Responsible news is how I refer to the group of organisations striving to un-bias news consumption in an age defined by political polarity and an apparent unwillingness to engage in constructive, structured dialogue with opposing parties. You’ve seen this too, everywhere from Twitter to the most high-profile news on the planet. To provide news in this way is irresponsible. Yet, in a political climate as turbulent as ours, adapting practice is hardly a priority for much of top-tier journalism.
It may come as a relief that there is a group of news organisations striving to simplify access to quality reporting, by aggregating that of our most reliable sources or by creating their own. These organisations value quality over quantity, in both quality news and quality time spent with their platform. In this piece, we focus on three organisations: Tortoise, Kinzen and Curio. Their subversion of traditional models makes our access to world-class reporting simpler than ever. Each could fit into our lives in a totally seamless way.
James Harding, the former Director of BBC News who co-founded Tortoise, coined the term ‘slow news’. It refers to an observation he has made lately in his decorated career: that the stories which took the longest to complete were consistently those that bore the most significant impact. “It was a lesson that said, actually, when you take the time, you can do journalism that is really valued and valuable – so that was the thinking [behind Tortoise Media],” he told Press Gazette.
First, we need to clarify that as Amol Rajan of the BBC correctly points out, “slow news has been around for years. It’s called the ‘Features’ section”. You know that, so you’re right to wonder why we need platforms like Tortoise: the labour of love belonging to Harding and Katie Venneck-Smith (former President of Wall Street Journal). Tortoise members contribute directly to the editorial process thanks to what Hardy calls a ‘system of organised listening’.
Tortoise’s ‘Daily Edition’ - the daily AM news bulletin - won’t be a digest of top stories of the day. Instead, it will go in depth on five - possibly under-reported - stories. Tortoise hosts a daily “ThinkIn” from 6:00pm-7:40pm, encouraging attendees not to just ask questions, but to share strong opinions. It is broadcast live.
To tackle the ‘echo chamber’ effect, Tortoise plans to eventually take its ThinkIns on the road to prisons, clubs and schools.
Tortoise will be “non-party-political” with “no proprietor” and no “subtle relationships with advertisers”. Harding wants to shift from the focus on “liberty and fairness” of news organisations of the past. “Dignity - the idea that everyone has a right to be recognised and respected”, is his priority.
All of this output will focus on five broad areas: technology, finance, natural resources, identity and longevity.
With 20 top staffers full-time already, Tortoise hopes to employ over 40 permanent staffers by mid-2019. 10 editors will get a budget to bring in contributors, and Tortoise’s staff team of reporters and researchers will handle a significant portion of the original journalism.
Tortoise has disavowed breaking news but will still aim to break the type of stories that will be covered elsewhere.
Tortoise’s business model is all about membership - a “high-quality, low volume” business. Harding “doesn’t believe in native content” and he doesn’t want Tortoise to “become an ad agency”.
Revenue is also driven by commercial partnerships with big institutions, for whom Tortoise will organise on-site ThinkIns, which resemble the TED Talks model. The aim is to strike up 8 to 10 such partnerships with industry leaders.
Tortoise is currently in beta phase - it’s unclear if a free trial version will be available once the platform launches properly. We don’t know when exactly that will be, but Tortoise’s offer of a discount for founding members ends on March 31st, implying a launch soon after.
To help outline the myriad merits of the platform, we spoke to Liz Moseley, Tortoise’s Members Editor. Consider this an outline of what the app aims to achieve, and how that distances it from the news pack.
Mathematics: Can you elaborate on what James means exactly when he refers to a “system of organised listening” - that is, how precisely users contribute to the editorial process?
Liz Moseley, Members Editor: When somebody joins Tortoise, they become a member of the newsroom, which means that they are active contributors to what we do.
My job, which I think is unique in news media, is a case in point. I’m an Editor, I’m in the daily conference, the long term planning conversations, and my sole focus is to act as the conduit between the members and the journalistic effort. So, I find people in the member base who can develop stories with us, and we gather their feedback.
At the moment the main channel in the product for this is the ThinkIn. We host them four times a week at the moment, usually (not always) in the newsroom itself. So members come in around 5pm, when we’re still at work, and we have a conversation. In the course of that conversation - sometimes on a predetermined topic, sometimes on the news of the day - we will form a point of view. Informed by what people say.
Frequently, members raise questions that warrant follow up journalistically, so we write pieces that come directly off the back of what’s been said. We use footage from the Thinkins within the stories, it’s important the members can see themselves in the process and the work itself. We use our members as fact checkers, and actually as our conscience too. One of the first features we built in the beta app was “WDyT” which stands for “what do you think”. We’ve been bowled over by the amount of and quality of input we’ve had. I’ve worked in media for 20 years and I’ve never seen anything like it. Members are incredibly committed to it - they won’t let us rest on our laurels for a second.
Does Tortoise’s membership fee risk fostering coverage of stories that only affects a certain bracket of the population?
The full suite of pricing isn't live yet. At the moment it's £50 for three years for u30s, and the same if you get a gang together as join as a group of 10 or more. That's pretty good value. We'll be rolling our student pricing, pricing for social enterprises and so on as we build out. So we are being very deliberate about making sure Tortoise is accessible. The diversity of the member base is crucial to the success of the whole thing.
How will Tortoise strive to keep access to its services democratic?
Our home is in central London and it would be easy, or at least easier, for us to create an experience that is London-bound. Inviting people into the newsroom is one thing, but when we take Tortoise on the road and host ThinkIns in other places - even those that are still in London strangely - the conversations we have change.
For those people who can't make it to us, we're bringing the Tortoise to you. So, for example, we hosted a ThinkIn in a school that is particularly affected by knife crime. This week we did a ThinkIn in a church. We're going to a care home in Norwich. We have events coming up in Oxford, Edinburgh, Manchester, Bristol. In the next couple of months we're having ThinkIns in Amsterdam and New York. They’ll all be livestreamed.
The decision for a new company to host a conference (the ThinkIn) every day is a bold one. What measures will you take to keep this up in spite of how busy we can all be, or how tired after a hard day at work?
Strangely, we're more worried about scaling it up than keeping it up. We want to be able to host ThinkIns wherever the members are. At the moment, demand is high and the quality is getting better all the time as we learn more about how to bring people into the conversation. When it comes to 5pm and we start to welcome people in (we're all still working when the members arrive), it doesn't feel like an effort, it's exciting. Because it's different every time. There's a buzz about it.
Do you view Tortoise as a competitor to other, more established newsrooms, or as a complementary service?
At the moment it is complementary. People will always want their breaking news and they can't get that from us. Quite a lot of our founding members are self-professed news junkies. They're building the Tortoise habit at the moment, and we are starting to hear that some of them are easing off some of their previous news sources now they're enjoying Tortoise. But that's not what the business model is based on. It's not an instead, it's an alternative.
Unlike Tortoise, Kinzen is a news aggregator, as opposed to a newsroom in its own right. Kinzen utilises machine learning to allow a user to take control of their news consumption routine. That's what they see, when they see it, how much of it they see.
Kinzen hope to “make users empowered, giving you the ability to construct some form of filter and ranking system that reflects your intentions and not your instincts.”
Users can respond positively or negatively to news they’re provided with in Kinzen’s different topic channels. These are what’s analysed to present users with news they want. But you can also integrate your Twitter feed, where Kinzen’s algorithm will watch topics you follow.
However, it is still in the testing phase, so Little and his team are building a pre-launch community over the next two months, inviting people to test pre-release versions of the iOS app.
Kinzen currently has two long term goals, not outlined in detail as of yet: to reward valuable curators in the community, and to interest news organisations, presumably into partnership of some kind.
Kinzen launched in January on a £5 subscription basis. Before launch, they were seeking donations in exchange for six months of access to Kinzen’s subscription services after launch.
In order to better understand Kinzen on a conceptual level and situate it clearly in the responsible news landscape, we reached out to CEO and co-founder Mark Little.
What type of content are Kinzen actively looking for, and what publications are you looking to court?
Kinzen’s mission is to connect the active news seekers of the world with the sources who reward their trust and attention. In other words, to build a user experience of news worth paying for. Our perfect partner is a publisher who wants to build deeper personal engagement with members of the communities they serve.
How does Kinzen benefit publishers?
Kinzen is purpose-built for publishers who want to develop reader revenue products based on personalisation.
Our first product is a personal news app which offers users a highly curated experience of the open web. Initially, this drives traffic to publisher websites, and will soon become a sales pipeline for publishers offering subscription content. It will also help us perfect and refine Kinzen’s unique brand of ‘personalisation with a purpose’.
In parallel, Kinzen is developing a ‘white-label’ version of its user experience for partners. This technology solution will help publishers develop personalised newsletters and audio briefings, and can be eventually integrated into publisher apps and websites.
How can publishers monetise using Kinzen?
First, publishers can use the Kinzen app as a lead generation tool for their reader revenue products (without sacrificing revenue or user relationships). Second, publishers can use Kinzen technology to build new reader revenue products or enhance existing ones.
Do stories link directly to publishers à la Flipboard, or is all news viewed within the app?
All stories in the app link back to the publishers’ websites. All potential premium subscribers are directed to the publisher paywall/gate.
Technically speaking, how does a publisher get its content onto Kinzen? Do they provide an RSS feed, or is there more to it than that?
Kinzen’s data team can scrape, tag and organise content from any existing open website without any special relationship with the publishers. But RSS feeds will be core to any relationships based on reader revenue.
In an era when publishers are building loyalty and striving to retain valuable audiences of their own, why would you recommend a publisher work with Kinzen?
Kinzen’s founding team are old-school journalists who have worked for both traditional publishers and social platforms. We have a deep understanding of the problems facing publishers in a world dominated by big tech companies and aggregators. Kinzen doesn’t sell your ads, sell your content or ‘own’ your audience. We judge success by the value of the personal bond we help create between news seekers and publishers.
Users are encouraged to build their own channels, to explore what matters to them. How does Kinzen avoid turning each user’s experience into an echo chamber?
One of Kinzen’s founding goals is to help people see beyond the usual sources, and discover journalism they never knew existed.
We do not have an ad-funded business model. Our algorithms don’t need to fuel outrage and emotion. Kinzen does not track your browser history to keep you addicted to the same sources and opinions. We don’t rank news and information on the basis of what your social network is thinking.
Instead, we have a Discovery section in the app which surfaces expertly curated sources and channels and an Emerging Topics feature which engineers serendipity based on editorial choices rather than popularity. Explicit user feedback and conscious choices drive our recommender systems.
Curio stands out in the lineup as it’s audio-led. There isn’t quite the same amount of information about Curio available online as Tortoise and Kinzen, but their site tells us that Curio creates “Intelligent Audio For Busy People". It offers thousands of high-quality audio stories from the best publications in the world, no annoying ads, offline listening, all hand-picked by editors and read to the listener by award-winning narrators. What we know for certain is Curio’s sources are among the planet’s most reliable, including the Guardian, The Financial Times, The Economist and The Washington Post.
Naturally, we wanted to be able to provide some concrete information explaining how the platform is of use to publishers. We were put in touch with Tainá Vilela, Curio’s Head of Brand, who helped make the service’s operations totally transparent.
How does Curio provide value for a user, from the perspective of the people working on it?
It's easier to discover great timeless stories with Curio, stories are often buried under a large volume of information. We are passionate about choosing content that is relevant to our lives and what goes on in the world.
Our unrivalled collection of audio format stories, from some of the world’s most respected media outlets, gives people an opportunity to engage with great journalism on the go.
Does Curio view itself as a competitor to other ‘reading-led’ news apps such as Kinzen and Tortoise, or a complementary service?
Audio versus reading is not an "either or". There are parts of our regular daily lives when screens are not ideal or easily accessible, like when we are commuting, cooking, performing chores around the house or before going to bed. That is when audio shines.
Who are your ‘award winning narrators’ and how are they selected?
Several of them are Audie Award winners who have worked for brands like National Geographic, BBC, Disney and others. They are trained actors and performers who are able to bring empathy, gravitas and life into any story.
Is an emphasis placed on individual publications within the app, or on your own curated playlists? In other words, are users encouraged to prioritise one over the other?
We help listeners find stories they love and publications to reach new audiences, increase engagement and create a new stream of revenue.
We uncover great ideas, well crafted pieces which can instigate interesting debate and personal growth. Good quality comes from established outlets like The Guardian, which was founded almost 200 years ago or AEON, a magazine around philosophy and culture which launched in 2012 and is still pretty much under the radar.
How will Curio ingest and consider user feedback?
At Curio we are always listening. Our listeners are more than just “users” to us, they are stakeholders who trust us to provide them with the best content out there. Their feedback has a daily impact on our product, so we make sure to listen, learn and work on becoming better.
In 2013, Jessica Lessin founded The Information: a subscription-based digital news organisation which Tortoise seemingly owes a lot to. The Information shares only a small handful of news stories per day. It earns 90% of its revenue from subscriptions, and an estimated 10,000 subscribers pay $399 per year for the service. It has been profitable for over two years.
The 900,000-subscribers team at The Financial Times are interested in The Information’s strategy. They have reportedly discussed ways they could help to accelerate growth.
Agate, is another startup that allows users to pay for individual articles as they go. It’s a digital wallet for which publishers can set their own pricing on a story-by-story basis. Agate aims to make it easier to consume premium content without blockage from an unaffordable paywall. But, in a crowded market of micropayment startups, they have a tough job ahead of them.
Spaceship Media isn’t a platform, rather a form of consultancy that helps news organisations remain unbiased. They do this using ‘dialogue journalism’ - a process developed by founders Eve Pearman and Jeremy Hay - to “[go] to the heart of social and political fractures” and “[build] journalism-supported conversations between regular people about the issues of deep consequence to all us”. Their belief is that establishing a journalism-supported dialogue between communities in conflict helps solve that conflict. In their words:
“We work with media organizations and others on several different levels. We design and manage engagement conversations from the ground up; we provide design and ongoing consulting support; we provide consulting around our engagement values and methodology and project visioning.”
Vigilant won the 2018 Startups for News contest at the General Editors Network conference. The platform offers ‘real time search and monitoring across thousands of public data sources’. This makes it easier for journalists to locate stories and angles.
In some ways, it’s a dark time for news journalism. You’re reading this because you know that the boundaries between truthful reporting and spin are blurrier than ever. Luckily, there is a vanguard of organisations whose functionality helps identify news brimming with bias. The purpose of this piece is not to depict one service in a more favourable light than another; we merely want to help you consume responsible news, and ensure your own journalistic output is consumed responsibly.
If you’re in our industry, you’ll doubtless have spent the past couple years trying to avoid an endless barrage of gloomy predictions concerning Facebook’s ‘meaningful interactions’ algorithm. More specifically, the ways it favours surfacing almost everything except publisher content in users’ timelines.
And yet, paradoxically, a recent Digiday survey indicates that with no alternatives of similar stature, 70% of publishers contend that Facebook still delivers the best content reach of all platforms.
Even for unpaid content circulated organically, 45% of publishers agreed that Facebook was still top dog.
So we sat down with our analyst Barney Perkins to work out how specifically to use the platform to your advantage.
Buffer, the social media management platform, have found that posting five times a day maximises post engagement. Read more about that here. However, we have decided to focus our investigation on the metrics most easily monetised - reach and sessions referred to the website.
Since the algorithm changes, Facebook’s official suggestion is that post rate should not have an effect on reach. This is because the way content is allocated to a user’s news feed depends on relevance.
“Post frequently - Don't worry about over-posting. The goal of News Feed is to show each person the most relevant story so not all of your posts are guaranteed to show in their Feeds.” - Facebook
Even if this is true, post rate might still influence the visibility of a publication's content by diluting its average relevance and/or increasing the competition in users’ News Feeds - from the publication and from competitors.
The below analysis looks at the daily total reach (taken from Facebook Insights) and number of posts of a publication’s Facebook page (from Social Insider). It also displays the number of sessions referred to the publication’s website (from Google Analytics). Though there is some ambiguity about whether reach or sessions are more valuable metrics, both are given equal preference.
By conducting a simple linear regression of both reach and sessions on the number of daily posts, we found that there was indeed a negative correlation between post rate and reach, as well as a positive correlation between post rate and the number of sessions.
By aggregating the above graphs, we found that the optimal number of Facebook posts per day was 11. But, make some considerations here. Firstly, the model specification is not a perfect fit of the data. In other words, it’s unlikely that had the publication started posting 40 times a day, there would be <0 reach, indicated by the red line:
One model we experimented with suggested an optimal post rate of 16 posts per day but behaved very strangely in the extremes. As total followers increased the optimal number of posts would drop down to <1 with an absurdly high expected reach.
In conclusion, the model we’ve focussed on here suggests that publications should aim to post to Facebook 11 times per day, with an exception for content that might have a considerably broad appeal. Perhaps questions of optimum post rate are also questions of what content is most relevant to the highest number of the publication’s followers.
The media industry has certainly seen some change over the last few years. Digital distribution has shifted from newsletters to socials to messaging apps, with many consumers now shifting towards news aggregation platforms - apps and websites dedicated to the discovery of short to long-form content, all promising the perfect user experience.
Tech giants like Google and startups like Flipboard are playing an increasingly powerful role in the media, so building out a strong strategy to platform distribution is key. Central to this is choosing the right aggregators to distribute stories to, so with that in mind we’ve rounded up the most important aggregators below. Each can be integrated by simply providing an RSS feed from your website (a standard feature on almost all CMS's).
Flipboard presents news and feature content from digital publications, photo sharing platforms and blogs in a magazine-influenced format which allows users to ‘flip’ through stories easily. Verified as the fourth highest traffic driver on mobile and tablet for sites in the parse.ly network, Flipboard’s interface was tailored to engage users with a high intent to consume editorial content, which tends to drive good quality traffic back to publication websites. Flipboard monetises through advertising in-app, with ad units and native stories sitting alongside editorial content.
Users are invited to indicate their interests so that Flipboard can group content accordingly. They may also save stories into their own Flipboard ‘magazines’ and access stories liked and read by friends, as the app sources content from Facebook and Twitter.
With 145 million monthly users as of August 2018, Flipboard requires a standard RSS feed to ingest publisher content, but with a few modifications, publishers can attract more visibility on the platform. For a more detailed exploration into why a Flipboard integration is worth your while, take a look at our publishers’ guide to the platform.
Compatibility: iOS, Android, Windows, Windows Phone
Click here to integrate
Feedly allows users to organise news publishers’ RSS feeds, combining them with social media feeds, and funnelling them to suggest content by interest. Stories can be arranged at the reader's discretion, and the app’s minimalist presentation is ‘optimised for productivity’. Users can search for articles of interest, save them to their ‘Read Later’ tab (which is also compatible with Evernote, Pocket and Instapaper), share articles to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest, and discover new voices on their ‘Discover’ page.
Publishers can decide whether to showcase content through a full feed (full text and multimedia content consumed within the app) or a partial feed (only showing limited text, inviting readers to browse the full story on your website). How you do this depends on your goals as a publisher - the full feed will offer a better experience to readers in-app which could increase brand affinity and open up opportunity to monetise through articles in-feed, whereas a truncated feed offers referral traffic to your website.
Compatibility: iOS 6.0 or later (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch), Android 2.3 or later, browser
Click here to integrate
Apple News is a news aggregator developed by - you guessed it - Apple, for its iOS, watchOS and macOS operating systems. Users have stories recommended by Apple News’ algorithm according to how in-app habits portray their interests, but the platform also has a human editorial team. It’s their job to populate the app’s Top Stories and Editors’ Picks pages with eye-catching, well written articles.
Apple News is now available on around 1.4 billion devices around the world, and according to Apple’s CEO Tim Cook, some 5 billion articles are read on the app each month. As traffic continues to grow it’s clear that a solid audience is available in the platform.
Some 90 million users are on the app every month and its prominence, user experience and clever use of notifications make it the primary news and content source for many. Its algorithms keep access to this audience democratic and not restricted to top-tier publications. A great example of this is the recirculation area below stories, that regularly recommends articles from small publications directly below content from internationally-renowned news brands.
Full integration requires publishers to deliver stories in Apple News Format, which FlatPlan is able to achieve through an RSS feed.
For more detailed arguments in favour of Apple News integration, see this piece we recently published on our site. Once you’ve integrated, you may find our guide to tracking your progress with the platform useful.
Compatibility: iOS, watchOS and macOS
Price: free with Apple devices
Click here to integrate
Google News is Google’s aggregation platform, which ingests publishers’ content via RSS or Atom feeds. It’s currently watching in excess of 65,000 news sources, making it one of the most far-reaching and populous news aggregators available today. Like its competitors, Google News analyses the tastes and behaviours of users to serve them content catered to their unique interests. It differentiates itself from its competitors by providing a timeline of the development of a news story built on content from different publishers. This allows users to track the progress of significant events over time. With over 60 nation-specific editions, Google News is considered one of the finest news aggregators on the market today.
Publishers should know that Google News’ algorithms “uses the best of artificial intelligence to find the best of human intelligence - the great reporting done by journalists around the globe.” In other words, Google News stories feature prominent publisher branding and private monetisation opportunities for publishers, including advertising and streamlined subscription sales. Find out more about editorial control and monetisation in Google’s Publisher Center.
In conclusion, Google News is favoured by publishers as it gives them a fair chance at getting their content noticed, getting paid, and suppressing misinformation.
Compatibility: iOS, Android and Desktop
Click here to integrate
Kinzen is a news aggregation platform that utilises machine learning to allow a user to take control of their news consumption routine. That’s what they see, when they see it, how much of it they see. Kinzen hopes to “make users empowered, giving you the ability to construct some form of filter and ranking system that reflects your intentions and not your instincts.” This occurs as users can respond positively or negatively to news that appears in Kinzen’s topic channels. Also, users can integrate their Twitter feeds, and the algorithm will watch topics they follow.
Unlike other aggregation platforms, Kinzen claim they don’t “rank news and information on the basis of what your social network is thinking. We offer an empowering personal news routine based on the best intentions of members rather than empty clicks, likes or hearts.”
If you’re a publisher, you might rightly wonder why you should spend time integrating with an app that charges users for content you already provide for free. The value of Kinzen is in how it creates a news routine uniquely aligned to the daily needs of its users. This creates enormous value for the app itself, which could lead to regular usage, and potentially, a new swathe of returning visitors to your content.
As for generating revenue for your publication, Kinzen make the following claim on their site:
“We do not rely on advertising. In the Kinzen app, we do recommend publisher content that contains advertising, but take no cut from the revenue. Instead, we are actively working with publishers big and small to develop revenue models based on direct support from members.”
For more information on Kinzen, please refer to this piece, in which we have a chat with CEO and co-founder Mark Little.
Compatibility: iOS, Windows, Desktop
Price: Limited range of channels and controls for free, then €/$5 per month or €/$49.99 per year for premium features
Click here to integrate
New on the scene but billed as a competitor to Flipboard, Inoreader is already worth considering working with. Especially when publishers consider the benefits it offers a user that other platforms don’t the same benefits which we expect will see it become a major player. Conveniently, Inoreader has a night mode so users can read content in the dark without straining their eyes. Content can even be exported and sent to friends who don’t use the app. Inoreader, it seems, thought of everything!
Inoreader is RSS-friendly for browsers and devices that run iOS and Android. Fans of Flipboard will find plenty to love in this aggregator app. The ‘Dive’ feature divides content according to the topic, allowing users to build their own feeds based on what they want to see. They’re also able to save content they won’t have time to read until later. All this happens with visual components, usually images, the centerpiece of each listed story. This decision makes Inoreader intuitive and pleasant to work with.
Compatibility: iOS, Windows, Desktop
Click here for more information
The first click on a SmartNews article always brings the user to the publisher’s site. Publishers may also place advertising in SmartNews’ dedicated platform SmartView, and keep 100% of the revenue. Partner publishers are granted access to SmartNews Insights, the platform’s own online dashboard providing in-depth analysis on traffic, social sharing and key content metrics.
In addition to its intuitive channels such as Top News, Politics and Sport, and its publisher hubs for individual titles, SmartNews boasts its unique Channel Plus feature. Channel Plus allows users to add additional tabs dedicated specifically to content from their favorite sources, giving publishers another way to engage their audience through SmartNews’ simple user interface.
Last Summer, announced that it has reached more than 10 million monthly active users in the U.S. and Japan, and with a 200% user increase year-on-year in the US since its 2014 launch in the country, this user base looks set to increase exponentially.
For full specifications of RSS integration, click here.
Compatibility: iOS, Windows, Desktop
Click here to integrate
Crucially, Pocket differentiates itself by prioritising ‘Save For Later’, a feature that allows users to read content in Pocket offline. As such, Pocket functions as an aggregator run by the user.
Pocket prides itself on making a virtue of long-read material. Founder Nate Weiner told Bloomberg that “Sharing something with a crazy headline isn’t going to make it prominent in Pocket. Our platform just isn’t set up that way. It’s a lot slower”. In 2019, Pocket and its 30 million strong user base were bought by Mozilla, whose Firefox browser now features a prominent Pocket save-for-later button at the top of the window by default. Since this Firefox integration, Pocket has sent publishers in parse.ly’s network 75% more traffic.
Pocket’s Pocket For Publishers dashboard is a suite of free features that help publishers get the most from the app. Trends is an intuitive set of analytics tools that allow publishers to track their content’s progress in the app, Custom Messages allows publishers to create original content that appears whenever an article is saved to Pocket from their site, and Integration allows publishers to add a Pocket button to their own sites and apps, making saving content to Pocket as simple as possible.
Compatibility: iOS, Windows, Desktop
Price: free basic version, paid subscriptions, starting at $4.99 per month, cut out ads and boost storage space
Click here to integrate
The Associated Press’ news aggregator app places an emphasis on local, providing users with breaking news from the Associated Press and hundreds of trusted local sources. Its interface may not be as glamorous as some others on this list, but with good reason: it’s an excellent news source for users who want plain facts laid bare.
Local publishers should take note. Like Apple News, the AP News app aims to spotlight local publishers’ coverage of local stories that go national, as opposed to that of the nation’s biggest news titles. The app seamlessly transitions these stories to publishers’ own sites, boosting traffic.
Users can customise their news feeds to follow specific topics and publishers as they appear in developing stories. Users may also enable push notifications to receive real-time updates from the app, another booster of traffic for publishers. These updates can now also be shared through Apple Watch.
Compatability: iOS, WatchOS, Android
Click here for more information
No list of news aggregators would be complete without the inclusion of Microsoft News, formerly MSN, launched in its current iteration in 2018. The coinciding announcement said: “We work with more than a thousand premium publishers and more than 3,000 brands in all major global markets – like USA Today, The New York Times, FOX News, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Le Monde, Die Welt, El País, BBC News, Kyodo News, and many more – to aggregate the best news, videos, photos and other content and deliver it, for free, to people all over the world.”
One of the biggest benefits of the platform for publishers is its curation process. Like Apple News, Microsoft News enlists a combination of artificial intelligence and human editorial curation to surface great content. Currently, Microsoft has in excess of 800 editors working in 50 locations worldwide, to ensure the accuracy of local reportage. Every day, Microsoft News receives around 100,000 pieces of content from its publishing partners. Its AI then scans the content to understand dimensions like freshness, category, topic type, opinion content and potential popularity. It presents it for our editors, who decide what content will receive optimal placement on the app’s core pages, like the Top Stories section.
Rob Bennett, Microsoft News’ editor in chief, said the following:
“We believe that a free, well-funded press is a critical part of our social fabric and are proud to partner with the world’s best news brands, offering a business model that gives people access, at no-cost, to trustworthy news and provides a sustainable source of revenue for publishers. In just the past four years we’ve delivered more than $600 million back to our publishers, enabling them to focus on what they do best: quality journalism.”
So, if you’re a publisher wondering how to boost your chances of getting featured, Microsoft News’ editorial team use the words “diverse, credible and well-rounded” to describe the content they look to promote. Diversity is important to the Microsoft News team, who carefully compose the app’s pages daily to include multiple sides to a story and believe considered opinion pieces help a user to better understand a story.
Compatibility: Windows 10 or higher, XBox One, Windows 8 mobile or higher
Click here to integrate
Other News Aggregation Platforms:
To clarify, each of these apps can be joined by simply providing an RSS feed. We’ve mainly included apps whose user base is already significantly large as to make it a major player in this industry, and one or two new apps who show enough promise to assure they’ll be in that position in the near future.
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, 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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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 gives them significant differentiation.
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.