It’s a precarious time for online publishers.
Facebook, the lifeblood for most online publications, has made several changes to its algorithm this year, most recently announcing an update to how posts are displayed in the news feeds of its users, prioritizing posts made by users’ friends and family over those from publishers’ pages. Digital advertising dollars have turned into pennies as readers respond to increasingly-intrusive online ads by implementing adblockers, and increasingly consume content on their mobile devices.
Online media companies who only last year were seen as industry darlings—including Buzzfeed, Upworthy, and Mashable—have missed revenue targets and laid off staff due to this perfect storm of diminishing Facebook-driven virality and lower revenues from each click. A course change is under way in the industry. Yet there isn’t a single person in digital publishing who feels 100 percent certain of what the next decade, or even the next few years, will look like.
There is a bright note to this relative chaos: Quality content is rising to the top again. Engaging articles and genuine audience development are becoming the name of the game; misleading stories and bought audiences are becoming a thing of the past. Publishers who are staying afloat and, in some cases, even soaring during this period of upheaval have done a few things consistently. They have remained focused on quality and not relied wholly on a single traffic channel. They have diversified the metrics used to measure success, focusing as much on engagement as reach. They have identified varying audiences and behavior and have listened to those audiences to guide them in what to write next.