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.
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.
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:
And here’s a mobile story:
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.
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.
Welcome to Apple News, Creative Review!
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Flipboard is a news and social media aggregation tool. It presents content from online publications, RSS feeds, photo-sharing platforms, social media channels 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.
Flipboard boasts over 145 million engaged monthly users. That is, people actively opening and engaging with Flipboard in any given month. 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:
In 2018, 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 International Managing Editor. Jess handles publisher on-boarding and day-to-day editorial management, working with publications and helping them explore 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.
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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.
For full details on all of Flipboard’s valuable emails, download our free ebook.
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, 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.
We also recommend publishers devote time to creating Smart Magazines. Created by Flipboard readers for personal use, Smart Magazines are automatically-updated feeds of articles, photos, videos and audio that focus on a passion, with one key difference: they enable readers to add a wider variety of content to their Smart Magazine by allowing it to comprise specific sources, rather than Flipboard topics only. These can include other Flipboard Magazines, RSS feeds, other readers’ accounts, hashtags and lists from Twitter, YouTube, SoundCloud, Flickr and more.
If you want to pitch Flipboard’s editorial team content for 10 For Today or another email, a recommended source, or anything else in mind, there’s an email address for that. The team are always welcoming and receptive to pitches.
If you want an exhaustive list of the top 50 most popular topics as of April 2020, brace yourself, because here it is:
Science, Travel, Design, Food & Dining, Photography, Movies, Music, Technology, Home, Fashion, Gaming, Auto, Health, Self-improvement, Cool Stuff, Healthy Eating, Recipes, Computer Science, Entrepreneurship, Mindfulness, DIY, Books, Business, Gear & Gadgets, Apps, Workouts, Personal Finance, Space, Politics, Sports, Humor, Happiness, How-To’s, World Economy, Outdoors, Leadership, Apple, Adventure Travel, Interior Design, Home Decorating, Productivity, Beauty, Exercise, Breakthroughs, Architecture, TV, Parenting, Lifestyle, Celebrity News, Crafting, Gardening, Digital Photography, Nutrition, Psychology, Work-life Balance, Sleep, Home Improvement, World News, Yoga, Green Living, Coffee, Women’s News, Spirituality, Dogs, History
Don’t forget: while these are the most popular topics on Flipboard, they’re also the most populous!
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”.
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 differentiates the two significantly.
It was referenced earlier, but publishers should be aware that we’ve assembled a free ebook called ‘How to Maximise Traffic on Flipboard‘. Click here to download it, become a Flipboard expert, and begin driving a wealth of untapped traffic to your site.
Listen to Enevoldsen’s full interview here. Find out more about the ever-brilliant Media Voices here.
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.
In 2018, in response to the spread of false news, Facebook has…
Twitter now challenges around 9 million accounts a week to prove that they’re human.
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:
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.
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?
Which of the following digital revenue streams are important or very important for your company in 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.
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?
Apple has acquired Texture, often described as ‘Netflix for news’. It will cost $10 a month, and revenue will be shared with publishers.
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’.
Below are the results for the following question in a Reuters survey:
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
These were the top concerns of newsroom leaders, according to a Reuters survey:
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
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.
“Personalisation of the news service is critical, but does not mean just handing over editorial judgement to algorithms…” - UK publisher
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
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.
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...
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.