Social Media
Credit: Image by Tanja Cappell on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Facebook Instant Articles, Snapchat Discover and Google Accelerated Mobile Pages are some of the latest digital propositions for publishers.

But news outlets have been faced with growing traffic referrals from social media for the last couple of years, and many are already developing a distributed content strategy – publishing stories on platforms where audiences already are, such as Facebook or Snapchat.

As the technology companies themselves start putting forward new products for publishers, there are a number of considerations media outlets should think about before jumping on board.

While publishers like The Washington Post went all in, BILD is a more cautious. Speaking at the Digital Innovators’ Summit in Berlin yesterday (21 March), Stefan Betzold, managing director, digital, BILD, said publishers need to keep some element of control or else they will find themselves in a similar position to that of the music industry – where some artists are trying to move away from the Spotify model of music streaming after finding it less than lucrative.

“It’s driven by changing consumer habits but also by new devices and technology. It’s a question of how we do it and can we set the rules?,” he asked.

“Just give up our content and hope some money comes back? That’s a problem – we don’t have the confidence, or maybe not the power.

"We should stand stronger in negotiations with these platforms.”

He believes that while coming up with a distributed content strategy is unavoidable as young audiences read stories on different platforms, publishers should not be jumping to accept any deal from social networks and technology companies.

They should instead work together to renegotiate a better deal, such as asking for access to the user data social networks collect.

"They need this premium content to monetise their audience and to make people come back. It’s all about their platform,” he said.

And publishers need to make it more about theirs. Experimenting on each platform is key to working out what formats are more efficient and where audiences are at any given time, but that should not mean giving up the keys for a short term experiment that may or may not yield any results.

Publishers should be thinking about long term impact, said Betzold. “We need to stand together as a publishing industry to negotiate the terms.”

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