Content will be created for mobile. Distribution will be through social networks. Monetization will come from native advertising. Is that the future of publishing? Or is that already the state of the state for media properties?
Mobile, social and native were the key discussion points at today’s Future of Publishing session at Social Media Week Sydney. The panel included representatives from Buzzfeed, Vice and two Australian media properties, Sound Alliance and Mamamia.
The conventional wisdom about content for mobile is that it must be shorter and simpler because it is harder to keep your reader engaged. Buzzfeed’s Simon Crerar pointed out that when you make video for mobile you use one or two people and you crop tightly. But not everyone agreed. Alex Light of VICE said “mobile hasn’t changed the way we are creating content.” He also noted that while many consumers are accessing content on mobile they are using their phones as second screens and casting or slinging the content onto larger screens.
If the content is good enough most of the panelists felt longform can still work with a mobile audience. Neil Ackland of Sound Alliance claimed their data shows that the mobile audience is not dropping off sooner than other audiences.
All of the panelists represented media properties that are heavily dependent already on social distribution. Crerar said.”Buzzfeed wouldn’t exist without social media.” And Light added that social media has “allowed us go into video and compete with networks and to get a global audience.” And that at a cost that is minimal compared to owning a TV network.
Facebook and Pinterest were the most frequently cited traffic drivers for these publishers. There are some differences based on demographics. Jamila Rizvi said Mamamia targets an audience of women in the 25-50 demographic and so for them Facebook and Pinterest are what works. But Light noted, “The younger part of our audience is moving beyond Facebook and beyond Twitter. We want to be in the next place they go.”
The combination of using a mobile device and accessing content via social networks means, in Rivzi’s words, “the audience is just coming into articles and leaving.” So for publishers there is less emphasis on the home page and more on how you display on social properties.
Everyone on the panel is using at least some native advertising. Ackland said, “Native advertising is the future of where we see out business going.” He expects that the time isn’t very far away when native becomes the majority driver of Sound Alliance’s revenue.
The ideal situation for VICE is what Light referred to as the holy trinity. That would mean “we can create stuff that we want to make, that out audience wants to watch and that attends to brand objectives.”
Generally the panelists didn’t acknowledge experiencing any negative feedback from their audiences due to native advertising and didn’t see any confusion on the part of their readers about sponsored content. Crerar claimed that Buzzfeed still maintains a strict separation of church and state. Those from smaller properties, however, may not have the ability to do that.
Neal Mann of News Corp., who moderated the panel, added another motivating factor for native advertising. “If publishers don’t play in this space what’s to prevent brands from producing their own content and becoming media brands themselves.”