Playbuzz is a familiar name on The Whip. Having experienced tremendous growth over the last year, it came to frequently rank among the most successful publishers on Facebook in our monthly rankings. Now a platform for publishers to create and embed ‘playful’ content, Playbuzz continues to grow significantly. 
Playbuzz CEO Shaul Olmert recently contributed a guest blog to The Whip in which he discussed the relationship between publishers and Facebook. He joins us again today to discuss the impact of mobile and social media on the publishing industry and the importance of using different content formats to keep users engaged.
The rise of mobile and social media has caused considerable disruption in the digital publishing industry.
The environment in which publishers operate is constantly in a state of change. The rise of mobile means more than just a shift in screen dimensions and monetization models; it entails a change in the way users consume content itself.
When someone sits at their laptop, looks at a website, or leafs through a newspaper on the couch, they say they’re “on the computer” or reading – a specific, distinct activity. With mobile, however, it’s different. We have access to content on our phones all day long, unfettered by traditional habits or behaviours. We can access content while driving, while in the restroom, even as we use our computers, watch TV or eat with our families. The context in which publishers reach users is entirely new.

“Publishers are no longer the main show. They’re just part of the line-up”

Today, social media is the number one source for how we discover information. Our feeds ultimately dictate what content we find and read. We may click on something that looks interesting, but when we’re done, we head back to the feeds. Publishers are no longer the main show; they’re just part of the line-up. Website homepages aren’t a barometer of what’s most important – rather, people allow their social graphs to curate for them.
In this way, publishers can’t hope to be McDonald’s anymore. Loyal customers won’t enter through storefronts. Publishers need to become Coca-Cola, ubiquitous and readily accessible everywhere. It’s less about driving people back to your owned properties and much more about reaching people wherever they are. Today’s big TV networks actively post to YouTube, and independent bloggers reach out to new audiences on Medium.
Once upon a time, if you wanted to go up against the New York Times, you needed printing presses and fleets of trucks. In today’s media landscape however, the barriers to entry have been broken down and scores of talented people can enter the fray.

“Publishers need technology that can help them with the challenges they’re facing today”

These changes mean the publishers of today are thrust outside of their comfort zones. Fewer people read long-form articles. As our attention spans shrink, we become less engaged with what we consume, and as a result have few loyalties to specific media brands. This makes bringing in revenue much harder, and because it’s money that makes ongoing publishing possible, today’s media companies are challenged with finding new monetization models.
The changing landscape compels publishers to turn towards a new generation of tools. These tools are experiencing spiking demand, as publishers actively seek out technology to help them navigate the challenges they face today. Spike affords industry players a detailed overview of what people are interested in right now, so they can plan accordingly. A lot of the publishers we work with use Spike day in, day out, as it enables them to keep their fingers on the pulse of the zeitgeist. It’s no longer about putting out what matters most at press time – publishers need to know what’s hot in real time so as to constantly refresh and iterate their content.
In addition, curated publishing platforms like RebelMouse enable publishers to create content experiences which incorporate the latest conversations – even those aggregating outside their editorial control. The more we seamlessly embed distributed social experience into our content, the more relevant publishers become.

Optimize Formats for the Way People Consume Content Today

This is where Playbuzz comes in. We address the need to experiment with new formats, optimizing them for the way people consume content today. This approach is intended to meet the ever-changing needs of publishers today, enabling them to adjust to shifts in the media landscape and user activity.
Back when I was the VP of digital at MTV Networks, when we saw a new content format starting to trend online, we either engineered our own version of it or we acquired whoever originally built it. Today, things move too quickly for that. By the time something is customized to suit publishing needs, the audience has moved on to the next big thing. Many publishers today simply don’t have the resources to keep up with this – even the big ones. It’s not their specialty, so why should they? At Playbuzz, we’re constantly working on the next experience, the next interactive idea, so publishers don’t have to.
In today’s media landscape, conditions and challenges are always in flux. Listicles first got huge around 2010 and quizzes more recently. But publishers using Playbuzz’s tools report that over half the interactive content consumed by their audience is newer formats like flip cards and ranked lists. It’s all about staying ahead of the game. Even our top publishing partners – companies like the Huffington Post, People and Bild – are diversifying. This doesn’t mean abandoning articles, which remain the bread and butter of their publications. Instead, they’re shaking things up with in-article embeds and standalone interactive media experiences.
The rise of mobile and the rapidly advancing pace of technology has created a challenging environment for publishers, but access to the right tools and imaginative use of content allows them to tailor their strategy accordingly. By remaining conscious of the zeitgeist, publishers can diversify their content formats accordingly and ensure a stream of topical, relevant experiences that can drive meaningful engagement with audiences.
Examples of publishers using Playbuzz’s tools
CNBC | “Which business leader would make the best US president?”
Marketwatch | “Marketwatch readers don’t fear Fed rate hike” | “How would you rank the NFC East quarterbacks?”
USA Today | “6 .gifs of Famous Historical Battles

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