Were there any noteworthy trends in 2014 for those of us immersed in the world of creating digital content? As the year draws to a close and Santa gets ready for his busiest day, Digiday journalist Lucia Moses identifies five trends across the pond:
Shoving journalists into a “vertically integrated media company” really tees them off – The New Republic and First Look Media learned the hard way in 2014 that you might as well try to herd cats as corral journalists into a new model, even though Silicon Valley billionaire and founding Facebook frontman Chris Hughes and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar came to save their financial bacon. TNR’s top editors left in droves. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos took a much more “hands off” approach managerially when he bought The Wall Street Journal and managed to keep the touchy journos onside.
Social helped, not hindered (but things could change) – Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm change last December resulted in significant increases in traffic to publishers’ sites as a result of social referrals (Time.com more than trebled its social referrals during 2014 as a result, and Hearst magazine saw a tenfold increase). But Facebook now wants publishers to allow it to host their content on its own servers, giving it, not the publishers, control over invaluable reader behaviour data.
Publishers got innovative with new business models – From new consumer-pay products at Slate and Pando to expanded events business (Business Insider, The New York Times) to e-commerce, publications have been devising new ways to offset declining ad revenues. But many publishers can’t get a membership programme up and running because they simply don’t have the brand loyalty to make it fly.
Embracing native – Early hostility to native advertising morphed in 2014 into something approaching enthusiasm. Traditionally wary publications like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal embraced it and marketers are poised to increase their spend on native next year by 34.4 per cent.
Beyond the pageview – New engagement metrics are being played with the likes of Upworthy, The Economist and The Financial Times to complement the humble pageview (the amount of time spent by readers on a publisher’s site). But there’s a struggle: so far there is no industry standard for engagement metrics, which is holding back its wider adoption. And no one knows yet whether they really works.