Up until recently many media outlets were obsessed with having a ‘Facebook strategy’, building pages and apps and begging people to Like them. The times seem to be changing though, with many outlets now considering Twitter, Pinterest, and email newsletters better drivers of traffic.
Indeed, there is a growing feeling that to build a strong audience in Facebook requires precious resources that publishers simply do not have and that ultimately this benefits Facebook more than the publisher.
Publishers have to either purchase adverts on Facebook, or spend significant time developing content for their page. Nicke Blunden, global publisher of The Economist told told Digiday:
“You’re either spending ad money on Facebook or spending time by working on there; both benefit Facebook.”
While New York Magazine’s Michael Silberman says his magazine isn’t going off of Facebook, but he does say they are “digging into our numbers to understand the value of a Facebook fan, how much happens on Facebook, how much happens on our sites and how those relate to each other”.
Other publishers complained that Facebook does not communicate well with them, making it hard to improve interaction and readership via the social network. Others still claimed that Facebook is a difficult company to work with.
High profile newspapers like The Guardian and the Washington Post have experimented with building readers into Facebook so that people don’t have to leave the network to read their content, but both these projects have ultimately bitten the dust.
While some publishers like The Independent do maintain significant linkage between Facebook and their website, it does seem that Facebook has become too insular in an age in which publishers need to be shared as widely as possible. It also requires too much work for publishers to get their content to new readers, while Twitter excels at this via hashtags, retweets and search functionality.
Pinterest too is becoming a vital sharing tool for publishers. Brian Sugar told Digiday that the visual based network provides seven times the number of referrals that Facebook does. For readers that have decided they want updates from a publisher, an email newsletter is also still an important way of distributing content.
Look at this example: Brian Sugar, CEO of Sugar highlighted how an article about “Exercises to Lose Your Muffin Top” scored about 1,000, but 442,000 pins. That is a huge difference. He said Facebook had never been a big driver of traffic.
Annie Heckenberger, VP Community Trailblazer at Red Tettemer + Partners, asked why would publishers invest much in Facebook when it is a doctor’s office waiting room for publishers.
She described it as a place where your content sits for long periods of time and is maybe half read, maybe discovered, over a long period of a time.
“Versus Twitter, which is more like a Publisher’s content being fodder for a CNN story; real time coverage, every hour, for several hours, sparking coffee shop chatter and begetting more news coverage,” Heckenberger said.
There is no doubt that publishers still have a place on Facebook, but pages now seem to be best used as message boards, where a community dedicated to a certain outlet can discuss the content, instead of being a traffic driver for the publisher themselves.