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What Publishers Should Expect from Social Media in 2016


By   |   January 6th, 2016   |   Reading time: 5 minutes Digital Journalism

We look at five trends that publishers should expect from social publishing in 2016. 

With so much changing in the media landscape, and so quickly, what’s should social media editors and publishers generally focus on in 2016?

From talking to NewsWhip clients and analysing the data on our blog, here are five moves of note that we think will have a significant impact on newsrooms and publishers this year.

1) More Live and Vertical Video

CNNSnapchat

January 2016 marks the 12 month anniversary of the launch of Snapchat Discover.

Celebrity accounts seem to be having no difficulty in racking up enormous viewer figures, and some partners are seeing huge growth in their daily views.

Snapchat Discover has managed to showcase the potential of vertical video for mobile users. We’re already seeing huge engagement with square videos on Facebook and Instagram, from a mobile viewership that don’t want to turn their phones. The next step will be immersive, vertical-first video clips that can be watched on any platform. In 2014, ‘portrait mode’ was a term of derision. Now, ‘vertical video’ is to the forefront of the minds of editors looking to reach mobile users.

As Sky News’ Head of Social Media, Richard Evans, told us last month; “the sooner vertical videos can be published to all platforms the better for everyone.”

At the same time, the potential for live video is now huge. Facebook Mentions makes it easy for publishers to stream live to their audience. NowThis used the feature to stream reactions to Republican debates, while BBC Sport have seen success in using it to promote their flagship Match of the Day programme. Watch this (vertical) space.

2) Instagram Comes Into Its Own As a Content Platform

Instagram has been around for a while, but its potential as a content distribution platform is still coming to fruition.

BBC Sport’s Ian Singleton told us that their Instagram profile is growing at a rate that’s outstripping many of their other social profiles.

“There seems to be an audience shift happening there and I expect to see publishers becoming more sophisticated on there.”

The popularity of the platform is now a big deal. The user numbers are huge, and still growing. Of course, publishers will question the returns from a platform that doesn’t send referrals, so creating content that works meaningfully for the publisher requires a different mindset.

Yet Spike’s Instagram feature shows the enormous engagement levels around content on the platform. Harnessing that engagement is something that publishers should double down on this year.

National Geographic Instagram in NewsWhip Spike

3) Instant Messaging Apps Become More Usable

This one mightn’t come as all that much of a surprise.

WhatsApp now has over 900 million monthly users. Other services like Line, WeChat and Telegram are growing fast. Reaching the very active users of these platforms with relevant content is of undoubted interest to all savvy digital publishers.

Many are already using the likes of WhatsApp to send very targeted news updates, but the difficulties involved in efficient distribution has slowed mass adoption so far.

But the potential is huge, particularly given that some of the heaviest users of these apps fall into categories that many publishers currently struggle to reach. As a recent Tow Center report on chat apps noted, “Messaging apps offer strong opportunities to engage new or difficult-to-reach demographics.”

Perhaps 2016 will see the launch of effective CMSs on messaging apps, which would make publishers’ lives far easier.

4) Speed-First Consumers Set the Agenda

Instant Article Data

Although we’ve been talking about native distribution for a while, its effects on media distribution have definitely yet to be fully realised.

Instant Articles for Android only went live just before Christmas, while many of the 300+ publishers that have already signed up for the feature.

Meanwhile, Google’s AMP project should be live by next month, speeding up how people access news through the search engine. By the end of the year, the use of these (and possibly other) instant services should be ubiquitous.

Although it remains to be seen how fast these changes impact consumption habits, publishers can probably expect that they will lead to different expectations from their readers. One thing’s for sure – badly optimised mobile sites are unlikely to be popular in 2016.

5) Less Is More on the Content Front

It’s official: the attention economy is in crisis.

At NewsWhip, we see this in some of the average engagement rates recorded by big media outlets every month –  a huge volume of stories that get minimal interest. Meanwhile, the stories that do well are increasingly the ones that readers see the value in reading and sharing.

Publishers will need to be more choosy in what is worth spending time on. That’s where social signal tech comes in useful.

As our CEO, Paul Quigley, wrote on this blog;

“(Social signals) keep newsrooms relevant. Editors still enjoy a great deal of agenda setting power, but they no longer exist in a vacuum. They must hit the stories that have the world talking or they become irrelevant.”

“Some people sneer at the term “trending” but “trending” actually describes an incredible thing: real time knowledge about what humans are interested in.  It’s information we’ve simply never had before in human history, and we’re currently massively underestimating it. This real time connection can speed up and sharpen up any newsroom, and revolutionize the audience relationship.”

NewsWhip’s clients analyse our social data to figure out what’s worth putting resources into, and how to improve what they’re already doing. Increased use of smart social analytics is surely to be a huge force in publishers’ efforts to stay relevant in the attention war.

Sign up for a free Spike trial to boost your social media strategy in 2016

Featured image credit: E.M.K on Flickr

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