMouse Is the Best Content Marketing Platform

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At RebelMouse, we've solved this in a very elegant way. At the core level of our platform, we can natively render different layouts and track the exact differences in performance when comparing a test to your other layouts.

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Read our deck here...

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RebelMouse Outperforms Every Other CMS. Here’s the Data to Prove It.

Our Core Web Vitals drastically outpace every competitor, and we have the receipts

In an effort to build user retention and increase conversions, publishers are making a common mistake. They're adding more features to their websites, including ad placements, but losing sight of the main revenue driver: user experience.

The key to unlocking user retention lies completely in site performance. Currently, publishers are trying to build optimized websites that translate easily across devices and platforms, but fail to deliver an experience that checks all their boxes and prioritizes their readers. It takes less than a second of delayed load time to turn away a user. This is why Google has made page speed a top ranking factor on search, and shepherded the entire open web's newfound prioritization on site performance.

Game Changer: Google's Core Web Vitals Announcement

Google cemented its seriousness about page experience with the announcement of its Core Web Vitals measurements in Google Search Console. Core Web Vitals are three specific metrics that Google uses to determine a site's overall usability. While these data points will evolve over time, the 2020 version of vitals consists of three specific metrics:

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): A website's LCP is the time it takes to load the main content on a page. Google wants LCP to happen within 2.5 seconds of when a page first starts loading.

First Input Delay (FID): This metric quantifies a user's experience when trying to interact with unresponsive pages. This usually occurs between First Meaningful Paint (FMP) and Time to Interactive (TTI) (more on what these two mean below). You want your FID score to be low to prove the usability of your site. According to Google, pages should haven an FID of less than 100 milliseconds.

Cumulative Layout Shift Score (CLS): CLS determines how often your users experience unexpected layout shifts or changes on a page. To ensure visual stability, you want your CLS score to be low. Google wants pages to maintain a CLS score of less than 0.1.

From Google.

Google says Core Web Vitals scores will be considered across every page, and will be a ranking factor in its Top Stories feature. While relevant quality content will always be the most important, the page experience ranking is now a make-or-break metric for your site's survival.

"A good page experience doesn't override having great, relevant content. However, in cases where there are multiple pages that have similar content, page experience becomes much more important for visibility in Search." —From Google's page experience announcement, May 2020

Core Web Vitals will determine every site's performance score. You can see your site's Core Web Vitals specifically via Google Search Console, but your website's overall page performance is measured using Google's PageSpeed Insights and Lighthouse tools.

At RebelMouse, we guarantee a performance score of 90 or higher via PageSpeed Insights. To do this, we've built out a platform infrastructure that exceeds industry standards on Google's key metrics, particularly its Core Web Vitals, outperforming most industry leaders.

You can read more about how we've mastered Google's KPIs here. But the truth is in the data. Below is table that provides a snapshot into how RebelMouse-powered sites score:

And here's what the scores look like for some of the biggest sites on the open web:

As you can see, there's a lot of data Google takes into account even outside of Core Web Vitals. Here's a quick summary of the other important metrics that Google trusts to measure page performance:

First Contentful Paint (FCP): This metric measures the time from click to the time when a user's browser renders the first bit of content from the Document Object Model (DOM), which is your site's HTML structure. According to Google, this is an important milestone for your readers because it provides signals that your page is loading.

First Meaningful Paint (FMP): This is the amount of time it takes the most important content, what Google calls "hero elements," to load on site. Hero elements are different for every site, but should be intuitive based on your content. This metric helps determine your site's usability.

Time to Interactive (TTI): This is the most important metric to keep an eye on. This is when the site is fully rendered and ready for user action. This is a critical point when slow load time can occur, usually because JavaScript or other complex content hasn't fully rendered. So, in short, think of TTI as how long it takes for your site to load in its entirety.

Total Blocking Time (TBT): TBT measures a page's load responsiveness to quantify how long a page is non-interactive prior to becoming interactive. You want your site to have a low TBT to maintain its usability.

Speed Index (SI): SI is the measurement of how quickly the contents of a page are populated. You want your speed index score to be as low as possible.

Creating quality content is only half the battle in 2020, and publishers are already burdened with the around-the-clock task of creating content that resonates. This is why quality content must be supported by modern technology that can keep up with the speed of the web. RebelMouse provides publishers with a CMS that supports the new content lifecycle with an editorial suite designed for reach on site, search, and social.

Click here to read more about our modern approach to web performance. If you want to make performance a priority, request a proposal today. We can easily transform your site into one of the fastest on the web, giving you increased user retention and better conversion rates than ever before.

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