Our ten best performing articles of 2015

And so we come at last to the final publishing day of the year. 2015’s been a wild ride for publishers (and 2016 promises to be even more so) with competition swooping in from unexpected places.

So which articles published on TheMediaBriefing best caught the audience’s attention this year? And what do they tell us about the changing concerns of the media industry over the course of the past twelve months?

1. Can news publishers get ahead of the mobile ad spending boom? (June 4th)

We wrote:

“So, are publishers in the right place at the right time for the mobile transition? Most of them are far and away above the average when it comes to content consumed exclusively on mobile devices, after all. But if the vast majority of the mobile ad spend is going to Facebook, with no signs of that growth slowing, is there room for publishers to generate significant revenue from their increasingly mobile-only audiences?” 

Since then, we’ve seen publishers leaping into bed with Facebook instant articles, with some (like the Washington Post) putting all their content on the platform. As we wrote in September, it quickly became the only game in town

2. 9 key takeaways from the Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2015

We wrote:

“The 2015 report arguably doesn’t reveal any particularly new developments, but it does firmly reinforce many of the major trends – such as the growing influence of smartphones, the role of social media and the rise of video consumption – that we have seen in recent years.” 

Since then, we’ve seen many of the observations around audience habits come true – but we got most mileage out of this chart demonstrating the difference between time spent on platforms and their relative ad spend:

Meeker Ad Gap

3. Digital dominates the conversation, but for the publishing industry in 2020, print will still dominate revenues

Our correspondent Charlotte Miller wrote:

“At an aggregated level, combining revenues from the newspaper, book, and magazine industries across more than 50 markets worldwide, we forecast that just 24% of revenue will come from digital in 2020, up from 14% in 2015.

‘But, in terms of both consumer and advertiser spend, despite a decline in print revenue and all the investment in (and noise around) digital, print will continue to dominate.”

…which immediately set off a comment war between print sceptics and boosters. But since then we’ve seen indications that print revenue might fall off a cliff faster than expected, and more innovation in how publishers are approaching digital revenue.

4. Why journalists should care more about media business models

We wrote:

“Too few journalists care about media business models. Every week a senior journalist or editor tells me: it’s not my job to care, I trust our commercial teams, I just want to get on and do my words. The business of media, it seems, is none of their business.

“That needs to change.” 

Since then the conversation has been continued by experts like Amanda Hale, vice president at Talking Points Memo, who wrote:

“We’ve reinvented journalism school time and time again and have nobly funded countless entrepreneurial journalism fellowships aimed at equipping journalists with basic tech and business skills (“entrepreneurial journalism,” while adjacent, is a different discipline — email me and I’ll explain), but as an industry, we have done very little to identify, pipeline, and train the publishing talent that will be responsible for securing the financial future of news.” 

5. How four top publishers use Facebook for video 

Our correspondent Garrett Goodman wrote:

“According to figures recently released by the social network, Facebook users are seeing nearly 4 times more video in their feeds compared to one year ago. That’s a steady 1 billion video views every day for the network. Crucially, chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg said during a an earnings call last month that over 65 percent of videos are watched on mobile devices.”

Since then we’ve seen much more discussion surrounding Facebook and video, including the ethics of autoplay – though mostly around the slightly dodgy way they categorise a ‘view’. I wrote:

“For a platform with such an ostensible focus on increasing engagement, much of its video proposition is actually bad for advertisers. The much-maligned autoplay, which Twitter also appears to be adopting, is designed specifically to get the number of ‘views’ up.

“But that current definition of ‘view’ is almost arbitrary since most people’s control over what appears in their news feed is limited and few would argue that 3 seconds is genuinely enough for an advertiser to get their message across.” 

6. How Buzzfeed leaves no article behind on social media

We wrote:

“Buzzfeed is an example of a new media company that has a strong social strategy where most of its stories get noticed and quite a few go “viral”, racking up a huge number of shares.

“On average, Buzzfeed articles were shared nine times more than those published during the week by the New York Times, which was the worst performing of the publishers we looked at.”

Since then BuzzFeed has gone from strength to strength – and has seemingly hired the entire Guardian office in the UK. In the new year we’ll be publishing an in-depth look at how its dedicated news articles perform compared to the branded content that make up its commercial proposition.

7. 7 things you need to know about how Millennials watch video

Our correspondent Rick Gibson wrote:

“If IAB is right that 26% of British viewers are watching less TV because they’re watching online video – and over half watch short-form video at the same time as traditional television – then there is a very real daily war being fought between YouTube and broadcast TV for the viewer’s attention.

“Young people are at the forefront of this battle, because they are significantly heavier and more frequent consumers of video than older viewers. Under 25s in our panel are more than twice as likely to watch original digital video every day (71%) than over 25 year olds (28%).”

Since then… very little has changed, other than a growing recognition that digital video services are the go-to medium for Millennials online.

8. Why publishers should care about article tagging

Our correspondent Abigail Edge wrote:

“At other outlets, publishers are using tags to identify different story formats such as video, longform and shortform. Tagging articles in this way allows publishers can get better insights to see, for example, how attention time and social sharing differs between different content types.

Technology site Ars Technica uses tags in this way to identify its three main content types – briefs, reports and articles. According to [Parse.ly’s chief technical officer Andrew Montalenti], Ars Technica were surprised to find attention time did not mirror what they anticipated based on the level of difference between the three content types.

“They found the longform reports were only getting about twice as much time on site as the briefs, but in many cases these long form reports were 10,000 or 15,000 words – so there’s no way people were completing the articles,” he explained.

“It led them to realise maybe they should experiment in the space between these two content types to get better action.”

9. The Economist’s Michael Brunt on refining the journey from consumer to subscriber

We wrote:

“It’s been a time of both huge change and welcome stability at The Economist. Following the sale of its stablemate the Financial Times to Nikkei, the magazine and research group has completed a £469 million sale whose terms enshrine its own editorial and commercial independence.

“The huge asking price was based in part on the continued health of The Economist brand, which saw a staggering 225.8 percent year-on-year rise in digital circulation between January and June. That contributed to a 1.9 percent year-on-year growth in combined print and digital circulation, a key driver behind its pretax profits of £59 million in 2015.

“According to its chief marketing officer and managing director of circulation Michael Brunt, that success is down to absolutely nailing the process by which it acquires new subscribers.” 

10. Seven internet trends you need to be aware of

Our correspondent Neil Sharman wrote:

“The number of UK employed journalists has declined by 6,000 (9%) since 2013 as publishers have had to cut costs. However, it means they are cutting content creators at a time that they are demanding more content creation. Some experienced writers have been replaced by younger, cheaper ‘digital-natives’ but publishers will increasingly use robo-journalists instead.

If you think that’s far-fetched – they’re here already, learning fast.

Since then… well, Terminator Genisys proved we were right.

Have a great Christmas! We’ll be back in the new year with more hard-hitting media journalism and on-point analysis.

By |2015-12-23T00:01:00+00:00December 23rd, 2015|Analysis|Comments Off on Our ten best performing articles of 2015

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