Anybody who is in the content publishing game knows that discovery and loyalty are the two major battles that everyone is fighting. While some place their bets on social networks to push discovery of content via referrals, others build up expertise to anticipate news events and search trends for organic traffic. Facebook has slowly been clamping down on content links that take traffic out of their walled garden and as of April, with launch of ‘instant articles’, changing the game once again.
With the average attention span of humans on the internet falling by over a third in the last decade alone (now down to eight seconds), content platforms are jostling for user loyalty. Traditional media heavyweights continue to grow loyalty amongst discerning readers (using paid content strategies), but for many of the new age media publishers who cater to audiences snacking on lighter content, referrals on social networks act as decisive factors on what is worth reading or not.
Many of the new age media publishers on the other hand, play a different game. They rely more on curation and cultural trend spotting, remixing original content with fluffy packaging to win over audiences via clickbaiting.
When one publisher does this, it gets cloned by others easily, but is never enough to feed the insatiable demand of consumers on social media.
The challenge here is that the taste graph changes rapidly and consumers move on from one source to another fairly quickly.
Amidst all this mayhem enter news aggregators that attempt to figure out consumer tastes algorithmically, and focus on personalising their news feed from myriad sources. They seem to have a better chance of going a step ahead in the game towards building loyalty, as consumers are unlikely to sample more than two or maximum three aggregators.
The more publishers these players have on their platform, the better and bigger the pool of data they have.
And then there is the feed within Google Now which gets smarter by the day, picking signals from myriad sources (other than pre-read content) to present content that may be of interest to the consumer.
Is it possible that consumers will get fatigued with existing popcorn content formats and newer formats of content consumption will emerge in 2016? Certainly. But while conventional online media might be feeling a bit battered right now (with less than 10% paying to read content online globally), they have the wherewithal to turn the tide and rediscover themselves.
Neiman Labs talks about 2016 being the year of the loyal reader. The loyalty that a traditional media entity commands is not enjoyed by the pure-play digital players in India yet,when it comes to original and quality content.
But where will the brand head when it comes to parting with its advertising rupees? Will it continue to rely on ad-networks to syndicate advertising on multiple media portals, or turn to native content deals with new age publishers/aggregators, at times dabbling with creating and marketing their own content? Tough to tell today; the challenge to grab human attention continues to remain as much a battle for publishers as it is for brands in 2016.
The author is co-founder and CEO, Experience Commerce