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A pullback from platforms and a focus on product

“For news products to compete with the platforms they must engage readers to the same extent, recognizing the bar of UX is set in the minds of the reader across everything they experience on the internet, not just other publications.”

Late this year, we saw strong evidence that consumers quickly and willingly substitute news apps for Facebook in the case that Facebook is unavailable (and similar evidence for other platforms). That makes for an opportunity as publishers’ relationship with the platforms evolves.

With Facebook traffic on the decline, a steady stream of bad news about the effects of social media on society, and no major new platform emerging for engaging with news readers, publishers will need to work hard to own their audiences rather than building audience on distributed platforms.

From those publishers who succeed, I suspect we’ll see an enhanced focus on two things:

  • Product, particularly mobile product. For distributed visitors, an individual story is the main reason a user arrives — users in some other product (Google Search, their Facebook feed, Apple News) get interested in a story and click in. But for a visitor to come regularly, they must be interested in the user experience regardless of the particular news of the day. For news products to compete with the platforms they must engage readers to the same extent, recognizing the bar of UX is set in the minds of the reader across everything they experience on the internet, not just other publications.
  • Journalism that makes a publication unique. Of course, this one isn’t new, but it does get lost when tracking all the data trends. The most important part of the news product experience is the content itself. Those publishers who succeed at building strong loyal audiences will be those who have a strong, established brand with the unique journalism to back it up.

Josh Schwartz is chief of product, engineering, and data science at Chartbeat.

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