Atlas News and Viafoura – achieving soaring levels of community engagement

Focused on bridging the gap between the intelligence community and the general public through short-form content, Atlas News covers everything from geo-politics to conflict. While Atlas News is a digital news site, Stanford Nix, COO explains that “our community is our business”.

Their vibrant community is unbelievably active and loyal to their brand. “People use our products and consume our content because it’s important. They stay because they enjoy it” says Stanford. Most publishers dream of a community that sees and values everything they do. Atlas News has more than achieved that ideal. They’ve even had customers emailing them informing them of a loophole in subscription walls, and offering to pay back their subscription for the previous 4 months – all because they value the content Atlas News provides!

It is because of these achievements that Atlas News has set its new product introduction standards so high. Stanford noticed that “while our readership was high, we didn’t integrate our audience into our new platforms. I went on a deep dive to find a solution that could provide our customers with a more broad range of product offerings. We don’t see Viafoura as a tool, we see it as a product. A product we could leverage to generate more traffic, time on platform, and revenue. We have arguably one of the most dedicated and active communities in news. Our engagement rates are 8x of industry standard and bringing that social media engagement to our platform was the obvious next step. And Viafoura is the clear king of community engagement.”

For Atlas News, integrating Viafoura’s Conversations, Live Blogs, Community Chat, Trending Articles, and Moderation solutions is helping them reach new levels of engagement. Says Stanford, “It will not only affect our digital experience, it IS the digital experience. Reading articles and being informed is the passion in our community. But community engagement is where we really see our business come to life. Social media style features like comments, follows, upvotes and downvotes, are going to be an integral part of our growth and overall attractiveness to our community.”

Viafoura is also excited to work with Atlas News. Dalia Vainer, Director of Customer Success at Viafoura affirms how “we are looking forward to launching Viafoura core suite with Atlas’ unique younger demographic! We’ll be actively engaging their direct-to-user relationship on their owned and operated- something their audiences are used to with socials, but leading in a brand-safe and 1st party data forward way. What an exciting launch! “

icimédias digital properties drive new levels of engagement with Viafoura

icimédias is a group of  22 newspapers serving seven major regions of Quebec and Ontario, Canada: Chaudière-Appalaches, Estrie, Haut-Richelieu, Mauricie, Thetford, Victoriaville and Cornwall. They are the voice of thousands of citizens in their various regions.

As with many publishers, icimédias is experiencing challenges with enticing their digital readers to elevate their relationship from casual reader to actively engaged registered user. Says Marc-Noel Ouellette, General Director at icimédias, “our goal is to enhance the reader relationships while also collecting first-party data so that we can provide each reader with a unique and personalized experience”.

By integrating Viafoura’s Conversations, Live Blogs, Community Chat, Engagement Starter, Trending Articles, and Moderation solutions icimédias will have the means to drive new levels of engagement. Says Ouelette, “this will totally change our digital experience. We’re excited to enhance our relationships with our readers while ultimately driving unprecedented levels of conversions”.

Viafoura is equally excited to work with icimédias. Dalia Vainer, Director of Customer Success at Viafoura,  is quoted saying “we are looking forward to launching the Viafoura suite of solutions with icimédias! While they are already close to their readers, we’ll be taking engagement to a whole new level with personalization and first-party data”.

Putting the audience, data first can help media overcome news avoidance

If nothing else, one positive element that emerged from the pandemic is a renewed focus on mental health and wellness.

From one week to the next, people worldwide became recluses, whether they wanted to or not. They were forced to sit at home and, after burning through all that Netflix had to offer, think — think, reflect, and become aware of their mental health in ways that had perhaps been easier to avoid in the “before times.”

With this time for reflection, it’s no wonder people began to notice the correlation between their moods and mental health and the non-stop emotional rollercoaster of the news cycle throughout the pandemic.

In one sitting, viewers would be subjected to an inspiring video of Italians singing from their balconies in quarantine followed by horrifying stories of people trapped in their homes with deceased loved ones — all while a ticker at the bottom of the screen provided an ever-updating death counter.

While the news cycle is not known for being a constant source of uplifting content, the pandemic brought to light the impact that bad news has on our mental well-being. It’s no wonder new audience behaviours emerged. Ones that, to the detriment of publishers everywhere, would have us sooner look away and avoid the news than tune in to have our days ruined by yet another article about the latest existential threat.

Mental health effect on news avoidance trends

News avoidance is the active or intentional resistance or rejection of news.

Though we are still in the early days of this new behaviour, studies have indicated that people the world over have become more selective of the content they consume. It is a means of mitigating the negative feelings that go hand-in-hand with a news cycle that seems to skew ever more negative, concerning, and depressing.

According to data compiled by Nielsen, in the early days of the pandemic, publishers tracked a 60% global increase in news content consumption. What were the headlines during that period? Stories related to the pandemic, as well as political crises occurring around the world, with more than a few notable mentions belonging to the United States.

As time went on and the headlines became ever more tragic, an overwhelming sense of burnout amongst audiences was being fueled by the news.

In an annual Reuters survey of more than 90,000 participants in 46 different markets, 43% of people said the non-stop barrage of COVID-19 or political news triggered their decisions to embrace selective news avoidance. Additionally, 36% of those same respondents said their moods were negatively affected by the predominantly depressing nature of the news cycle.

Publishers have since then have found themselves in an impossible position: Report honestly on the grim nature of our world’s current events and suffer decreased views, report sensationally and lose credibility, or report on benign topics like celebrity divorces and scandals to keep people entertained but uninformed.

Negativity crushes trust, increasing news avoidance

This is not only a tricky situation for editorial and content teams. News avoidance has also made it difficult to build communities of passionate and engaged followers. It’s even more difficult when the news itself is deemed untrustworthy by misguided or misinformed consumers. The United States, in particular, has to deal with this growing trend. Only one-quarter of US respondents say they trust their nation’s news media.

Audiences will always have thoughts and opinions, particularly when it comes to larger-than-life concepts like the spread of a pandemic or an insurrection to overthrow democracy. It’s natural to want to share those thoughts and open up a discussion about those ideas — this is something that the comment section of an article is quite literally made for.

However, nearly one out of five respondents to the Reuters study said they skew toward news avoidance because sharing their opinions leads to arguments they’d rather avoid.

This goes right to the heart of the challenge that publishers face as they attempt to come up with solutions for their waning engagement and subscription rates. If people don’t feel comfortable expressing their viewpoints, not only will they avoid engaging in open discourse around enticing subject matter, it’s likely they will avoid the content altogether.

How to overcome news avoidance and win over audiences

So, what can publishers do to overcome news avoidance and build thriving communities of passionate readers? The answer is an audience-first, data-informed growth strategy.

By putting the interests of your audience first and creating content aligning with your orgnisation’s values and the goals of your editorial and publishing teams, you’re in good shape to start diminishing the risk of news avoidance.

If you’re able to position yourself as a publisher who delivers high-quality content and makes space for community-based and healthy discourse, you’re on track to winning back your audience and gaining access to valuable first-party data that will further inform your efforts.

Behavioural insights are essential in the current digital publishing landscape. That data can be difficult to acquire without an analytics team, but turn-key solutions do exist:

• Shadow banning against community violators

Platforms built by moderators to help other moderators maintain a positive community are available to you and your teams.

One valuable tool for community moderation is time-based shadow banning. These “timeouts” can be handed out to people who frequently disobey community guidelines and spread toxicity.

Labelling comments can help reinforce those guidelines further: highlight ones aligned with guidelines, note ones that veer off topic with more random postings, and flag those that are outright attacks on authors or other community members.

Through careful and considerate moderation, you’ll be better able to promote cooperative and respectful dialogue among readers. By making the space for discussion safer, you create an inviting opportunity to potential users who may have been avoiding your content as a means of dodging unwanted conflict and toxicity.

• IP lookups to restrict or block suspected trolls

Obviously, publishers need to grow their audiences to stay afloat. A healthy, sizeable viewership is essential for revenue and data-informed learning opportunities — not to mention it is extremely appealing to advertisers and affiliates eager to spend money to connect with those readers.

Unfortunately, if trolls or extremists harass other community members to the point of pushing them toward news avoidance, the quality of the viewership is greatly diminished. Quantity is not better than quality, even when views and shares are important metrics to help boost subscriptions.

Instead, you can use platforms with built-in IP address lookup capabilities to find these bad actors and moderate their posts so they can no longer disrupt the rest of the community. This will also help you avoid inadvertently violating your affiliates’ publishing guidelines and risk losing vital business, which was a hard lesson learned by the people of Parler following January 6.

• Moderate conversations, live events, community chats, and reviews

Finally, use your moderation console to encourage healthy dialogue across all digital streams affiliated with your publication. This can include conversations in the comments section of an article to interactions in live events and community chats. You can even influence the tone of ratings and reviews about your publication to stop misleading negativity from spreading.

The console plugs directly into each of these forums, allowing your entire editorial team to work out of the same space and enforce consistent guidelines across each outlet. Not only does this increase your team’s efficiency and productivity, but you’ll set a standard for your audience about what kind of community they can expect from your publication. This is how you set the stage to build trust and authenticity — two absolutely necessary traits to grow your audience.

While the world is ever-changing and readers adjust the way they consume content, publishers need to be mindful of how to create spaces that can be informative, safe, and encouraging for their readers.

This blog was originally published by INMA

A message from Viafoura’s CEO about Ukraine

As we watch the horrible events unfold in Ukraine, I would like to mention the critical importance of legitimate and trusted journalism, now more than ever.

As we have all seen, social media has become a powerful channel for the mass distribution of misinformation and propaganda. The work that all of us are doing here at Viafoura is directly and meaningfully contributing to media organizations’ ability to maintain high journalistic standards, and to build sustainable businesses that allow their vital work to continue.

The need for people to find trusted and untainted sources for information is only going to increase during events like these, and I am proud that we are a part of the ecosystem that bolsters this important work.

I am also proud of our company’s decision, with the full backing of our board of directors, to refuse customers that spread extremism, misinformation, hate, and propaganda.

Week of Nov. 9th-15th: Your Media News Update

This past week, the media industry has seen a lot of new approaches in tackling the challenges of the traditional subscription business model. Companies are getting creative and investing into forming a better content experience and improving targeted distribution.

This past week, the media industry has seen a lot of new approaches in tackling the challenges of the traditional subscription business model. Companies are getting creative and investing into forming a better content experience and improving targeted distribution. Some of the highlights include:

  • A new way of positioning subscription packages with vertical-specific content
  • Numerous examples of media organizations who are developing digital series and long-form content to drive digital traffic
  • Publishers are paying close attention to online search behavior, and are creating content to address those enquiries

Continue reading to learn and stay up-to-date with the latest industry news published over the past week.

Vertical Subscriptions Are the Newest “Side Products” Being Used to Drive Revenue

For many news publishers, the main selling point of a subscription is getting access to a broad range of coverage and content. But some publishers are thinking outside of the content experience box and are starting to promote slimmed-down versions, i.e. vertical subscriptions, as a way to drive more revenue. These types of packages are targeted towards readers who continuously return to specific content categories.

Grant Belaire, VP of digital audience development at McClatchy, proposes that it’s better to retain a subscriber with a vertical than to lose them entirely. Take the publisher’s sports readers, for instance. They make up less than 20% of McClatchy’s total readership, but contribute to over 50% of page views. By promoting a sports-focused subscription called the “Sports Pass,” which gives readers access only to sports content, McClatchy was able to double their subscription conversions in a week. 

Another publisher investing into the vertical-subscription model is The New York Times. The company has a standalone crossword subscription offered for $6.95 a month. With that package alone, The New York Times has earned more than 500K subscribers. And as subscribers consume crossword content, additional content offers can be promoted to eventually expand readership revenue per user.

After seeing more than 60K people visiting articles written by politics writer Charles Pierce every day, Esquire decided to build a $17.99 annual subscription offer specifically for his content. The annual subscription grants access to all of Pierce’s stories, a weekly newsletter written by Pierce and, to top it off, a tote bag. 

Jumping on the sports-related vertical-subscription model is The Athletic, a sports news subscription site that launched in 2016. They now have over 500K subscribers and are targeting over a million by the end of the year.

Media Organizations Get Creative in Developing New Ways to Monetize the Content Experience

In this day and age, the need for more subscribers is becoming increasingly significant in order to provide sustainable revenue. As a result, many media organizations are coming up with creative ways to attract new viewers, with the intent that they will eventually convert into paying subscribers. 

Bleacher Report is a publisher who has taken steps towards appealing to a larger audience. To boost viewership on its YouTube channel, the company has debuted an interactive show called “Your Call,” where viewers play the role of an up-and-coming soccer star. As the series progresses, viewers have the opportunity to make choices that impact the future of their soccer career, such as which team to join. 

The series is part of the sports publisher’s recent shift to produce more mid- and long-form programming for video-viewing platforms like YouTube versus shorter fare made for social platforms like Instagram, which are more difficult to monetize. 

Since October 2018, Bleacher Report’s soccer-related YouTube channel has grown from 235K subscribers and 10.8 million monthly views to over 1 million subscribers and 21.5 million views.

Another publisher that’s adding new formats to the content experience is Dow Jones’ Barron’s Group. Last week, they started a 10-minute weekly digital show called Marketbrief, which covers all the latest financial news for relevant investors. With this, Barron’s Group hopes to widen its audience.

Tastemade a video network that offers food and travel-related programming for online audiences is also expanding its long-form content offering on the ad-supported streaming platform, Samsung TV Plus.

Globally, Tastemade reaches 120 million monthly viewers via its 24-hour channel that launched 16 months ago. Samsung TV Plus is the biggest platform for the publisher in terms of viewers, watch time and revenue, largely in part because audiences don’t need to pay for its content and the service comes pre-installed on newer TVs. 

In other news, by repackaging and selling content created for other channels, USA Today aims to grow revenue through its video operations. Similar to Tastemade, the publisher is focused on increasing its content on ad-supported streaming platforms. The most recently launched streaming series is a weekly half-hour show called “USA Today Sports Weekly Pulse,” which highlights the most popular clips from USA Today’s sites over the course of the week on Fubo Sports Network

The New York Times also just announced that they’ll be venturing into film with two feature-length documentaries as a way to attract new audiences. These newsroom-specific documentaries will be produced by its very own journalists. In the past, the company has produced shows for connected TV services, including Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video.

To help media organizations monetize their content faster, Brightcove, a provider of cloud services for video, released a new SaaS-based OTT platform that allows content to be released on multiple platforms simultaneously. The new technology helps publishers launch and monetize video content across mobile, web and connected TV, all from one platform. 

Read up on the state of consumers in the streaming wars (and how to win them over) to learn more.

Publishers Try Increasing Site Traffic by Optimizing for Search

While many publishers have a social-first content experience, Delish, a food publication, decided to strengthen its search optimization about two years ago. They deep dived into what people were searching for and created an editorial strategy that incorporated content specifically tailored to answer keyword searches and enquiries. 

While they used to make short-form videos suited for social media platforms like Facebook, Delish quickly learnt that users who stayed the longest were looking for simple cooking guides. So, Delish started creating content that was 3-5 minutes long, aimed at satisfying Google inquiries.

Since the change in strategy, Delish has nearly doubled its site traffic, hitting a record 41 million unique visitors in September. That same month, search contributed 49% of its referral traffic, and in October, it rose to make up 54% of traffic. 

Publishers like Delish are slowly cutting down on the advertising dollars they’re pouring into social platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Instead, they’re beginning to focus on perfecting their own organic content and editorial strategies in order to grow audiences directly on their own platforms.

Week of Nov. 2-8th: Your Media News Update

As the year 2020 draws closer to us, a wide range of new content forms and topics that consumers will want to engage with are emerging.

With the month of November officially in full swing, we’ve seen a number of reports on current and predicted trends in digital media, especially related to ad spend. As the year 2020 draws closer to us, a wide range of new content forms and topics that consumers will want to engage with are emerging.

This week’s media news update highlights some of the trends that publishers and brands are finding to be most popular with audiences, including:

  • The renewed focus on building stronger brand loyalty as a way to create new revenue opportunities
  • The increase in ad spend on connected TV media as a way to reach audiences on streaming platforms
  • Creating consumer engagement strategies that attract but fail to profit off of younger audiences through social media platforms, like TikTok

Refocusing on Brand Loyalty Will Increase Consumer Engagement and Sales Partnerships

In order to succeed as a media company today, publishers need to have an extraordinary brand. And the general consensus in the industry is that a trusted brand is built on quality journalism. With this in mind, many big brands have been smart in capitalizing on the trust they’ve developed over time with their audiences. This has been achieved through high-quality, relevant content offerings. 

Rolling Stone, for example, believes so strongly in the need for quality journalists that the company has grown its editorial staff by 40% since being acquired by Penske Media

Additionally, the brand is capitalizing on the incredible amount of access it has to artists and celebrities. They’re creating monetization opportunities by offering unique products and services to their niche audiences. Take “Musicians on Musicians,” for instance, which gives readers access to intimate conversations between two artists from different genres.

Products and services need to be deemed valuable and meet the needs of consumers in order to gain their trust. Media executives at the Folio: Show agreed that building brand affinity with an audience relies heavily on engaging content that showcase value, such as solving a need or problem. In the case of Rolling Stone, its audience craves insider content that offers an intimate glimpse into the lives of the musicians and celebrities they admire. 

In addition to consumer engagement, brand power also has a significant impact on sales partnerships when it comes to advertising and renewals. For travel magazine, AFAR, licensing content has become a profitable way to develop strong partnerships and showcase its travel expertise.

For other companies like Meredith Magazines, who owns well-known lifestyle brands such as InStyle, People, and Eating Well, the company’s strategy is to partner with other strong brands, like HGTV’s Joanna and Chip Gaines. Content with those particular celebrities were featured in the Meredith-published magazine, The Magnolia Journal, and sold out in four hours on newsstands when it debuted. As long as quality content is at the heart, brand partnerships have proven to be very successful for many publishers.

Ad Spend for Connected TV Media Increases as Publishers Try to Reach Streaming Audiences

According to a new eMarketer forecast, it’s expected that ad spend on TV streaming platforms will soar this year. Analysts predict that media spend on ads for TV streaming services in the US will be more than doubled by 2023 alone

Roku is the most popular streaming device with about 44% of viewers, followed by Amazon Fire TV (33%), Google Chromecast (16%) and Apple TV (13%), taking into consideration that there is some overlap among users of multiple devices.

In response to this, media and tech companies are launching a slew of new services that aim to reach viewers who bypass cable or satellite TV subscriptions and instead, connect their TVs directly to the internet to stream content. Tech company Sabio recently launched a product called App Science TV. It’s a platform that enables brands to serve highly targeted ad units via TV and mobile formats by tracking app behavior. 

A key challenge going forward for these types of services will be developing more reliable audience metrics and ways to keep viewers engaged

Publishers Use TikTok for Long-Term Audience Engagement

TikTok, a social media video app for creating and sharing short lip-sync, comedy, and talent videos, is quickly attracting a growing group of publishers eager to increase their relationships with young audiences. Media corporations such as Vice and Buzzfeed are among those who have already started experimenting with short-form content on the app.  

Vice, which started using the platform earlier this year, is finding that TikTok followers crave exclusive content. As a result, Vice is planning to launch a “Munchies by Vice” account next month, which will feature exclusive content made specifically for the social media platform. 

BuzzFeed, which also started using TikTok earlier this year, hasn’t gone down the route of creating exclusive content for TikTok just yet. A key motivating factor for the brand to join TikTok was to create a Tasty account, as an attempt to ward off copycats.

Despite the popularity of some brands on the app, publishers have generally been reluctant to spend time and money on platforms when there is not a clear path to revenue generation. Currently, there is no mechanism for creators or publishers to directly monetize on TikTok. Many view TikTok as a long-term way to engage and grow their respective audiences until they can figure out how to extend this understanding onto their own platforms. That way, they can engage and keep audiences while generating profit.

Week of Oct. 26th-Nov. 1st: Your Media News Update

During the last week of October, we saw the release of many new technologies that will forever impact the state of content delivery and how we consume content. We now have an abundance of information at the touch of yet another app.

This week’s media news update focuses on the impact that everyone from tech companies to social advocacy organizations has in influencing how we access and engage with digital media, including:

  • Amazon’s and Apple’s foray into TV app streaming services for video news
  • Media executives’ thoughts on the value of reader habit on their owned and operated properties
  • America’s oldest and largest journalism advocacy organization slapping President Trump with cease and desist letters every time he uses the term “fake news”

For more details on the latest and greatest industry news from the past week, read on.

Amazon and Apple Have Been Busy Shaping the Future of TV

Streaming services have revolutionized how we watch TV and consume content. Watching news broadcasts used to be something that was part of your early morning routine as you prepared for work, or in the evening, before or after dinner. 

However, the internet has significantly changed our behaviors by giving us access to news content at any hour of the day. Streaming apps are now gaining speed in overtaking pay-TV services. And with an abundance of pirate sites available to consumers, competition for media streaming services is stronger than ever.

A growing number of platforms that aggregate video news from a variety of services have launched apps this year. Amazon now joins the ranks with the release of an ad-supported video news app designed for Fire TV devices. This app enables viewers to catch up on all the latest current events with both live and on-demand content from the likes of CBS, Reuters and Bloomberg. 

Simply called the News app on Fire TV, this new offering joins the previously launched news aggregator from Plex and other similar offerings from competing companies. The News app is free for Amazon’s Fire TV users. With this release, the company will be in a better position to compete with the offerings of rival services such as Apple News and Google News while at the same time strengthen relationships with publishers such as Sports Illustrated, Al Jazeera and Yahoo.

News-related content within the app will be rolled out to an expanding pool of compatible devices over the next few weeks, including tablets such as the updated Fire HD10. Amazon is focusing its efforts on creating the optimal customer experience so consumers won’t need to create separate accounts to benefit from the content. 

New ad revenue streams to diversify its revenue base are currently in progress, setting the company up to become the third-largest digital advertiser in the US after Google and Facebook.

Meanwhile, Apple is trying to get its TV app on as many devices as possible as it launches its $5-per-month video streaming service. Most recently, the company added its TV app to Amazon’s Fire TV platform. Available as of October 24 for both the Fire TV Stick and Fire TV Stick 4K, the Apple TV app will also be making its way to other Fire TV devices in the coming weeks. 

Media Executives Dig Into Building Profitable Consumer Habits

With print ad revenue in decline and digital ad spending heading towards its first decline in a decade, publishers are now looking to a future where readers are loyal to their own platforms.

At Digiday’s Publishing Summit Europe in Budapest, Hungary, executives shared their plans to diversify their sources of income, and the associated pain points.

One topic that was explored was how to develop loyal reader habits, keeping them on publisher sites for longer. Media executives who attended the event emphasized how the more opportunities to engage readers they offer, such as engagement tools or apps, the more likely visitors are to stick around.

One way that publishers are engaging their readers is through real-time, moderated commenting tools.

In another media news update, Publishing Executive also proposed that an upcoming trend for 2020 will involve publishers focusing on key reader metrics, on a more granular level than ever before. And it won’t just be up to data teams to analyze these metrics. 

The media company goes on to suggest that editors themselves need to understand the metrics that matter. That way, editors can create content that better engages community members, and appeals to advertisers. 

Fun Fact Friday

The Florida Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) has had enough of President Trump using the term ‘fake news’ whenever he doesn’t like something the press says about him. 

SPJ is America’s oldest and largest journalism advocacy organization. To help uphold the integrity of the industry, they decided to trademark the term ‘fake news’ in hopes of stopping the president and others from using the term haphazardly. Every time he uses it incorrectly, the organization will send him a cease and desist letter.

In addition to obtaining the trademark, a launch video has been marketed that features a journalist explaining why the term was trademarked. The video drives people to, which has tips on how to spot actual fake news and what journalists are doing to ensure they report the truth. 

It currently has 332,000 social media shares and has been covered by Newsweek, The Hill, New York Post, CBC, CTV and Daily News, among other publishers. The project was created in partnership with Calgary-based creative agency Wax.

If you haven’t already taken a look at it, you may find some valuable takeaways to share with your own company’s editorial team. 

Week of Oct. 19th-25th: Your Media News Update

The last week has seen a flurry of activity around topics related to automated content moderation and product design as well as ways to develop communities and keep them engaged. The many news stories and reports that have been discussed are a treasure trove of best practices we can learn from, including:

  • Twitch’s decision to amp up its live-streaming moderation and establish a “three strikes” rule before suspending a streamer’s channel
  • Microsoft’s testing of new content filters for its Xbox Live messaging system as a way to reduce the amount of toxicity on its platform
  • The Telegraph’s ability to achieve a 49% growth in subscriptions by optimizing its homepage

To continue learning and staying up-to-date with the latest and greatest industry news from the past week, read on.

Content Filtering and Moderation Reaches a New Level (for Some)

Content filtering and moderating live-streamed content have significantly evolved over the years. Twitch, one of the most popular video live-streaming services in the world, is leading the charge by providing a space for online communities to develop in a positive way. CEO Emmett Shear has been a big proponent of stream moderation as a way to empower streamers in creating the type of community they want. 

Twitch isn’t an “anything goes” type of platform. It’s very explicitly not a free speech platform, which differs from Twitch’s competitors. Shear says, “We’re a community. And communities have standards for how you have to behave inside that community. And so we think that it’s not anything goes.” 

When it comes to the digital world, community guidelines need to be set and enforced to keep platforms safe and productive.

More and more companies are also taking steps to adopt automated content moderation systems as a way to create safer online communities for the masses. For example, Microsoft is now testing content filters for its Xbox Live messaging system to reduce toxicity on its platform.

Microsoft has managed moderation on Xbox Live for almost 20 years, including the ability to report messages, usernames, and photos. Their new content filters empower players to have control over what kinds of messages are instantly hidden. The company also aims to protect live audio calls with real-time bleeps, similar to broadcast TV. Microsoft is now trying to be more open and transparent about how it moderates Xbox Live and the choices it makes to enforce these filters across the community.  

Facebook, on the other hand, still lacks in its commitment to content moderation based on its current automated filtering tools. The company has now publicly announced its shortcomings in an attempt to challenge a European Court of Justice ruling. 

When the top EU court decided earlier in the month that Facebook must use automated content moderation to detect “defamatory content,” the company responded by saying its tech was simply not good enough. Facebook described their own moderation tools as a “blunt instrument,” unable to properly understand the context, and therefore, make correct decisions.

Publishers Tap Into Creating Better Product Designs to Increase Subscriptions

Many publishers are trying to move away from relying on advertising income as the main source of revenue. To be financially sustainable in the long-run, more companies like The Telegraph are continuing to think about a subscriber-based revenue model. Consequently, there is a new thought emerging about how products reflect and align with this type of model. 

All of The Telegraph’s products, for example, now revolve around subscribers. Mathias Douchet, Director of Product at The Telegraph, says that “we had to move away from an ad strategy to a more user-engagement, user-centric strategy with our own products.”  

To do this, The Telegraph rebuilt its website’s homepage. Its old homepage offered hundreds of stories but very little in the way of editorial curation. It was also difficult to group content around a theme and make content stand out.

Since the Telegraph’s homepage is a key product that many subscribers turn to on a daily basis, it was revamped to offer top-notch user experience and ongoing engagement. 

The homepage redesign has resulted in very positive outcomes for the publisher. All consumption and engagement KPIs are up, subscriptions have increased by 49% and advertising revenue has increased but with fewer ads.

The Guardian has also released a daily app for paying subscribers as part of its quest to reach two million financial supporters by 2022. The appeal of the new app is that it won’t carry ads and will offer news in a streamlined way.

The new app lets users scroll horizontally through different news sections in depth. It also lets users read the previous week’s worth of papers. 

Publisher app users are typically highly valuable because they consume more content more regularly and for longer periods of time. For these reasons, publishers are beefing up their apps for subscribers. This includes The Economist, which last year launched an app to help drive retention. The app design takes its cue from the digital user experience of music streaming apps like Spotify. Similar to publishers, music streaming apps also face the challenge of displaying massive amounts of content grouped by genre in an intuitive way.

Successful businesses are no longer making products and decisions that revolve completely around advertising; they revolve around subscribers

Week of Oct. 5th-11th: Your Media News Update

During the course of the last week, the media and publishing industry has been talking about some very important and thought-provoking issues:

  • Publishers are scrambling to expand their revenue channels while navigating through the challenges presented by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) 
  • Mergers and acquisitions are all the rage as publishers attempt to expand their content offerings and appeal to niche audiences
  • Valuations of privately-owned publishers are skyrocketing but at the expense of employees

To learn more and stay up to date with the latest and greatest newsmakers of the past week, keep reading about the topics below.

Publishers Scramble for Revenue-Generating Alternatives Post-GDPR

For many publishers, the ever-evolving legalities surrounding the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and loss of third-party cookies on Safari and Firefox browsers represents an inconvenient, potential threat to programmatic ad revenue.  

To combat the restrictions, publishers are trying to figure out ways to monetize their first-party data by creating audience identifiers that help clients target the right people at scale. With this approach, publishers won’t need to rely on third-party cookies.

In some cases, this has led to more granular targeting on their own digital properties around audience intents, behaviors, sentiments and interests. For others, this involves selling first-party data, which will be used for targeting audiences outside of their own properties. 

News Corp is one of the publishers actively pursuing beyond-the-cookie strategies that prioritize identifying audiences with first-party rather than third-party cookies. The organization issues a news ID for individual readers so they can be identified without the use of third-party cookies. To date, the media group has created 590 million global anonymized user IDs. 

Being able to track each known user means that companies can identify the behaviors and appetites within their communities, providing valuable insights around readers’ habits and preferences. 

Others are also pushing hard to convert anonymous users into known users based on first-party data. Insider spent the last year developing hundreds of millions of reader IDs, mapping first-party data that isn’t personally identifiable but provides in-depth insights into reader behaviors, interests and intents. As a result, the company is able to create effective targeting segments for marketers.

Sports media companies are also only beginning to realize now that fan engagement data is key to building audience loyalty and revenue

The Financial Times, on the other hand, is focusing on putting efforts towards capitalizing on private deals specifically programmatic-guaranteed deals. 

Meanwhile, The Washington Post has created a first-party data ad targeting tool that offers detailed contextual targeting capabilities along with user-intent predictions for marketers. The publisher aims to provide targeting options for advertising clients who want to wean themselves away from third-party cookies.

Digital Publishers Are Expanding Their Audiences by Focusing on Niche Interests

In pursuit of audience expansion, digital publishers are buying up smaller, niche publishing companies and are launching new verticals focused on those specific interest areas. 

A growing trend among publishers, the industry as a whole is looking to achieve greater leverage against ad giants Google and Facebook. Three recent announcements are clear proof points that the focus on niche content is how publishers are trying to distinguish themselves within the market:

  • IAC’s Dotdash — a media organization that owns 10 publishers — just purchased, its fourth acquisition this year of niche vertical content.
  • Vice Media’s male-dominated content will now be more inclusive with a deal to acquire Refinery29, a popular publisher with younger female audiences interested in their lifestyle and entertainment verticals. 
  • Bustle Media Group (BMG), a female-focused digital media company, is launching a tech-focused news site called Input in November, bringing BMG’s total site count to eight. Over the past year, BMG also acquired science-focused site Inverse, culture-focused The Outline, and pop-culture-focused Nylon in a bid to attract more diverse audiences. 

Niche outlets are able to help publishers not only expand their audience reach but also their ability to target ads based on interests. This is the main advantage tech giants already have, which easily persuades marketers to sacrifice their precious ad dollars. 

By mimicking this core benefit — interest-based ad targeting on their own properties — publishers can increase their share of the pie. For example, Dotdash is bundling its assets into four groups, including “health and wellness,” “finance” and “food, beverage and home” to make it easier to pitch to certain brand categories by interest area.

Digital Publishing All-Stock Deals Are the New Normal

Investors are no longer interested in funding media companies that are not growing quickly. As a result, the growing trend is making all-stock deals as the last and best option for publishers and their investors. 

While mergers and acquisitions have dominated media headlines this year, some of the biggest have been all or mostly stock-based deals, including the three most recent ones:

Stock deal valuations are essentially what someone else values the stock to be worth. And the only way to know this is to either go public or to sell the company to someone else. It’s up to the seller and the buyer to make up and agree upon the value. The stock isn’t traded on a public exchange, so while the relative values are meaningful, the overall value is virtually meaningless.

Another big issue is that all-stock acquisitions often mean that whatever common stock employees held is now worth much less. That can make it harder to keep the talent they have, as well as recruit new talent.

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