Thursday, July 20, 2017

Why TOI, HT & The Hindu Must Grab This New Facebook Opportunity To Stay Relevant on Digital

After two years of its launch, Facebook’s talk of a subscription plan on Instant Articles has provided the much needed hope for publishers worldwide. It says that users will be able to subscribe to news and magazine publishers from its app the end of the year.
This development comes a week after the US congress was petitioned for “an anti-trust exemption to negotiate collectively with large platforms, specifically Facebook and Alphabet's Google.” The News Media Alliance which spearheaded this move charges that Facebook and Google benefit from the hard work of newspapers without fairly compensating publishers.
Facebook along with Google controls almost half of the global digital spend and with users clocking most of their time on their platforms, and this has made them gatekeepers of information. The publisher’s complaint against Google is that the search giant hurts them in search if they do not allow a “free article read” on first click. Many who didn’t allow the free first article have seen a drop of 70 to 90% in referral traffic from Google.
Instant Articles are said to drive 20 to 50% more traffic than hits to the publishers’ mobile site. Instant Articles are somewhat like Google’s AMP, serving lighter and faster. According to Facebook , over 10,000 publishers are now using Instant Articles, and more than a third of all clicks to articles on Facebook are to Instant Articles.
Facebook denied that it’s algorithm favours Instant Articles to publishers own links. Users seem to be keen to stay within Facebook and the consumption of news decides the content that shows up on newsfeed. It’s executives though have indicated that the frequency of Instant Articles (by a publisher) determines it’s display in newsfeed. A cue for publishers to upload more content on Instant Articles.
New York Times, Guardian, Washington Post, HBR have all been struggling to monetise their traffic. But the paywall doesn’t seem to be doing wonders with readers somehow believing that digital is free. And with Facebook Instant Articles keeping users within its own network, publishers were shy to go there, infact many pulled out citing drop in traffic to their own sites.
But, there’s so hope now, with Facebook announcing that a paywall can be added by publishers who need to give first 10 articles free and then give users option to subscribe. While it offers an opportunity for publishers to monetise their content, it’s also an acknowledgement that Facebook values the partnership with publishers.
It has also offered a deep dive for publishers to, “measure Instant Articles' impact on referral traffic from Facebook. The tool will be available to publishers who have published enough Instant Articles and mobile web versions to measure the difference”.
It’s not yet clear how they’ll charge users. Publishers say they also want first party data that comes with subscription since it helps personalise the content and offers. 
Rajasekar KS is a speaker, writer and #SocialMedia & content strategist. He was listed among Top 100 #Marketing Leaders India '16 by the World Marketing Congress. He writes in #EconomicTimes #BusinessWorld  #BusinessLine  Currently works as GM - Marketing @bharatmatrimony and tweets @PositiveMantra