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Battling the Web’s Most Dominant Companies to Bring Conversations Back to Communities

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The spread of informational access has created an ideal environment for companies with an emphasis on social engagement, personalization, and user experience. But, over the past 20 years, publishers have been met with challenge after challenge as they have worked to keep up with the growth of non-traditional tech competitors.

According to a Pew Research Center analysis, the U.S. daily newspapers – both print and digital – fell 8% in 2016, marking the 28th consecutive year of declines. Additionally, as reported by Statista, digital publishing revenue decreased by 4.5 billion U.S. dollars between 2011 and 2018, with more declines expected in the coming years.

As a result, publishers have suffered huge losses, resulting in large layoffs and restructuring of their businesses. CNN, recently had to buyout 100 employees, adding to the already 2,700 jobs lost this year, and 5,000 additional jobs over the last 5 years.

One major problem with publishers’ strategies is that they have stopped thinking about the user and have focused mainly on driving metrics and on-site clicks in an attempt to compete with social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. While these social networks mastered and refined their user engagement models, providing substantive, addictive, and engaging content, publishers learned that a business model built on clickbait and unsubstantial content was not a driving force their medium.

The reality is that good content is what drives traffic, while communities and engagement are keeping people on pages. Unironically, Facebook has now been at the forefront of losing engagement due to shifting the demographic behaviors and preferences, losing revenue from advertisers after they adjusted their ‘News Feed’ algorithms last year. By limiting access to content, they essentially eliminated a major platform to discuss content. In the process, they also eroded industry trust and relationships with publishers. Drawing from our experience working with thousands of publishers, including 80% of the US top tier media houses, we’ve come to a deep understanding that people, and not page views are what carry the day.

The continuing layoffs and falling engagement of users on Facebook are just symptoms of an advertising model of business that relies too heavily on clickbait. Identifying and nurturing the growth of a loyal user base via revenue diversification and real onsite engagement, community-building and engagement is the most appropriate path towards a sustainable business model.

Instead of focusing on vanity metrics, publishers can find success by focusing on lifetime value, which allows them to efficiently allocate resources towards valuable users that result in the most sustainable business plan and improves the average life cycle per user. Once identified, these valuable or “power users” will ultimately feed into a virtuous cycle of engagement and community building, oftentimes drawing in more users as a result of their engagement.


Strategies focused on community-building and engagement have been powerful for publishers since the advent of news. And as Facebook begins losing engagement, publishers have a chance to take back their conversations and direct content in more engaging and meaningful ways on their own platforms if they put the focus back on who matters the most: the user.

Read more: The Three Promises Every Marketer Must Make

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