The news industry is rapidly changing, as technology companies shape how Americans consume and share content.

A study from the Pew Research Center found that 62 percent of Americans get their news from social media. This data is not surprising, as there has been an explosion in the number of social platforms for news – from Facebook Instant Articles to Snapchat Discover.   

Publishers are rushing to these channels with hopes of reaching a wider audience, boosting ad revenue, and driving subscriptions. A study by the Tow Center for Digital Journalism found that news publishers now post across 21 digital platforms.

But do these platforms live up to the hype?

how news organizations use instant articles

The Pros of Delivering News Across Social Media  

Partnering with a social channel may give you access to resources and audiences that you can’t reach on your own. For example, 20% of all U.S. page views occur on Facebook. Using Instant Articles lets you tap this huge market to engage more consumers and get more eyes on your content.  

Social platforms are also mobile friendly. This is huge since the average U.S. adult now spends 2.8 hours per day on mobile devices. When you post content to social channels, you make it easy for mobile users to interact with your brand.

In the Tow Center study, some journalists even felt that social platforms allow them more freedom in how they tell stories. Presenting news in more creative ways helps them engage more readers.

publishers on social media

Can Social Platforms Drive New Revenue for Publishers?

Despite the seeming advantages, one of the biggest concerns that publishers have about social platforms is the uncertainty of financial return.

For those dependent on advertising to sustain their businesses, social certainly represents a window of opportunity for new ad dollars. By collecting plentiful data about their users, social networks allow advertisers to push their content in front of very targeted audiences. Some publishers leverage this opportunity by giving advertisers access to their social networks via sponsored Twitter, Instagram and Facebook ads. Other publishers allow advertisers to create sponsored blog posts and other content that’s tailored towards their social audiences – the social equivalent of the advertorial.

So far though, it remains to be seen whether distributing news content on social platforms will bring in more revenue from advertisers. The digital ad market faces larger obstacles, namely ad blocking which isn’t likely to go away. However opportunities exist to manage its impact with both better content and industry standards that benefit us all.

Meanwhile publishers who rely on subscription revenue are thrilled to be reaching new “social” readers, ultimately in hopes to convert them into paying subscribers. Unfortunately once again, there’s a catch. As noted in the Tow Center report, most of the major social platforms don’t support subscriptions. Fortunately the study did found that the tide could turn, with most platforms considering adding features that would support subscription-based business models.

publishers social media posts

Top Questions to Ask Before Investing in a New Social Platform

Other concerns with distributing news on social center around how third-party platforms share data. Many publishers can’t tell who is interacting with their content, a lack of more precise insight that makes it hard to monetize these new platforms.

Here are several questions that will help you determine whether or not you should take on another social distribution channel:

  1. Does it help get our content in front of our target audience?
  2. Can I tell who is reading our content? For example, is it a subscriber who is on Facebook? Or is it a Facebook user who stumbled upon one of our articles?
  3. Will I have access to other vital data?
  4. Can I monetize this platform through paid advertising or the acquisition of new subscribers?
  5. Who owns our content?
  6. Do I have the resources to use this platform effectively?

Are you taking advantage of new digital opportunities? Contact us today to learn how to maximize your reach across social media and other platforms.