Social has turned content into currency, but how do we monetize this new exchange?

The news is everywhere and according to recent reports, the ad dollars dedicated to online news publishers are being shared across a very crowded space.

“People don’t appreciate how difficult it is to do interesting journalism that is monetizable and sustainable over time,” said Jim VandeHei, the president and CEO of Politico and Capital New York. “We would never build a media product based around [web] traffic and advertising. That is a fool’s play in this day and age,” Mr. VandeHei said.

All evidence points to the contrary. With the massive resources being pushed into the news fray, digital publishers from Yahoo! to Vox Media and stalwarts like Comcast and Fox are looking to develop more digital news outlets. Does news consumption become a loss-leader for engagement: if you get a daily reader you will figure out what else to push their way so you can monetize better?

Click-through rates and pageviews are no longer effective ways to measure or monetize traffic. Publishers and advertisers want more precision about what content is truly compelling for their audiences. This is especially true when you look at the massive valuations that content is driving today.

Social activity, particularly the sharing of content, is the purest expression of a consumer’s interest, and it fuels the content industry. The amount of digital content people are sharing globally increased ninefold between 2006 and 2011, to nearly two trillion gigabytes (and is predicted to continue growing exponentially).

Twitter even brought over Vivian Schiller to run the “news” division of Twitter! News parsed out 140 characters at a time is certainly more cost-effective than long form. Maybe Twitter will become an even more powerful discovery engine for long form storytelling and journalism – helping you decide where to spend your time when you actually have it. What better way to determine that a story is worth your effort than if it comes from a stream of information that you have already tuned (hopefully) to include the sources you trust: news outlets, people, brands, etc.

Or, perhaps those news organizations can find a way to do this by selling their audiences in a smarter way. So, rather than focusing on selling against their content “news,” they sell some righteous audiences with compelling demographics, socialgrapics or other powerful indicators of buying power and deep engagement. Programmatic buying and selling of digital inventory is still pretty nascent and remains tilted toward the buy-side. The dust will settle, smarter platforms will prevail and good storytelling will continue to win. Call it a prayer; it’s certainly a belief.

Posted in: Industry Trends, influence, Learn

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