The Complete Publisher's Guide to Promoting Content Via WhatsApp

The Complete Publisher's Guide To Promoting Content Via WhatsApp

WhatsApp was built for private chatting not public sharing, so using it to share news with users presents a unique set of challenges for publishers. But, a group of publishers have started to undertake WhatsApp marketing strategies to explore what’s possible with the service. A western brand may call this a necessity but still feel distanced from it. But in India, WhatsApp’s most populous market, the narrative of news consumption has unfolded to make a transition to WhatsApp not a calculation, but a natural next step.

It’s a widely-held estimate that in January 2018, Indian WhatsApp user numbers reached 300 million. It may well be even higher than this today. Remarkable, considering WhatsApp has 1.6 billion monthly users internationally. Check the rapid increase in growth rate for Indian WhatsApp users:

Indian WhatsApp User Growth
Source: http://www.businessofapps.com/data/whatsapp-statistics/

User-reported statistics reveal that 82% of Indian internet users are on the app, putting it behind Facebook (89%) and YouTube (93%) only.

Germany’s another area of significant interest. According to Axel Springer’s Hannah Schwär: 94% of young Germans favour [WhatsApp] over other social media apps. Especially in times where it’s really hard to reach a young audience via news apps or Facebook, this is a really interesting channel.’

In the run up to the 2018 German federal elections, Axel Springer attempted to devise a way to engage young voters. Their in-house team created Shotty.

What’s Shotty?

In spite of its catchy name, Shotty is not actually a chatbot. Schwär found that commercially available WhatsApp chatbots didn’t support voice messages, a feature key to Shotty. So yes, the team literally had to manage the community by hand.

Shotty worked on the basis that the editor and host record a bulletin at 5am every morning with a loose, conversational tone. Then, they would distribute it via WhatsApp at 7am. Most users reported feeling too lazy to read much news in the early hours of the morning, so audio fitted into their morning routine seamlessly.

But, Schwär told Medium that without a WhatsApp-supported technical infrastructure it’ll be difficult to scale Shotty up any further. ScoopWhoop is a great example of WhatsApp-supported infrastructure deployed effectively, allowing for indefinite growth.

What’s ScoopWhoop?

Founded in 2013 by six friends from advertising and marketing backgrounds, ScoopWhoop is best considered as India’s answer to sites like BuzzFeed and The Huffington Post. Co-founder and CEO Sattvik Mishra told Inc42 “We would go through all these sites in the US that had viral content such as Diply.com or Huffington Post or even a Buzzfeed. And we realised that this same culture was being replicated here in India.”

“All our publications around that time, apart from those in mainstream media, were American in nature, talking about their TV shows, their problems, and their issues. And the pop culture that did exist in India was US-focussed. So we decided to do something about it.”

ScoopWhoop’s WhatsApp service merely requires a user to click a button and send the automatically added ScoopWhoop contact a message, and they will begin to receive daily news updates via WhatsApp. The service is automated using MessengerPeople (then known as WhatsBroadcast); an identical setup to I AM POP, which we’ve covered in the past. It works similarly to The Quint’s WhatsApp chatbot.

What’s The Quint?

The Quint is an English and Hindi language news site founded by Raghav Bahl and Ritu Kapur. Initially, they used WhatsApp Business to distribute content with their readers. But the system restricted them to manually updating multiple 256-member WhatsApp groups, rather than one all-encompassing list. The response was overwhelming, and they quickly began to look into more efficient ways of distributing their content via WhatsApp.

Like ScoopWhoop, The Quint decided to experiment with MessengerPeople. Now, all a reader had to do was send the word ‘Start’ to the WhatsApp window, and they’d begin receiving daily news bulletins. Here’s how they look.

Bloomberg Quint's WhatsApp MessengerPeople Service
Source: https://www.messengerpeople.com/chatbots-what-is-a-whatsapp-bot-actually/

At first, The Quint tried MessengerPeople through the BloombergQuint branch of the publication, as the content is niche; stock updates, business news, etc. The user base grew rapidly, leading many users to the site and increasing and driving monetisation. This particular WhatsApp service has over 268,000 subscribers as of August 2018. And that’s just BloombergQuint; The Quint hosts a number of other channels, such as NEON and FIT.

How is WhatsApp performing in the UK?

All this hype isn’t restricted to India, of course. WhatsApp is performing brilliantly in the UK. Facebook and YouTube are the UK’s most popular social networks, both tied with 79% of social network users in the UK as of February 2018. WhatsApp, however, is the UK’s most popular chat app, with a social network user share of 58%. That tops even Facebook Messenger’s monthly active users. Here’s how the whole graph looks.

Social networks ranked by usage in the UK
Source: https://www.messengerpeople.com/whatsapp-user-base-uk/

I’m convinced. How do I use MessengerPeople?

Here’s the ‘Use Case’ for users who would like to send notifications and alerts over WhatsApp. This is likely the area which digital publishers will be most interested in.

Use Case: Notifications & Alerts

Use messaging apps to send your customers important information or updates in real-time, reaching them on their smartphone lock screen.

  • Verification – such as registration or login confirmation, two-factor authentication, etc.
  • Confirmation – for example, booking or payment confirmations.
  • Alert – delivery status, flight time changes and more.
  • Reminder – for an appointment or an unpaid bill, etc.

After signing up for the 14-day free trial, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Click on ‘Configure Test Numbers’ in the WhatsApp Business Test Users panel in the dashboard to save the test user phone numbers (yours and your colleagues’).
  2. Have you or another test user message to your channel number (which you can find in ‘WhatsApp Business Test Users’ in the Dashboard).
  3. Once this is done, navigate to the ‘Assignment’ page and assign the received ticket to any agent. It can then be replied to via WhatsApp.

For more information on how to get started with the service, head here.

Pricing starts at €699 per month, with additional packages available according to the chat answers, agents and channels the user requires. The full price breakdown and comprehensive list of features can be found here.

There’s plenty of evidence that MessengerPeople is worthwhile for publishers. Mathematics spoke to International Marketing Manager Birgit Bucher, who told us:

Our Messenger Communication Platform is based on personalized messenger customer communication. The customer contacts a business first in order to receive information and news. So naturally, there is an impressive opening rate behind that. Our clients have an average open rate of up to 90% and click-through rate of 35%.

Most WhatsApp users also have the push-notification enabled, so the message appears directly and immediately on the lock screen. This ensures maximum awareness. With the help of our platform, companies were able to increase their customer satisfaction.

Our take

Naturally, there are downsides to a WhatsApp strategy. As you’re no doubt aware, it’s not a ‘share-friendly’ platform, so requires a strategy entirely of its own, separate to that of social media channels. Also, the way that images download automatically onto users’ phones is a cumbersome frustration, occupying gallery space and potentially leading to unsubscribes.

It's always good to be careful when using startups that piggyback services like WhatsApp, but since changing from WhatsBroadcast, MessengerPeople has been officially endorsed by WhatsApp. It is one of the few official WhatsApp Business API providers worldwide. See here for their official recognition. I asked Bucher for clarity here and she explained “...there is no risk of WhatsApp cutting any numbers of our clients. You can read more about the WhatsApp Business API here.”

Here at Mathematics, we believe the proliferation of WhatsApp presents an absolutely vital opportunity to publishers. As of the time of publishing, you have the chance to be among the first British publishers utilising the platform in this way. You should take it.


Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Matthias Döpfner

Everything We Know About Facebook’s Dedicated News Tab - So Far

Recently, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sat down with Matthias Döpfner - CEO of Axel Springer - for a discussion about the roles of Facebook and journalism in a bustling digital media industry. During their conversation, which took place in Berlin and was broadcast to the world via Facebook, Zuckerberg revealed that he was considering launching a dedicated tab within Facebook for news, which would feature “high-quality, trustworthy content”. It could potentially be introduced before the end of 2019.

Zuckerberg estimates that 10-20% of Facebook’s audience would be interested in this new section. It will be free for all users, though Facebook may pay publishers whose work is featured in an effort to encourage responsible reporting. Currently, it’s not clear if Facebook would personally pay publishers or monetize this through an ad revenue share.

Perhaps this idea is evidence that Zuckerberg will aim to remain true to the promises made in his recent essay regarding Facebook’s substantial privacy and transparency issues. Perhaps it’s a savvy play engineered to ensure Facebook can continue to compete with Google and Apple on the news front. Don’t forget, Facebook has recently been confronted with new European Union copyright rules that will require it to “compensate publishers and creators for the content that appears on their websites”. These plans could have come from a place of necessity, as opposed to genuine desire for an overhaul of practice.

Facebook may hire editors to operate the news tab, but Zuckerberg told Döpfner that currently it’s unclear to what extent the content of the tab will be chosen by users or curated by editors. We do know that Facebook had to adapt its editorial strategy with trending news after being accused of intentionally stifling conservative voices. Facebook was even found by the Guardian to have given its editorial staff the ability to add or remove content from the trending bar, at their discretion. But, Zuckerberg went on to clarify: “We’re not going to have journalists making news. What we want to do is make sure that this is a product that can get people high-quality news.” All the same, Zuckerberg added: “I want to make sure that to the extent that we can that we’re funding as much high quality journalism as possible.” Döpfner replied, saying: “I’ve always been totally convinced that quality journalism in the digital world can only exist if there is also an element of paying readers.”

Mark Zuckerberg and Matthias Döpfner discuss Facebook's news tab

It appeared that Zuckerberg wasn’t too proud to take a dig at some competition, either, claiming: “We’re coming to this from a very different perspective than some of the other players in the space who view news as a way that they want to maximise their revenue” - possibly a reference to Apple News+, Apple’s recently unveiled ‘Netflix for news’ which came under fire when it was reported that it will take 50% of revenue from the service.

Another area Zuckerberg was keen to discuss was local news. Facebook’s late-2017 introduction of their ‘meaningful interactions’ algorithm saw the platform begin prioritising posts from friends and families of users. This meant that only news with the most emotionally stirring, click-driven headlines broke through to news feeds. It’s highly unusual for local stories to carry the weight of scoops on a national or international level. Facebook seems to be working to undo some damage the algorithm change brought with it; proof that the promises Zuckerberg makes in his essay on privacy may hold true? Furthermore, Zuckerberg expressed a desire to make small payments to third-party fact checkers and local news organisations.

Our take

Before Facebook changed its News Feed algorithm to prioritise ‘meaningful interactions’, the idea of users clicking to a tab to view news would have had us up in arms. Surely, to have to navigate to a separate tab is to massively compromise content impressions? Well, it depends. The user intent of a reader would potentially change, which could exchange large click volumes for fewer users - but potentially users of a higher value.

If this was the case, then hypothetically, Facebook could pay publishers according to dwell time, the same way Apple News+ does. This could make for an interesting steer away from low quality snackable content driven by clickbait headlines. For some publishers this would be great news, for others it could mean the introduction of controversial practice; articles stuffed with assets that aim to keep users stuck on a page, for instance.

We'll keep a close eye on best practice for the model if it rolls out. To be on Facebook’s news payroll could be an invaluable asset for publishers of all sizes and in all areas.

Wish to stay up to date on these developments? Join the Mathematics newsletter.


Creative Review Apple News Channel

Welcoming Creative Review to Apple News

Recently, we've enjoyed the unique pleasure of onboarding Creative Review onto Apple News. Working closely with the team we strived to create an Apple News channel that communicates as well as its website and print publication, presenting journalism as graceful as the work it covers, presented in an equally tasteful fashion.

What did Creative Review require?

Creative Review occupies an unrivalled position within the creative industries. Alongside the print edition, which you'll find on many a creatives' desk, the digital publication operates inside a 'freemium' framework, where 50% of its content is behind a paywall, and the other 50% is available to anybody. This model launched last year with much success.

Creative Review doesn’t provide dry, industry-only reportage. The team cover everything from art, film and television advertising, publishing to illustration, with unparalleled levels of coverage. Being part of the creative industries isn't a prerequisite to falling in love with its content. And, as their freemium model has proven, new readers who discover the publication will often convert into paying subscribers.

Apple News offers a number of opportunities for a title like Creative Review. Apple's algorithm works to learn a user’s interests and their UI surfaces stories of interest to that user. This allows a story from Creative Review to appear under a story from, say, The Independent, or within a user's personalised news feed, based either on context or personal taste. International users who may never have heard of Creative Review could end up spending plenty of time with their content, which made Apple News an enticing prospect for the team.

Creative Review is published by Centaur Media, and houses a lively, engaged editorial team and a busy development department who work across multiple publications. With that in mind, we had to make their induction into Apple News as smooth as possible and make day-to-day delivery just as straightforward, to avoid obstructing hectic schedules.

As a magazine which writes about the creative industry, we have to be a bit finickity about things like the leading of type and how images sit on a page. I think all of us breathed a sigh of relief when we saw the draft templates designed by Mathematics…they got CR straight away. We think the final templates do full justice to the brilliant photography, film and design work we write about. What’s even better, is that publishing to Apple News on a daily basis hasn’t added to our work load!” - Salonee Gadgil, Digital Content Producer, Creative Review.

It goes without saying that a publication that appeals to creatives had to be designed well. This is a team that notice and care about the exact spacing between an image and a caption, or the perfect line height on mobile, tablet and desktop. Total control over look and feel was core to the brief, as was paying attention to the finest details, to ensure brand integrity.

How did we ensure Creative Review’s goals were met?

We started out by listening to Creative Review's overall goals and how Apple News could help meet them. From here we offered insights into how Apple News performs and how best to approach growth on the platform. Considering the publication’s freemium paywall model many of these conversations focused around strategies to connect with readers that are most likely to be interested in Creative Review, helping the team to seed specific pieces of content to build loyalty.

Unique to FlatPlan is the ability for us to deliver beautiful "Apple News Format" pages through nothing more than an RSS feed. This meant the resource required from Centaur's tech team was minimal, with the system now running without any need for their developers to maintain. All the editorial team have to do to introduce stories to Apple News is tick a box when publishing a story to their site. FlatPlan automatically maps content by category, so stories are automatically grouped into the relevant section within the Creative Review Apple News channel.

Working to Creative Review’s brand guidelines we designed pages to perfectly replicate the desired look and feel. We then built out pages to be effective across mobile, tablet and desktop. This guarantees that the work Creative Review covers lives up to its full potential, no matter the device. Here’s a desktop story:

Creative Review Apple News Desktop

And here’s a mobile story:

Creative Review Apple News Mobile

A significant part of allowing the publication’s work to proliferate further was the custom footer we built. It appears at the bottom of every article, and working to the publisher’s goals it drives newsletter signups and key socials. Its sleek yet bold call to actions are tailor-made to invite conversions.

Creative Review Apple News Footer

FlatPlan’s simplicity offered Creative Review a quick and easy turnaround on Apple News. Our knowledge of the platform helped Creative Review to launch onto Apple News with a strategy driven by insights and guidance on growth. It's early days, but Creative Review has already seen huge success since launch, with articles featured in the Spotlight and chosen by Apple News editors within editorial groups.

Creative Review in Apple News' Editors' Picks

Welcome to Apple News, Creative Review!


Facebook Pivot To Privacy

Pivot to Privacy: How Can Publishers Work With the New Facebook?

According to Mark Zuckerberg’s recent lengthy essay, the social media giant will 'pivot to privacy', putting this at the top of its list of priorities. Zuckerberg claims the Facebook of the future will be built on several principles: private interactions, encryption (specifically end-to-end encryption as found in WhatsApp so nobody, not even Facebook, can see what you share), reducing permanence, safety, interoperability (ease of communication across Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, in this case) and secure data storage.

Naturally, Zuckerberg fully intends Facebook to remain the social media platform of today and tomorrow. But it’s easy to be cynical about this announcement if you have a basic understanding of Facebook’s business model. Facebook’s ‘pivot to privacy’ is missing discussion on its underlying business model: Facebook is in the business of profiting off user data.

It doesn’t sell user data to third party marketers, but it profits off it. In order to truly change their ways, Facebook has some options, but none of them are good for it as a business. They can:

  • Totally change their business model. Not a good option if you’re making $56 billion dollars a year from advertising.
  • They can show provide more transparency and give users more controls. But how much transparency do you provide, and how do you do it? Because these are not easy issues to explain. A lot of the world still doesn’t care, but more and more users are interested, advocacy groups are interested, and regulators are very interested.

Here’s a quote from Sheryl Sandberg on transparency:

“One of the problems with the business model is we’ve done a terrible job explaining it, and people don’t understand it. And when you don’t understand something, you can become very uncomfortable.”

Mark Zuckerberg adds:

“I think the vast majority of people would rather have an ad-supported platform for free than something they had to pay for.”

But if these options aren’t great for business, then how can we be sure Zuckerberg will keep his promise? Particularly when trust in his company is dangerously low following the Cambridge Analytica scandal? At the very least, Zuckerberg isn’t naive about this. In his statement, “frankly we don’t currently have a strong reputation for building privacy protective services,” is one among a few sheepish acknowledgements.

The answer is that, put simply, Facebook now intends to focus on profiting from messaging. 

What does this all mean for publishers?

Moving (further) away from the news feed sounds daunting, but you’re far from the first to wonder how to make this work for you. Let’s talk about I AM POP.

You’ll notice their tagline is "Reach your audience directly on messaging apps". It’s succinct, and that really is all there is to it. Your audience can receive a message sent en-masse as though it were a friend saying hi.

You can even create an ‘interactive narrative’ - a feature I Am Pop boldly calls “a whole new medium for storytelling”. Boasting an average open rate of 94%, I Am Pop looks like a seriously inviting proposition for publishers, whose social news feeds are crowded, with algorithms filtering out 98% of updates.

Crack Magazine use the platform very effectively. Every Monday morning, they send ‘AM:DM’ - a collection of five music recommendations. Here’s how it looks:

Crack Magazine Pivot To Privacy

Louise Brailey, Crack’s Head of Film and Digital Editor, was happy to share some insights on the effectiveness of the service.

“When we were fleshing out the concept AM:DM, we were keen that it wouldn’t become a feed for our own content – we already have a weekly mailer which performs this function. Instead, we saw AM:DM as a chance to experiment with something a little fresher.

“Essentially, our editorial team uses it as an opportunity to share music direct to our subscribers’ inboxes, first thing on a Monday morning, that will set them up for the week ahead. This could be an overlooked album from the past, an obscure DJ mix that fell between the cracks, a DIY release on Bandcamp that deserves a broader audience, whatever. Sure, this means sacrificing traffic to other websites, but for us, it’s a chance to flex our curatorial muscle and expand Crack Magazine’s editorial purview – we feel this is just as valuable, if not more so, than driving traffic to the site.

“We’re hovering around a 90% open rate, and we’re gaining new followers each week, so we’ve struck a chord.”

In a recent feature on Music Business Worldwide, I AM POP founder Tim Heineke said: “We are entering an era of post-social. Private messaging is the new social network. Users are increasingly flocking to DM, private chat, groups and stories, fuelled by privacy concerns.” Head of Growth Max van den Ingh added: I AM POP is championing the shift from newsfeed sharing to direct messaging in the music industry.”

But there’s absolutely no reason to suggest I AM POP should remain a privilege exclusive to those in the music industry.

So how can I set up I AM POP?

Before messaging your audience using I AM POP, you need them to subscribe to you on Messenger. Once you’ve connected Messenger to I AM POP via your Facebook page, you’ll see your dedicated Messenger link; it starts with ‘m.me/’. When your audience follow this link, they’ll be instructed to click the ‘Get Started’ button. After that, they’re subscribed.

How do I grow my subscriber list?

The easiest step to take is put your m.me link in your social bios, inviting people to subscribe for exclusive content, or material that your publication doesn’t otherwise provide. I AM POP suggest creating a custom Facebook cover photo too. Here’s an example from Australian musician Tash Sultana:

Tash Sultana Pivot To Privacy

If you want to engage fans in the specific way Tash has - by getting them to message you something for a specific automated response - follow these steps:

  1. Go to your I AM POP Dashboard
  2. Go to “Automated”
  3. Click on “Replies” You should be seeing the following: “Create replies to fan messages. A fan sends a message, the bot responds.”
  4. Click on the “+”
  5. Get creative

If you’re an I AM POP user, you can head to the Grow section of their site to retrieve an embed code you can use to add a ‘Message Us’ button to your own site.

Elsewhere, it’s totally up to you to engage people however you like. Don’t rule out creating a specific post or video post announcing your new service and encouraging people to subscribe. 

How can I optimise my Facebook page for maximum Messenger growth?

On your Facebook page, go to “Settings > Messaging > General settings” and enable “Prompt visitors to send messages”. With this switched on, the chat will be open automatically when somebody visits the page on desktop, helping convert that traffic into Messenger subscribers.

You can submit the Messenger bot to Facebook to be included on their Messenger Discover tab, “where people can browse and find Messenger bots, nearby places and businesses to message”. Here’s more information on it. There’s a lot of submissions so not everyone can be featured, but here’s an article that’ll help you maximise your chances.

Don’t forget, you’re able to customise the CTA on your Facebook page’s ‘Send message’ button. We’d encourage you to experiment with this, and search for the magic formula that really helps you to drive I AM POP subscribers.

Doesn't I AM POP have any competition?

Of course! Namely, from Chatfuel, which is currently the most popular Messenger bot available. Its list of clients features some of the largest companies on the planet. It’s also not going to cost you as much money as I AM POP. For these reasons, it remains a go-to for brands looking to explore chatbots for the first time.

Chatfuel doesn’t come without its drawbacks: without coding skills, you won’t be able to see the conversations that have taken place inside Chatfuel. Also, when you link out to a separate webpage, there’s no data available to tell you whether the link was clicked or not. This would need to be tracked with a tool like bit.ly

Most important, perhaps, is I AM POP’s extensive functionality. They provide a more intuitive interface and dashboard than Chatfuel, simple statistics functions and audience segmentation tools, and the potential for creativity with their various chat templates. You can even create your own. As such, we’d recommend I AM POP for professionals in creative industries; it’s a platform well-suited to digital publishers.

To be impartial, it’s a fascinating time for social media. Facebook’s recent controversies combined with its potential merging of Instagram and WhatsApp messaging puts significant emphasis on the possibilities of profiting from dark social, which, naturally, will become an area of primary focus. As such, Messenger could evolve as fast as Facebook’s news feed, particularly as it increases its capacity to share with WhatsApp and Instagram. All this means that the potential of what chatbots are capable of should expand dramatically in the coming years. As such, we’d recommend getting started now to stay ahead of the digital publishing competition. 


The Complete Publisher's Guide to Flipboard

Strategies can be easily thrown off balance by the distraction of what feels like an endless stream of glossy new products, startups and tech. Success in publishing requires focus; allocating resource to channels that offer genuine value to the business and the audience, and being strong enough to say no to the others.

At the end of 2018, Media Voices interviewed Claus Enevoldsen, Head of Growth & Product Marketing at Flipboard. Flipboard tends to offer genuine value to many of our clients and given its startling growth this year - Flipboard now ranks just behind Google News and Twitter for publisher referral traffic -  we’ve collated the key points from the conversation.

https://soundcloud.com/media-voices/flipboard-head-of-growth-claus-enevoldsen-on-growing-a-platform-that-works-for-publishers

What is Flipboard?

Flipboard is a news and social media aggregation tool. It presents content from online publications, photo sharing platforms and more in a magazine-influenced format which allows users to ‘flip’ through stories easily.

Enevoldsen describes Flipboard as a “curation platform where people come to consume quality content”. Their mission, he says, is to “inform and inspire the world.” Flipboard’s audience use the app both to consume fast-moving news and dive more deeply into their personal interests. Stories are catalogued in ‘magazines’ that users create or follow: hubs for the kind of content they regularly read - you could create your own cycling magazine, follow another user’s magazine about music or simply follow publications you love. Flipboard is an ad-supported platform with contextual advertisements, and Enevoldsen claims they have twice the ad recall of other platforms.

Why is it worth our time?

Flipboard now boasts 145 million engaged monthly users. This doesn’t appear to be a vanity metric: Enevoldsen states that "the only way that you're really part of that number is if you have actively opened...and engaged with Flipboard in any given month”.

Enevoldsen claims that Flipboard works on a ‘publisher first’ basis - that “Flipboard won’t succeed if publishers don’t succeed”. It’s a platform-agnostic service, preloaded on Samsung devices and it directs traffic straight to publishers’ sites, allowing them to monetise that traffic in their own environment.

2018 marked a period of rapid growth which Enevoldsen attributes to:

  • A quality experience. "In this world today, it's a world of fake news, of dubious sources, and...people are really looking for this...high quality content haven”. Flipboard aims to work only with quality publishers. Their editorial teams will look to a website to confirm queries like ‘does this website have bylines?’, ‘does this website issue corrections?’. Their technical teams will vet websites for red flags such as an abundance of ad pop-ups or slow loading pages.
  • A shift in collective mindset. Users are beginning to become more conscious of the time they spend on their phones and Flipboard aims for ‘time well spent’, in which users can reach quality content quickly and easily.
  • A combination of user experience, strong algorithms and human curation. Enevoldsen describes Flipboard as "a technology company with media values”, combining a machine learning team with 25-30 editors who ensure algorithms don’t "run amok”. In the Politics section, for instance, Flipboard’s editors curate content from the left, the right and the centre equally, aiming to prevent the algorithm from funnelling one political alignment to a given user.

Earlier this year, Flipboard conducted a mindset study with Kantar Millward Brown, studying over 2,000 smartphone users in the US and the UK to track motivations for opening social and news apps. Flipboard was compared to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, and “...over-indexed dramatically on the motivation to invest in yourself". Enevoldsen believes that people come to Flipboard to better themselves. “There's a direct correlation between that, and then spending more time with the articles, and that's something that the publishers really value."

Recently, we at Mathematics were lucky enough to have a chat with Jessica Elsey, Flipboard’s UK News Editor. Jess handles publisher on-boarding and day-to-day editorial management; working with publications and helping them experience every potential benefit that Flipboard has to offer. Flipboard works with over 4000 publishers, content creators and blogs - 250 of which are specific to the UK - and welcome the opportunity to introduce new publishers to the platform. Here's what Jess had to say.

Isn’t Flipboard’s content curation algorithm-led?

The vast majority is, but one crucial thing that Jess and her team assemble by hand is Flipboard’s daily ‘10 For Today’ email roundup, a round-up of Flipboard's favourite articles of the day.

I’m looking at today's, and I can see ‘Is the beauty industry doing enough to tackle plastic pollution?’ on The Independent directly above The Atlantic’s ‘Growing Up in a House Full of Perfect Dogs’. It’s super varied, and quality is the only criterion. Music publishers: I’ve seen list features included, too.

Flipboard has dedicated ‘news teams’ in the UK and the US whose job it is to decide which news is featured in Flipboard. Once a story that covers a certain event is chosen, these news teams consult Flipboard’s partnered publishers to try to find coverage of the same story with an alternative angle. This human side to curation aims to uphold no political bias.

So what can publishers do to get the most out of Flipboard?

If a publisher wants their content on Flipboard, they must be aware that Flipboard only accepts RSS feeds. Bigger publications should submit multiple RSS feeds to Flipboard, grouped according to topic. Here’s British GQ’s Culture page, which serves as a great example. Users tend to follow Flipboard Magazines that focus on their interests, rather than specific publications.

In fact, the number of followers on a publisher’s Flipboard profile no longer correlate with success on the platform - historically, Flipboard didn’t have the topic system, so users would follow profiles. Now, though, most traffic is driven through topic feeds.

Flipboard’s team can add Magazines as a recommended source on a selected topic if they feel they offer something unique, and subsequently valuable to a user.

If you want to pitch Flipboard’s editorial team content for 10 For Today, a recommended source, or anything else in mind, there’s an email address for that. The team are always welcoming and receptive to pitches.

What types of content do best on Flipboard?

If you want an exhaustive list of the top 50 most popular topics in the UK from the last four weeks, brace yourself, because here it is:

    • UK News
    • Science
    • Celebrity News (UK)
    • Sport (UK)
    • Fashion (UK)
    • Donald Trump
    • Technology (UK)
    • US Politics
    • Entertainment (UK)
    • Business (UK)
    • Movies
    • World
    • Film (UK)
    • Gaming
    • Photography
    • Gadgets
    • Travel (UK)
    • Food (UK)
    • Brexit
    • Android News
    • Opinion
    • News
    • Royal Family
    • Apple News
    • UK Politics
    • India News
    • Politics
    • English Football
    • Autos
    • Manchester United
    • Gaming (UK)
    • Happiness
    • Recipes
    • Design
    • Formula One
    • Cool Stuff
    • Health
    • Technology
    • Liverpool FC
    • Tumblr
    • Luxury Lifestyle
    • Travel
    • English Premier League
    • Apps
    • Music (UK)
    • Personal Finance (UK)
    • Lifestyle (UK)
    • Men's Style
    • Workouts
    • Home

Don’t forget: while these are the most popular topics on Flipboard, they’re also the most populous!

Is there anything else I should be aware of?

  • If you notice a significant traffic spike, it’s likely come from a push notification.
  • Publishers are notified via email when their content is picked up by curators. This email is sent once the feature is live, not in advance of being featured.

What does the future look like for Flipboard?

Enevoldsen states that Flipboard is already a global platform, with 20% of the audience in the US and 80% in the rest of the world. Historically, the US has been the primary focus, but Europe is now a priority - "we have a dedicated team in Europe, in the UK, that are actively engaging both with advertisers and publishers”.

Our take

Parse.ly currently tracks Flipboard as accounting for 1.8% of publishers’ referral traffic, putting them just behind Google News and Twitter. We’re personally seeing relatively regular traffic spikes from Flipboard and while this traffic isn’t yet as valuable for driving loyalty as, say, newsletter traffic or Google News traffic, it’s still of a good quality for the majority of our publishers.

With that in mind, we’d recommend sending that first pitch to Jess and her team, if you haven’t done so already. Introducing and familiarising yourself preemptively will help you get a leg-up on the competition, before Flipboard proliferates further this side of the Atlantic.

Traffic from Flipboard clicks through directly to publisher sites, so you're able to court audiences within your environment, segment the audience and analyse behaviour to drive them from casual visitor to brand lover. Fast page speed is imperative as it’s so easy for the user to jump back into the app and find another result. Lastly, intrusive ads are a big no-no; Flipboard requests no ads on “100% of the first visible page”.

Flipboard face significant competition from Apple News, but being platform agnostic and publisher focused gives them significant differentiation.

Listen to Enevoldsen’s full interview here. Find out more about the ever-brilliant Media Voices here.


Nic Newman’s Predictions for Journalism in 2019

Well. If nothing else, 2018 was eventful. It was a year of ups and downs for news media thanks to Facebook’s ‘meaningful interactions’ algorithm. Subscriptions and donations became major sources of income, with the Guardian announcing that one million ‘supporters’ (financial donors) put them on the brink of breaking even after years of losses, and old skills were framed with a renewed importance. Publishers reclaimed control of newsletters from marketing teams, and SEO skills became more important than ever with Facebook difficult to master.

Nic Newman is a Senior Research Associate at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. Here you can find the condensed summary of his predictions for the world of journalism in 2019; the parts that matter most to Mathematics.

Predictions: an Overview

  • The battle against misinformation will turn its focus to closed networks and community groups, where it is harder to control.
  • We’ll see a renewed focus on trust indicators for news.
  • We’ll see more users leaving social media and more users concerned about quality time online, as addiction worry kicks in.
  • Slow news becomes a theme with the launch of new journalistic enterprises like Tortoise; an antidote to the current glut of quick, shallow, and reactive coverage. But how many will join – and pay?
  • The rise of paywalls is shutting more people off from quality news and making the internet harder to navigate. Consumer irritation will build this year, leading to a combination of more news avoidance and the adoption of ‘paywall-blocking’ software.

Key Trends and Predictions for 2019

Platforms under pressure

In 2018, in response to the spread of false news, Facebook has…

  • Deployed advanced tech/increased human resources to identify and remove fake accounts
  • Introduced new authentication procedures for ad buyers and their affiliations
  • Continued to work with fact-checkers
  • Boosted the prominence of ‘trusted news sources’ in its algorithms

WhatsApp has…

  • Imposed limits on forwarding from 250 to 20 people max

YouTube has…

  • Prioritised trusted sources around breaking news
  • Attacked economic incentives by making problematic videos un-monetisable

Twitter has…

  • Introduced new ways of identifying bots

Twitter now challenges around 9 million accounts a week to prove that they’re human.

So what might happen in 2019?

  • Social and search platforms will place increasing focus on the credibility and track record of publishers.
  • Around 120 news sites - including BBC News - have started to display ‘trust indicators’ on their pages.
  • It is hoped that these will provide some objective standards for news sites to pertain to, which will differentiate trustworthy sites from the untrustworthy ones.  
  • Expect to see more labelling initiatives in 2019.

Publishers look to wean themselves off Facebook

Interestingly, Apple News is now considered as valuable as Facebook, with some publishers reporting sharp rises in traffic. Here’s how publishers rated platforms going into 2019, where % = saying the platform was ‘very’ important:

  • Google - 87%
  • Apple News - 43%
  • Facebook - 43%
  • YouTube - 43%
  • Instagram - 31%
  • Twitter - 29%
  • WhatsApp - 16%
  • Amazon - 16%
  • Snapchat - 8%
  • Google maxes out on importance because of its pervasiveness as both technology and audience provider, and their willingness to engage on some key topics that matter to our business. I can’t say that about any other platform.” - Spokesperson for UK subscription business

From Feeds to Stories

  • Facebook says stories will surpass feeds as the main way people share with friends within the next year
  • Stories are used daily by 300 million people on Instagram, 190 million on Snapchat and 150 million people on Facebook (which recently announced it will now facilitate the direct upload of Instagram stories to Facebook stories). AMP stories debuted in 2017, sitting on top of some Google searches

Something gives at Snapchat

The network is set to lose around $1.5b in 2019 as it tries to self-right after a series of mistakes. Snapchat will need to grow “massively faster” than expected and cut costs aggressively. This could manifest as rushed growth paired with serious cutbacks on spending, which could compromise the quality of the app.

The Business of Journalism

Publishers focus on subscription, but limits become clear

In a survey conducted by Reuters, the following questions on 2019 revenue focus yielded the following spread of answers.

Which of the following digital revenue streams is MOST important for your company in 2019?

Nic Newman Predictions for Journalism 2019

Which of the following digital revenue streams are important or very important for your company in 2019?

Nic Newman Predictions for Journalism 2019

On these charts, we can see that the "pivot to subscriptions" has begun. Thankfully, with it seems to come an understanding that multiple revenue streams are required to thrive.

  • Subscriptions is the key strategy, so the investment in driving subscriptions will be critical in 2019 and probably 2020 to create a sustainable news business.” - Sergio Rodríguez, Digital Editor-in-Chief, La Razón, Spain
  • For many publications this will require new skills, metrics and an emphasis on creating content that is of a quality that justifies payment.
  • The average respondent to the Reuters survey said that four different revenue streams are important to them.

Quality news is disappearing behind paywalls

Many are concerned about the wider implications for democracy if the rich end up with access to higher quality, more trusted information than those who can’t afford to pay. So what will we see in the year ahead?

  • Paywall blockers: we'll see growing adoption of downloadable services and extensions which get round metered paywalls by blocking the javascript that triggers them.
  • Bundling and payment aggregation: publishers will bulk out their subscription packages with new features, as competition for users who are willing to pay for content intensifies.

Apple has acquired Texture, often described as ‘Netflix for news’. It will cost $10 a month, and revenue will be shared with publishers.

Broken news: could slow news help?

Could less journalism be better for society and create more impact? This is the question Tortoise Media wants to answer. The project, founded by former BBC Director of News James Harding and Katie Vannick-Smith, former President at the Wall Street Journal, will launch in April 2019, promising a ‘different kind of newsroom’.

  • It will largely ignore breaking news, but tackle four or five stories a day through its website, app and newsletter.
  • Tortoise is targeting 40,000 paying subscribers by the end of the year.

Collaboration on the rise

Below are the results for the following question in a Reuters survey:

Nic Newman Predictions for Journalism 2019

Publishers are less willing to share sources and resources than advertising and tech.

Broadly I think publishers should look to a model where we share technology which solves our common issues and then use our journalism to differentiate our output.” - UK publisher

Concerns about talent and burnout in the newsroom

These were the top concerns of newsroom leaders, according to a Reuters survey:

Nic Newman Predictions for Journalism 2019

Burnout concerns were most keenly felt in editorial roles whereas talent attraction and retention issues applied particularly to product and technical roles.

Leading a group of product, UX and tech, News and Media is a long way from first choice for most talented staff.” - Product Head, leading UK publisher

Diversity in the newsroom

It’s becoming increasingly apparent to publishers that they cannot afford to alienate a particular audience. In 2019, expect more awareness of the link between diversity and business success.

  • More newsrooms will start to use tools like Prognosis that monitor gender and ethnic diversity of content.
  • This awareness will in turn make editors aware of their own biases.

Personalisation and recommendation

Personalisation of the news service is critical, but does not mean just handing over editorial judgement to algorithms…” - UK publisher

  • Traditional publishers must consider how to use AI responsibly and transparently. A good example of this in effect is the Finnish broadcaster YLE, as it develops its AI, the ‘intelligent assistant’, ‘Voitto’. Voitto collects feedback on AI-driven recommendations and presents them to user on their phone’s lock screen, aiming to build an ongoing dialogue around the habits and choices of users.

Audio and voice in 2019

Publishers think audio presents a big opportunity in 2019:

Voice-activated technology/audio will be one of several platforms suited for certain types of news consumption (morning briefing, for example). The danger is a ‘pivot to video’ [transition, where publishers think video will become] THE dominant platform/journey.” - UK publisher

  • Easy access, better discovery and millions of new audio devices suggests there is considerable growth left in the podcast market.
  • Google will make podcasts a “first-class citizen”, meaning they will appear alongside the text, image, and video results you are used to seeing.
  • Podcast listening experiences will be seamless across devices and contexts thanks to Google Assistant.

Opportunities for publishers

While publishers recognise that voice will be a major disruption, they are not clear about whether now is the right time to invest. Reuters’ study suggests that the take up of news content was disappointing. Just 22% use news briefings daily in the UK and 17% in the US. Only 1% said that news was the most important feature, compared with 64% who cited playing music and 17% who said checking the weather.

To help optimise for voice, expect to see platforms pushing publishers to use a new metadata specification called ‘speakable schema’, which will make for a much better and more accurate voice search experience.

Next Generation Technologies

  • Folding phones could double smartphone screen size.
  • Phone companies will look to shift their business models away from volatile hardware sales towards subscription packages. Expect to see more phones essentially leased using services like the Apple upgrade programme. Leased phones could mean users upgrade more often, and subscription packages could lead to the bundling of content within these deals.

New startups to watch in 2019

  • Kinzen is a new subscription-based news aggregator app that is built on the premise that people want to spend time with more meaningful media, and it aims to create daily routines that are time limited, personalised and hopefully mind-broadening.
  • Curio is a paid app that curates high quality audio content from the Guardian, FT, The Economist and Washington Post, amongst others. There are no ads, and an annual subscription costs $59.
  • Agate is a digital wallet that allows you to pay for premium articles as you go, aiming to make it easier to consume content from multiple brands without hitting paywalls. The problem will be attaining a critical mass of publishers to take part.

Conclusions

  • Publishers are re-focusing on loyalty and building relationships with readers, whether paywall funded or advertising funded.
  • Startups like Tortoise and Kinzen are concentrating on building strong communities from the start, as well as emphasising values and principles that will underpin their journalism.
  • Audio is showing signs of promise with a younger generation that is discovering quality speech content for the first time.
  • Artificial intelligence offers the possibility of more personal and relevant news services, new ways to uncover stories, as well as more efficient ways of packaging and distributing content.
  • News organisations will need to be clearer than ever about that they stand for and the audience they are serving.
  • They’ll also need to find ways to combine their unique human resources with this new wave of technologies to maximise their potential to create more engaging and sustainable journalism going forward.

The Complete Publisher's Guide to SEO Strategy in 2019

Here at Mathematics, we work with media companies. It’s no secret that SEO for publishers is becoming more difficult. As time marches on, an increasing number of brands spend incrementally larger sums of money deploying cutting-edge SEO strategy, making for some stiff competition. All the while, Google is quietly moving the goalposts in mysterious directions. TL;DR - optimising your publication’s site for search engines is becoming the kind of dark art you feared it was when you first made SEO attempts of your own.

It’s daunting for everybody. So, we’ve tried to narrow down some fool-proof techniques to adopt in 2019; the kind which are guaranteed to help this year, not mere suggestions (though there are some of those suggestions at the end of this entry, too). Here are some tips that allow us to optimise pages without heavily infringing on journalistic content. As such, the emphasis here is on technical SEO, as opposed to what can be done with copywriting.

So, without further ado...

The SEO techniques publishers must consider in 2019:

  • Schema tags/structured data: schema markup helps search engines return more informative results. Google uses this to generate ‘rich snippets’; small pieces of information that are formatted clearly in search results. For example, in publishing, schema tags around an author’s name should, in theory, cause that article to rank higher than a mention of the name in a body of text without any schema tags. Think of them as indicators of importance.
  • Mobile-first indexing: you’ll know that this means the mobile version of your site becomes the starting point for Google includes in their index, and the foundation for determining rank. If your mobile and desktop rankings are the same and you’re happy with your SERP ranking, nothing to worry about. If your area of work dictates that you prioritise mobile, then do the following:
    • Make sure your mobile version features all the high-quality content of your desktop. In fact, make sure your mobile version features everything the desktop version does, including structured data, equivalent metadata and Twitter cards
    • If you’ve only verified the desktop version of your site, be sure to add and verify the mobile version
    • Implement mobile switchboard tags
  • Page speed: optimise your URLs, keep those images small. ImageOptim is an incredibly straightforward way of making your image files as small as possible before compromising quality. Page speed is a key ranking factor, so this is tremendously important.
  • Improving existing content to ensure Google recognises that it responds to the search intent of the user directly. Journalists can incorporate this into their workflow by writing the best stuff they can, while ensuring their headlines don’t exceed 55 characters and their metadescriptions don’t exceed 300 characters. CoSchedule’s Headline Analyser is an excellent way for journalists to stay on top of this, aiming for a score of 70 or higher. Developers can help too with well organised schema tags/structured data.
  • On-page SEO for NLP (Natural Language Processing): NLP is the name given to Google’s capability to help it better understand the information on your page. NLP concerns the clarity and structure of your writing, and the relationship between words. Develop an understanding of NLP, incorporate it into your writing workflow, and Google will love you. Here’s a crazily in-depth rundown explanation of NLP and how to deploy it.
  • Google Correlate: a terrifyingly useful tool. Enter the keyword you want to rank for, then, shift series to, say, -2 weeks, which means you will be given a list of terms people search for two weeks before they are likely to type in your keyword. Essentially, you’ll be able to predict - with a degree of accuracy - what users are going to search for. Obviously, this is gold for planning content. One for Charlie Brooker, this.

Also worth considering:

  • Voice search! This won’t necessarily proliferate in 2019, but it’s worth keeping an eye on and planning for. Here’s some tips for the voice search ‘revolution’.

Easy! Sort of. Some of these are more obvious than others, but we reckon that incorporating these into your SEO strategy for 2019 will be a big help. We expect that your competitors will be taking similar steps, too, so better get cracking.