In the news this week, the Winter Olympics have seen lower TV ratings as expected, but NBC has made a big push into live-streaming and digital platforms to keep young people involved. Facebook said it would support publishers’ paywalls in its mobile app for the first time, and let them keep 100% of revenues. Will it turn around Facebook’s bad rap after its algorithm change? Apple News is bringing huge traffic to some publishers but is still struggling to drive ad revenues for them. Our Metric of the Week is Audience Impact, and the New York Times media columnist Jim Rutenberg stops by to discuss the recent highs and lows at the Times and his reporting on a porn star and President Trump.
Don’t have a lot of time to spare, but still want to get a roundup of the week’s top news? Then check out our Digital Media Brief below!
Digital Media Brief
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Mark Glaser is executive editor and publisher of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He is an award-winning writer and accidental entrepreneur, who has taken MediaShift from a one-person blog to a growing media company with events such as Collab/Space workshops and weekend hackathons; the weekly MediaShift podcast; and digital training, DigitalEd, in partnership with top journalism schools. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.
Jim Rutenberg is media columnist for the New York Times. He’s also a contributor to the New York Times Magazine. Jim came to the Times from the New York Observer in 2000, and was previously a staff reporter and stringer for the New York Daily News and a general assignment reporter at the New York Post.
Top News Of The Week
How Social Viewing Upended the Winter Olympics
As less Americans watch big live events on TV such as the Super Bowl and Oscars, the Winter Olympics is yet another victim of changing viewing habits. But NBC isn’t using traditional Nielsen ratings, but instead they’re touting TAD, which stands for Total Audience Delivery, a measure of viewership across network, cable and streaming platforms. And while they used TAD to measure Olympic ratings before in Rio, this marks the first time they’ve used the metric to sell advertising. So far, the TV ratings alone for NBC have been down 15 percent compared to Sochi but with TAD they’re only down 7 percent. But Comcast and NBC aren’t fretting the lower ratings, and are making a big push into social media and new platforms. After having dealt with the #NBCFail hashtag at previous Olympics, NBC is instead showing all events live, and live-streamed as well. By having so much video on social platforms, NBC can help offset lost TV audiences, and bring younger people into the action.
Plus NBC has partnered with two digital companies it has significant stakes in: Snapchat for live-streaming each day at the Olympics, with content produced by BuzzFeed. Plus, NBC is also experimenting with virtual reality and will provide special content for Uber riders. Meanwhile, news publishers have also ramped up their own innovative coverage of the Games. The New York Times is offering up the next best thing to being there: live, direct messages from editor Sam Manchester. Manchester is reporting on the ground at the Olympics and sending photos, videos and more to readers via the New York Times app. The experience is designed to be interactive so that readers can ask Manchester questions and even suggest which events to cover. For its part, the Washington Post fired up its “Post Oly Bot” on Twitter to provide regular updates of the Games. So even if TV viewership is down for this Winter Games, you can expect a lot of new experiences and social viewing to keep people engaged.
Facebook Will Support Publishers’ Paywalls in Its App
While Facebook has largely been the purveyor of bad news for publishers with its algorithm change, it did have a couple items of good news this week. The social giant announced that it would add a new section for news in its video feature Watch. And beginning March 1st, publishers will be able to use paywalls within Facebook’s mobile app for the first time. Facebook will allow readers to see five free articles from a publisher before loading a subscription page on the publisher’s website, rather than within Instant Articles. Publishers will also be able to keep 100% of the subscription revenue and the customer data. While Facebook had developed a work-around on Android apps, it took a hard-nosed negotiation with Apple to remove Apple’s 30% tax from paywall transactions.
And Facebook will definitely have to up its game when it comes to bringing in revenues for publishers. A new study by Digital Content Next found that Facebook and Google bring in a paltry amount of digital revenues for most large publishers. According to the report, the total average digital revenue driven by the so-called duopoly accounts for less than 5 percent of overall digital revenues for publishers, and makes up less than 30 percent of the distributed content revenue pie. While distributed content hasn’t provided publishers with a ton of revenues, it has grown year-over-year with video accounting for more than 80 percent of distributed content revenue. Will the new announcement about paywall support change the equation for publishers? Let’s hope so.
Apple News Brings Traffic, But What About Revenues?
Apple News doesn’t get the hype and usage statistics that Facebook does but according to Tom Dotan at The Information, the app can account for as much as 60 percent of readership of some stories. The app is curated by a team of a dozen former journalists who decide which stories get featured in the Top Stories or Spotlight sections of Apple News. They run a private Slack channel with top publishers who make their pitch to score the coveted featured spots in the app and home screen. Small and medium-sized publishers aren’t too happy with the situation, however, as the curators tend to favor larger mainstream outlets.
But mainstream outlets have their own issues with Apple News. Digiday’s Sahil Patel reports that ABC News, which is seeing growth on the app, wants more personalization options for push notifications. ABC News is seeing referral traffic grow by double-digit percentages each month, but publishers don’t earn significant ad revenue through the app because Apple outsourced ad sales to NBC. Apple is reportedly working on supporting DoubleClick for ads, but it better move a little more quickly on that front. Longtime news reader app Flipboard has a big head start, and its CEO Mike McCue told the crowd at Code Media that Apple News “as a product is living in the past.” He touts Flipboard’s ability to drive traffic to publishers directly and increase social sharing. Apple has an amazing advantage with its app on every iPad and iPhone home screen, but it needs to put more energy into updating it and start supporting smaller publishers.
Here are some other stories we’re following
Music on this Episode
Can’t Hate The Hater by 3 Feet Up
Sinking Feeling by Jessie Spillane
DJ by Jahzzar
Backed Clean Vibes by Kevin Macleod
Air Hockey Saloon by Chris Zabriskie
I Never Wanted To Say by Lorenzo’s Music
I’m Going for a Coffee by Lee Rosevere
Jefferson Yen is the producer for the MediaShift Podcast. His work has been on KPCC Southern California Public Radio and KRTS Marfa Public Radio. You can follow him @jeffersontyen.