Turning Social Media Visitors Into New Subscribers

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A new research report in Publishing Executive shows that B2B publishers and distributed content—content hosted on external platforms—are not sharing the love. The results say that most publishers are only considering a distributed content plan, and none have a thorough one.

One commenter said, "In the B2B world, social media is not a big factor in getting content out. We see it more as a B2C model." But in an atmosphere where everyone is trying to reach new audiences, will this have to change?

"So while the publishers surveyed largely acknowledge that distributed content presents big benefits and that social is increasingly where new audiences will discover their content, it's clear many are taking a wait-and-see approach," writes Denis Wilson on Publishing Executive. "And this presents a risk for publishers. If the history of the web has shown us anything, it's that the early movers get the upper hand and publishers have been left in the wake many times in the past."

He continues: "While the survey does bear out that B2B publishers rely much less heavily on social referral traffic than consumer publishers—70% of B2B publishers had 15% or less of their traffic derived from social platforms, while 69% of consumer publishers derived more than 15% of their traffic from social platforms—B2B media is under increasing pressure to develop an audience that includes the next generation of decision makers and buyers. Social media presents an opportunity to reach that younger cohort."

An article today on Digiday focuses on how The Economist has been turning their social media visitors into subscribers. Like other publishers big and small, they struggle with their paywall.

"We're constantly debating how much content to give away," said Michael Brunt, The Economist's CMO and managing director of circulation. "If you're too generous, there's no point in subscribing. We have the other view: We are generous; we work hard to distribute content on many platforms to give a flavor."

Their metered paywall allows non-subscribers to view three articles a week. And then a social media team repurposes content for their various platforms. For example, Facts of the Day gets posted on Facebook, usually with a link to one of their articles.

Writes Digiday: "Converting through Facebook is cost-effective and scalable, said Brunt. 'It's a soft sell as they are already slightly engaged. Then it's appropriate to ask them to subscribe.' This targeting has enabled it to lower the cost of acquiring by half. Now, the acquisition cost is 'very low,... The lifetime value is high. Readers are very loyal when recruited through this route. It's getting The Economist reading material into their habits.'"

The Economist is also reaching between 3 and 4 million people each weekend on Snapchat Discover, where it launched last October. It has given them an opportunity to reach audiences that wouldn't otherwise find them.

Yesterday, The Washington Post announced the launch of their new daily Discover Edition on Snapchat. "We're excited to be the most up-to-date news source on Discover, publishing important and interesting content that Snapchatters can engage with," said Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, managing editor for The Post. "As we invest more in the platform, we look forward to growing an even larger audience."

These are two big-publisher examples, but they don't have to be, of course. Facebook's Instant Articles and Facebook Live, Google's AMP and LinkedIn offer opportunities to post content. Last week Google budged ever-so-slightly in the who-controls-the-content dilemma. They will now show the publisher URL at the top of their AMP articles. But Matt Bailey, an expert on this topic, wrote me that he sees this as a move "trying to placate publishers, but not enough, in my opinion." He added that it still keeps the publisher in their "ecosystem."

In her session at BIMS, Leslie Laredo, who runs the Academy of Digital Media, recalled a recent talk she gave to a room full of media buyers, most of them Millennial and women. "Where do you go for information?" she asked. "Pinterest," many of them said. "No, for business," she clarified. "Yes," they said.

You can access the Publisher Executive report here

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…