đź“„đź“„Why you are not doing content the right way.

This week focuses on challenges content creators face today. 

Buzzsumo released their Content Trends research last week and it correlates with research we undertook last year at Radiate B2B. As usual my take below.

The return of search engines

Several years ago it was not unusual to see most traffic to your content generated from social networks. This rapid growth led to plenty of advice on how to take advantage and quickly build your audience.

The biggest takeaway from the research is that social sharing has been cut in half since 2015. 

Google was the big loser from the rise in social sharing. 

This fall means Google is again the major generator of traffic.

Facebook changes are significant

Whilst the decrease in sharing has declined slowly since 2015, mid last year it declined rapidly. 

Buzzsumo puts this down to increasing competition, an increase in private sharing and changes to the Facebook algorithm. 

Private sharing is where people are sharing outside the social networks – e.g. via email, work intranets and chat platforms like Slack.

The Facebook algorithm changes can be attributed to the demotion of click bait type articles last year. The data does not yet account for changes last month where personal content is now increasingly being promoted at the expense of publisher content. 

The end result is going to be a further decrease in shares for publishers in the future.

It is getting competitive (expensive)

With more and more companies publishing content and only a finite number of spots within social network feeds, getting your content in front of people is getting harder. The speed with which a new topic gets saturated has also increased.

This matches with research we undertook last year, where we saw increasing amounts of content being created by companies and decreasing performance.  

It resulted in us launching Radiate B2B’s account based advertising platform, which helps companies place content in front of people or organisations they want to see the content. 

This builds brand authority versus the competition and increases the overall reach of your content.

The importance of authority

The winners from all this change have been sites with authority – The New York Times, The Economist and Harvard Business Review were all shown to have significantly increased their shares.

How is authority being defined though? 

Clearly investing in high quality content is now more important than investing in click bait headline writers who once could attract clicks.

There is a conundrum here though. 

Is it the social networks placing high authority content in front of people to share or is it that individuals are increasingly choosing to share content from sites they trust.

In either scenario, building up an early lead in creating high quality content for your market will clearly be the best strategy rather than lots of low quality content and then, just as important, is ensuring that content is placed in front of people who want it.

Most are flogging a dead horse

Gaining authority in your markets is now critical and my advice remains for companies to create their own blogs so they can control their own destiny, rather than rely on third party platforms to distribute their content.

Then use those distributions platforms to further spread the content.

WordPress.com, one of the largest platforms for hosting a company blog, saw increasing numbers of posts being created.

But the overall audience for those posts has dropped as quality decreased.

LinkedIn still winning?

LinkedIn bucked the trend in terms of content engagement compared to Facebook, Twitter etc over the three year period. 

LinkedIn is attributing the increase over the past three years to their experimentation with layout and new features.

However, content engagement is down over the past 12 months.

Based on our own anecdotal research, the decrease in content sharing over the past twelve months is likely due to increasing competition for spots in people’s LinkedIn news feeds, similar to what has happened on Facebook.

Better overall

This confirms that a lot of “best practice” social media and content marketing advice in the market is now bad advice. 

Much of the old advice was around manipulating social media platforms and individuals, who had just read the headline, into sharing.

An increase in quality content is good for the reader.

Less is more.

🤔 Is this web 3.0?

This week looks at the return of decentralisation to the Internet. Is it really web 3.0?

Command and Control rules today.

Every now and again an article makes you look up and think. That happened this week when I was reading about decentralisation.

The internet was created on the back of the idea that a decentralised network is stronger than a centralised one.

The decentralised nature of the web, combined with open standards destroyed the closed experiences of AOL and its brethren.

Fast forward to the 2000s and peer to peer music providers like Napster appeared and severely dented the music industry.

Today though, the major digital music services are centralised and there is limited peer to peer distribution of music today.

Centralised platforms have taken over, be it Facebook, Google or Spotify. This has been further exacerbated by the rise of the cloud – it has made it faster and easier to created centralised platforms than ever before. 

Platforms: Decentralised vs Centralised

The article also suggested that centralised platforms have a life cycle which can be boiled down to initially working overtime to attract users and partner ecosystems in order to scale the platform until those same partners become a threat and control is retaken.

This results in slowing platform innovation and a lack of wider market opportunities from the ecosystem.

On the other hand, a decentralised platform will often be inferior to a centralised platform but over time and with the right ingredients can out innovate and out scale the centralised platform.

Why is this relevent today?

Blockchain, which sits at the core of bitcoin offers the potential to allow for rapid innovation and creation of decentralised systems. It still needs to overcome some major technical hurdles as it struggles to perform at scale but these challenges are being worked on at the moment.

The article by Chris Dixon goes into much further depth and I urge you to go and read it.

Is the future decentralised?

Muneeb Ali, cofounder of Blockstack expands on blockchain and decentralisation imagining what a new world might look like. It is 10 minutes long and worth a watch.

Muneeb Ali – Truth in a post-truth world | The Conference 2017 – YouTube

I think he paints a good picture of what a decentralised world may look like but the actual path to get there is unclear and a tricky one.

Just building decentralised versions of centralised platforms is not enough to make people switch.

Figuring out how to pay for maintaining and building those platforms is an even bigger challenge.

đź“°đź“°Major changes to the way we read news.

This week the focus is on publishers and their changing worlds. Could we be on the cusp of a major change in the way we interact with publishing online?

Google launches an ad blocker?

Pigs are seemingly flying overhead as I type this. Google’s latest version of Chrome includes an ad blocker. How will Google survive without ads paying its bills?

Once you install the latest version , the answer becomes clear. Nothing noticeable changed. When Google says ad blocker it is really saying bad ad blocker. It removes ads that slow your computer down or interfere with content you are trying to read.

Google’s hope is that this stops people downloading other true ad blocking software, which in turn are increasingly opaque. It turns out some of them allow publishers to pay them to bypass the block.

Wired discusses Google’s move further and interestingly mentions other ad blocking software but only links to uBlock, an open source ad blocking platform.

Or maybe, it is the worst performing of the ad blockers so a publisher linked to it knowing it can be bypassed…

Ad blockers have been steadily increasing as each year passes. The unknown today is whether this move will backfire on Google and result in increased uptake of tools like uBlock or whether Google’s ad blocker will be sufficient to stem the tide.

If usage of tools like uBlock does increase, could we see paywalls coming to Google or Facebook?

What now for publishers?

The rise of ad blocking has caused issues with an already embattled publishing industry.

They continue to fight the ad blockers though this I believe is a waste of time – giving readers the choice would be a better approach. 

Publishers have increasingly been turning to paywalls to drive revenue, though they remain stuck on subscriptions as the only alternative after a select number of free articles. 

Being able to pay for individual articles would seem to make more sense but has been difficult due to the fees charged by payment providers. This is surely surmountable though by purchasing packs of credits that can be used across multiple publishers.

Media group Salon have turned to mining cryptocurrency as an alternative approach. It allows users who do not want ads to turn over their computer power to mining coins which in turn earns money for the publisher.

An interesting idea albeit one that creates an unknown cost for the user, who indirectly pay via their energy bills.

…and Facebook

Facebook has been busy updating its algorithms to create “more meaningful social interactions”. This has not been defined and will likely change over time, not least because somewhere people are working away to take advantage. Zynga did it first with their viral games, Buzzfeed after with their quizzes before the last update which encouraged the creation of fake news. 

One Buzzfeed journalist has already tried to game the algorithm, identifying that commenting seem to prioritise posts more than before.

Publishers have the most at stake with this algorithm change as it is their posts that are being demoted in favour of your friends and family. 

A cynic might note that this could be bypassed by paying Facebook to advertise their articles!

One other emphasis vocalised by Facebook is a focus on local topics over national topics. Why this shouldn’t be subject to fake news is beyond me but maybe Facebook hopes the issue will not attract national news coverage…

One way they are getting around this is with a local section in the Facebook app with pre-approved publishers. This is still being tested so no news yet on when this hits the UK.

Pre-approving publishers is of course not scalable and open to bias as well. It also doesn’t stop the spread of self published content on not just Facebook but Twitter or YouTube as well.

Have some pocket change

Finally whilst Facebook is downgrading publishers inside the newsfeed, they are providing a boost to their revenue via the Facebook mobile app.

Since October, users have been able to read up to ten articles for free before subscribing to the publisher. This was not possible on iPhone as Apple took 30% of any subscription revenue. Now that has been resolved and Facebook sends users to the publisher’s subscription page giving them all 100% of the revenue.

Publishers are now incentivised to keep users subscribing within Facebook rather than their mobile apps, where they get only 70% of the revenue.