Ok, I have to admit: I added a 5 to this title. Why? Because people dig lists – titles with a number in it usually work quite well to catch people’s attention. That’s why, according to Buffer’s recent analysis, 19% of viral news headlines contained a number. It’s one of the effects of social media on digital publishing: writing compelling headlines to make sure people notice it in their timeline, click it and visit your website. But there are more ways social media has impacted digital publishing; we’ve pulled together 5 here for you:
1) The death of the homepage
Not long ago, the homepage was the digital front door of a newspaper. That’s where all visitors came in, very neatly and predictably. However, two years ago, The New York Times declared the “Death of the Homepage”. Social media was reported as the “killer” as it enabled people to discover news articles in their social feeds instead, sending them straight to the article, bypassing the home page. In 2016, this story continues. Pew research found that even though younger adults are more likely to name social media as a main source for news, 62% of US ‘older adults’ now get news on social media sites. Social media enables publishers to spread their content far wider than used to be possible. Subsequently, internal article pages that go viral on social receive many more pageviews than the homepage. So also in 2016, the homepage is still dying. People now visit a publishers’ website through all doors but entering via the back door is more popular, after a walk in a social network’s “walled garden”.
2) Compelling headlines
The fact that more and more people use social media to discover news online made the quality of the headline extremely important. Of course, writing persuasive headlines has always been important. Because based on the title, people decide to continue reading or skip the post. On social media, people base their decision on the headline whether or not they click over to your site – and you’re competing with lots of other fancy headings. Or, if they find the headline compelling enough, they might just share it without even reading it (yes people do that!). Which then of course reaches a broader audience of potential clicks over to your site. Clearly, an attracting headline is more important than ever to driving readers to your site.
3) Shorter visits
So let’s assume you just published the perfect headline that made people actually visit the article page. Hurray! Don’t cheer too early though: most social visitors are notorious for quickly scanning the article and returning back to where they came from – from social media. Pew Research found that visitors who arrive directly spend on average 4:36 minutes on a site and visit 24.8 pages per visit, while visitors from Facebook only spend 1:41 on a site and visit 4.2 pages per visit on average. Longer visits and more pageviews per session are important because they increase brand awareness and in the end conversions. And, as Digital Content Next recently revealed in their research: 43% of social media users don’t recall the source of the article they read. This struggle to keep visitors from social media on a publisher’s site is ongoing. The best landing pages in terms of reader engagement match the environment the reader came from and provide relevant information. Information that engages readers and makes them click-through, for example by providing links to other relevant articles and adding social media comments from readers or industry leaders. Despite the fact that many readers arrive from social media, most article pages are notoriously social-light however.
Being able to use social media as a distribution platform to reach more people than ever before is a great opportunity. An increasing number of visits from social media to your website is great as well, but it also means a greater dependency upon Facebook and other social media platforms as traffic drivers. Moreover, they get to decide what people see: with their recent change in the algorithm, Facebook de-emphasized posts from publishers in favor of posts from their users’ friends and family. Many publishers have feared the role of social media platforms in the editorial process, because they often feel they need to adjust their editorial content to what the algorithm of a social media platform likes best.
5) The rise of the citizen journalist
Now that almost every human being on the planet owns a smartphone, everyone can shoot photos or videos or post commentary, anytime, anywhere. When people, who are not professional journalists, report information, they are called a “citizen journalist”. As we described in one of our previous blog posts, citizen journalists can augment traditional journalism in speed of reporting and increasing credibility by providing eyewitness reports. When news breaks, social media enables people to see directly what’s real, from myriad sources, who are at the scene of the event. However, these posts are made public with just one click on the button. Therefore, it’s crucial for publishers to filter out the noise and monitor and publish only what’s real.
Taking back control
Needless to say, social media has drastically changed the rules of the game for each digital publisher in terms of content distribution and creation. The ability to use social media platforms for content distribution provides them with a fantastic opportunity to reach a far broader audience. However, the increasing dependency upon social platforms reveals the need to regain power and capture readers on a publisher’s own domains. And that’s where using relevant social media to amplify editorial articles plays a huge role. From citizen journalists, to opinion leaders, to the average man on the street – they all post observations and opinions on social media.
Publishers can take control back into their own hands by bringing the power of social media to their site. By adding relevant social media posts to your editorial articles, you provide your audience with a more complete story. Also, adding social content to editorial content gives visitors from social media a warm landing –they don’t need to go back to the social platform they came from to stay in the ‘social media’ mode.
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