“Direct Publishing” is going to be a big deal for journalism. Get ready.
Direct Publishing offers the potential for news organisations to take back control of their content, brand and data.
The first question you’ll ask is “what actually is direct publishing?” Well, it’s a term that encompasses a range of technologies, platforms and processes that create an experience that is directly between the publisher and the audience, without algorithmic influence or the risk of interception by bad actors. Direct Publishing is NOT just a different way of describing text messaging with your audience or just a fancy term for chat bots.
With Direct Publishing we are talking about something that is much richer than what has come before and based on technology that can be as versatile as your imagination will take you. The phrase richer also references the nature of the content itself; you can deliver photos or video to audiences through totally new experiences as stand-alone or entirely new products and verticals.
Crucially, Direct Publishing is a dedicated mobile experience that engages audiences in a familiar, trusted and highly active space.
“Messaging is one of the few things that people do more than social networking.”
— Mark Zuckerberg, November 2014
For example: At one end you could create a new fully loaded “newsletter” experience, or with a lighter touch you can add to stories and interactions with audiences by doing things like giving people a reminder about a live event they can put directly into their calendar or share a locator map for a photo series. This all happens within the existing messaging ecosystem.
The second question you’ll probably ask is; “who is doing it right now? Show me loads of examples!”
Answer: This is really in its infancy but that is exactly why it is now time to act. The news and publishing industry have missed out countless times to those quicker to dominate a space. Looking to other industries, you can see that organisations like Oxfam, Subway and Vodafone have utilised this emerging tech in very different ways for their business needs, with considerable success.
At Fathm we are making it our mission to make sure publishers are able to start fully utilising the opportunities that Direct Publishing offers — and ensure they retain control over their publishing, data and relationships using this new format.
Not convinced this is a thing yet?
- Google has now completed its rollout of RCS (Rich Communication Services) technology meaning that access to services are now possible from the more than 2.5 billion active Android devices across the world
- A 2020 report by Mobilesquared says brands will spend $52.5 billion on RCS by 2028 diverting spend from banner ads to messaging campaigns
There are big commercial opportunities for publishers here:
- You control the ad space in your direct publishing environment; from ad placements in content carousels to entire sponsored experiences.
- Direct Publishing technology also allows you to take payments directly, so there are opportunities to upsell additional or premium content or services.
- You can also use it to drive and convert subscriptions.
Content strategy is essential
Remember when everyone used to say “you can’t just use the same content you put in your paper on your website?” Or — “video is not just TV news but on the web?” Direct Publishing demands — and deserves — its own editorial content, audience engagement and growth strategies.
You can’t just serve up a link via a Direct Publishing service — it is a waste of the technology’s potential and it creates an underwhelming product experience for your audience.
To be successful you need to think about optimisation in two core areas:
- The interactive flow and user journey must reflect the voice of your journalism, brand, product or organisation. This is not a chat bot, this is an access point to your rich storytelling.
- The content should be as amazing as your journalism and give the same quality experience you offer elsewhere. You can deliver in almost any format and you only need to worry about it being fully optimised for mobile.
The easy bit: For the majority of direct publishing opportunities your audience don’t need any new apps, in fact the pre-installed messaging app on the phone is pretty much it.
The slightly less easy bit: To get up and running with a direct publishing product or initiative your newsroom will need to be set up with a few things. You will need to technically build the product with one of the service providers who have the infrastructures to connect you with the networks and platforms. Fathm has a strategic relationship with IMIMobile — a leading service provider in this space— to provide services to the publishing industry. Fathm can take you all the way through from concept to delivery and then through to long term sustainability.
The jargon: The two protocols/platforms/ delivery methods that you should be thinking about as your entry point into Direct Publishing is RCS (Rich Communication Services) and GBM (Google Business Messenger). There are lots more but if you build an experience on these first two, rolling it out across additional formats is not a heavy lift.
Let’s do this
At Fathm we have been excited about the opportunities of Direct Publishing for a long time.
This moment builds on work we have done in Mexico to fight misinformation by directly engaging with the audience on WhatsApp and partnering with AJ+ to deliver content specifically designed for that format.
In India we have seen the power of WhatsApp tiplines we have helped create as a means of engaging with the audience outside of the a social network’s algorithm. We see how people feel safer interacting in a private, direct communication environment.
We have also been working for the last few years on content formats that are designed purely for on demand access and interaction via messaging.