We are at a place right now with social media and sharing behaviors, where small publishers are being threatened by the new distribution channel.
Gary Templeton, Associate Campaign Management Director at nurun (moderator)
Christine Cook, SVP of Digital Sales at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia
Eliot Pierce, VP of Strategy, Business, and Ad Operations Development at New York Times
Alan Wolk, Managing Director of Social Media Strategy at KickApps
Nicole Victor, Director of Planning at Huge
Beth Linf, Media & Entertainment Practice at Razorfish
Pierce notes that the New York Times has aggressively pursued a very open strategy that has allowed users to share articles through e-mail even before the development of RSS and sharing. It is not allowing developers and students to use APIs to leverage its content. One challenge is when developers use content through APIs for commercial purposes, but it’s still thought to be a net positive for the Times.
Linf related a report on how content must be free. She feels that the Times has demonstrated a critical mindset, structuring and tagging content so that it can be easily distributed and shared independent of platform. It’s critical that publishers have hyper-distribution in mind at the point of authoring so that it remains in context and continues to support a publisher’s brand even after it is distributed. It’s no longer viable to create content just for one platform; to take advantage of opportunities, content has to be designed to live in multiple places.
Victor spoke to the user experience, and how it differs across platforms and across targets (especially generationally.) Cook spoke from the publisher side, noting the incredible costs that the publisher must bear in order to achieve platform universality. It’s critical to develop a strategy that maximizes exposure while minimizing costs.
Wolk compared content creation to the difference in buying albums or individual tracks. Each piece of content must live and represent the brand on its own. Cook worries that the consumer may miss the full curation experience when consuming only one piece of content. Victor and Templeton note that the movement of content to the consumer is moving in part from push to pull, as consumers may “triangulate” content, drawing pieces from multiple sources instead of multiple pieces from a single source.
Pierce believes that despite the challenges to the publishers, the social web is a force for good at the end of the day. There is a lot for publishers to gain by bringing in social graphs to content consumption. Social content, by its very nature, is being recommended to you by your social graph, according to Linf. Wolk worries that be relying on this graph, you may lose a diversity of opinion and exist in what Linf called an “echo chamber”. Victor noted that the sharing behavior among friends isn’t a new practice, but social media just simplifies and accelerates it. The percentage of traffic driven to Martha Stewart online properties by social networking has grown over the last few years, according to Cook. Pierce agrees that a similar shift is happening at the New York Times.
In response to a question, the panel discussed some best practices for maintaining branded identity in content when sharing:
- Use custom URL shorteners to simplify tracking and make it easier for consumers to recognize shared content
- Use simple attribution in RSS feeds to retain origin information
- Apply the right metadata tags so that sharing applications display your branded content
- Set up pages so that users have an easy roadmap to share and attribute