Almost exactly one year ago, I read the leaked New York Times Innovation Report that outlined the opportunities and threats facing the Times’ business in the disrupted publishing space. The overall takeaway from the report was that the Times was failing to get its content to readers. Stories were being re-packaged and distributed by other publishers like the Huffington Post or on apps like Flipboard (a phenomenon the report refers to as being “Gawkered”). 

The New York Times still reigned in terms of quality journalism, but the disrupted world of content distribution threatened the business. The Times needed to update its strategies.

A New Tactic

The report outlined tactics — including things like increased social promotion, and better search engine optimization strategies — to help the Times become a “newsroom of the future” and compete with more agile, innovative competitors. The publisher recognized the issues and set future goals, which is why now, a year later, I was excited to read that The New York Times was one of the publishers who signed on to experiment with Facebook’s new “Instant Articles” feature.

Instant Articles allows Facebook to natively host other publisher’s content in the app News Feed. That way, when users click on an article within their News Feed, they don’t have to wait for the article to load on the publisher’s mobile site. Instant Articles dramatically improves the user’s Facebook experience, but publishers can be weary about shifting traffic from their own site to Facebook. 

To assuage concerns, Facebook put lots of power in the hands of publishers — they still have control over the look and feel of content, and they’re able to use their own publishing tools, then convert stories into a format that works on Facebook’s app. Instant Articles also integrates with comScore to properly attribute traffic to publishers, and there’s a trove of data that’s reported about the type of audience reading each article.

It’s an interesting compromise, and signals a larger shift in the world of digital disruption. Customer experience reigns supreme, and today’s consumers want to read content that’s personalized to their specific interests. For many, that means reading curated articles from around the web in your News Feed. 

With 1.4 billion monthly users around the world, Facebook has grown so massive that it no longer makes sense for publishers to try and compete with the powerhouse. Instead, it’s time to play nice by integrating with new initiatives like Instant Articles. Teaming up with Facebook, publishers can leverage the social giant’s huge audience and the amazing one-to-one platform to get more eyeballs on their content and ultimately grow their business.

Learning Opportunities

Artists and filmmakers are another group who thrive on Facebook’s network of users, but potentially lose out on revenues when their content is redistributed on the platform. These groups won’t necessarily benefit from the traffic attribution perks the way publishers do (who can turn a profit by selling ad space), but there have been efforts made to compensate them for their work shared on the platform as well. In theory, if more artists flock to these programs, Facebook could become a viable alternative to record labels and other intermediaries in the music and entertainment industry and we could see a wave of disruption similar to that of the publishing world.

Get Ready for a Distributed Future

On the marketing and WCM side, this proves that distribution is key. Marketers in any industry need to be able to spread their content to a variety of different aggregator types, and on the backend, this calls for a solution that allows us to do so from a single destination. Silos are breaking down all around us and to be successful in the future, we need open solutions that unify dissimilar content and CMSs, and allow us to move quickly pushing content to a variety of different destinations.

From Facebook, to the next new content consumption Unicorn, are we really ready for a distributed future?

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by James Theophane

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