The WaPo Gets It’s Groove Back; Distribution Drives Branded Content Innovation; YouTube Deals are Boring

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Issue #41 — July 24, 2016

This week in DistributedBytes …

  • The WaPo is Rockin’!
  • Branded Content Makes It’s Way to Facebook
  • YouTube Deals: Not Compelling

👍 WaPo: Kicking A**

To produce DistributedBytes each week, I source content from over two dozen industry publications. As I was reviewing the options for this 40th edition, I was struck by the prominence of headlines regarding The Washington Post. Whether the topic was Google AMP, Facebook Instant Articles, publishing platform Medium, newsletter distribution, or bots, The Washington Post seemed to have its thumb on the pulse of every major media trend. I was compelled to take a deeper dive.

The Washington Post was purchased in 2013 for $250 million by Amazon tycoon, Jeff Bezos. Since that time, Bezos has encouraged the staff, which has been increased by 140 journalists, to experiment, and has given them the freedom to do so. Bezos has essentially turned “the Post into a laboratory for inventing a sustainable future for newspapers.” Having doubled traffic to its own website, as well as earned two Pulitzer Prize awards since the acquisition, it can be declared that the “Post’s newsroom has its swagger back.”

Let’s take a look at some of the innovative efforts the legacy publisher has undertaken:

Platform distribution has been embraced in the new era. When Facebook launched Instant Articles, the program for enabling a faster reading experience on mobile devices, the WaPo was, and still is, one of the only publishers to go “all-in,” publishing every piece of original content on Facebook’s platform. It was also the first to publish branded content from its in-house studio, WP BrandStudio, directly on the platform.

Not skipping a beat when it comes to Facebook, the WaPo last week joined the ranks of 11,000 other brands, businesses and content creators, and launched a bot for news delivery on Facebook Messenger.

The WaPo was one of the first to publish content with AMP, Google’s open source project designed to speed up and improve the mobile reading experience, and was recently featured in a case study released by Google. The WaPo is publishing over 1,000 articles daily using AMP, is touting a 23% increase in return users, and has seen an 88% improvement in load times.

The paper has been experimenting with publishing on Medium, and has gained some interesting insight which its using to optimize programming for the platform. Advice? “Start with what already works on the platform (first-person stories), and avoid what doesn’t (straight news).”

Twitter Moments, the curated compilations of tweets that Twitter launched last year, created a new playground for journalists to tell stories. The Washington Post has experimented with the concept from several angles: Promoting major reporting efforts by providing behind-the-scenes stories and photos; compiling and assessing a tweetstorm (such as reporter David Fahrenthold’s investigation into Trump’s charitable contributions); resurfacing and re-packaging archival and evergreen tweets (such as Obama’s best White House Correspondent’s Dinner jokes); publishing recurring features, such as an ongoing series by a Post cartoonist; driving traffic — placing links to outside sources is a feature that Twitter rolled out last spring, and The Post has been successful in using said links to drive traffic to its own website

The paper has made its content publishing solution, Arc, available for licensing. About half a dozen publishers are currently using the platform, and its estimated that licensing revenues could bring in up to $100 million a year. New features and improvements continue to be rolled out, including a recent release which provides capabilities to “rapidly reduces load times for mobile display ads” and also reformats “video ads for vertical cell-phone screens.” Head of Ad Product and Technology Jarrod Dicker explains the drive to address publisher’s pain points, saying, “I want the New York Times to call me and say, ‘Holy s**t, I want that.’”

Recognizing that “newsletters are a key way to connect with our readers,” the Post has recently launched a newsletter publishing platform, Paloma, that can be licensed as part of Arc, or as a separate, stand-alone product. “Designed to work at the speed of news,” the new platform gives the WaPo editorial staff an easy-to-use tool which allows them to publish new content alongside curated selections, content from social, and multimedia such as audio and video. The platform also offers sophisticated audience targeting and personalized delivery options.

The Washington Post is making some winning moves: utilizing platforms to their fullest extent to reach an audience and to tell stories in a captivating, modern way; developing technology which addresses issues that the media industry as a whole is facing, and licensing it to create a new revenue stream; and engaging in a healthy dose of experimentation and optimization. As so eloquently put by NY Magazine, “If the Post can’t invent a business model for newspapers, who can?”

📌 QuickByte

Thrillist becomes the first publisher to create branded content specifically for consumption on Facebook using the platform’s Canvas ad-creation tool.

Read It: MediaPost: Thrillist Creates Branded Content For Ad Partners Via Facebook Canvas

📢 Quote of the Week

“There are no deals to be had at YouTube that are particularly compelling. There is no discovery, and there are nickel-and-dimey [ad rates].” — Jon Steinberg, Founder & CEO, Cheddar

Read It: WSJ: Some Media Companies Cool on YouTube Distribution

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