After Cambridge Analytica scandal, publishers see Apple News as a solid alternative to being burned by Facebook, Google

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For years, Facebook and Google have been bleeding the publishing industry dry, appropriating the work of its reporters while replacing the ads that traditionally supported the news business with their own targeted surveillance advertising that does little to support actual journalism. It took a major scandal to wake the industry up, but it’s increasing warming to Apple News and its unique model of privacy.
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Snapchat’s redesign is baffling publishers

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Some publishers are seeing spikes. Others are seeing declines. Everyone is still trying to figure out Snapchat’s new algorithm.

Users haven’t been very happy with Snapchat’s redesign. Publishers who create content for Snapchat’s Discover section, though? They’re still undecided.

That’s because the redesign, which Snap started to roll out broadly in the United States last month, is significantly altering the traffic that publishing partners are seeing for their shows and Stories, according to conversations with several publishing partners.

 Snapchat
Snapchat’s Discover section

Some publishers have seen huge spikes in viewers, as much as 50 percent, while others have seen a decline. Still others have seen an increase in total viewers but a notable decrease in the amount of time those viewers spend watching or scrolling through the content.

The common thread seems to be that none of these publishers fully understand why their traffic is changing. Snapchat’s redesign moved publisher content into its own feed —separate from the stuff users’ friends create — and put it alongside content from events like the Super Bowl and celebrities like Kylie Jenner.

Snapchat is using a software algorithm, similar to the one Facebook uses to prioritize News Feed, to determine what content shows up near the top.

But unlike Facebook, where publishers have been learning for years how the algorithm works (i.e. it boosts live video and downgrades click-bait headlines), Discover publishers are trying to learn what Snapchat’s algorithm is looking for. The company hasn’t told them how it works, according to sources, which means they’re trying to navigate the new section on their own.

Most publishers appear to be prioritizing the metrics that Snapchat cared about before the redesign: Time spent and completion rates, which measure how long users watch or read a publisher’s content; and “loyalty,” or whether the same users are coming back on a consistent basis.

“We’re excited that the redesign will help us to a better job of serving the right content to the right people and help Snapchatters discover new content that they may not have known they are interested in,” a company spokesperson said.

A number of publishers noticed that viewers’ time spent has decreased, which has led to at least one theory. Stories inside Discover now play one after the other automatically, which means you could start by watching Kylie Jenner’s posts and next find yourself looking at the Wall Street Journal.

It’s an attempt by Snapchat to encourage people to discover new stuff, but it might help explain why some traffic is up and time spent is down, as people quickly leave shows or Stories they stumble upon but don’t find interesting.

The algorithm is super new. Some U.S. users were still getting the redesign this week, so these traffic patterns are far from solidified. It’s also possible other Snapchat partners — there are dozens — are having other experiences.

But it’s worth noting the changes given the trouble that Facebook has historically had with publishers — and with its all-powerful algorithm that controls who sees what content.

Snapchat has always been protective of Discover, hand-picking its partners and limiting the total amount of publishers to try and keep the content quality high. Using an algorithm to properly sort all that material will take time to master, but publishers will be paying attention. Discover is now responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising revenue. That makes understanding how it works a potentially lucrative endeavor.


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Facebook has decided that separating publishers into their own News Feed is a bad idea

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Facebook has ended a test that put publishers in one feed and friends in another.

Facebook has decided it’s a bad idea to separate brands’ and publishers’ posts from those that your friends and family share.

The social giant confirmed Thursday that it has ended a test of that concept it was running in six countries dating back to last fall.

The test removed content from publishers and businesses from the News Feed and put it inside a separate “Explore” feed, creating a digital divide between your friends and brands. Publishers in those countries that rely on Facebook for traffic freaked out when users no longer saw publisher posts interspersed with stuff from their friends.

“People don’t want two separate feeds,” wrote Adam Mosseri, the exec in charge of Facebook’s News Feed, in a blog post Thursday. “In surveys, people told us they were less satisfied with the posts they were seeing, and having two separate feeds didn’t actually help them connect more with friends and family.”

When Mosseri spoke at Recode’s Code Media conference in February, he said the test was “costly,” and that Facebook wanted to run it once before deciding “definitively once and for all” whether it worked or not.

It didn’t. So Facebook is ending the test. It is also shutting down its “Explore” tab, a section of the app where users could find public content from brands or publishers they didn’t follow.

The test wasn’t necessarily a waste — Facebook learned people don’t want two feeds! — but the company has also admitted that it wasn’t handled very well.

“We should have been more transparent and up front about [the test] ahead of it,” said Campbell Brown, Facebook’s head of news partnerships, onstage with Mosseri at Code Media. “[Publishers] totally freaked out, rightly so, because they didn’t understand what we were doing or trying to get at.”

The sentiment was echoed in Thursday’s blog post from Mosseri. “We also received feedback that we made it harder for people in the test countries to access important information, and that we didn’t communicate the test clearly,” he wrote. “We’re acting on this feedback by updating the way we evaluate where to test new products, and how we communicate about them.”

Facebook routinely makes changes to its News Feed to show users more (or less) of specific types of content, like live video. Its most recent News Feed update had a similar purpose to the now-defunct test: The change was made to show people more stuff from their friends and family, and less from brands and publishers.

That is still the priority, but separating the two groups completely isn’t the way to accomplish that.

Ironically, that total separation of friend stuff from publisher stuff is the premise of Snapchat’s redesign, the same redesign that people are freaking out about. Facebook found that strategy doesn’t work. It’ll be worth watching to see if Snapchat decides the same.


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Snapchat’s redesign puts publishers in one feed and friends in another. That’s exactly what Facebook says doesn’t work.

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Can Snapchat make two feeds work when Facebook couldn’t?

Facebook has decided that completely separating posts from your friends and family from posts shared by brands and publishers is a bad idea.

It says it discovered that to be the case when it tested the separation strategy by running two feeds for users in a handful of countries over the past four months.

“People don’t want two separate feeds,” wrote Facebook exec Adam Mosseri on Thursday. “In surveys, people told us they were less satisfied with the posts they were seeing, and having two separate feeds didn’t actually help them connect more with friends and family.”

Those findings aren’t just interesting for Facebook. That idea of separating friend stuff from publisher stuff? That was Snapchat’s entire argument for why it rolled out a massive redesign late last year. The new-look Snapchat keeps your friend content on one page and content from brands and celebrities on another.

So far, users haven’t liked the new Snapchat at all (though TechCrunch says downloads are actually up). CEO Evan Spiegel keeps preaching that it will just take time for people to realize the new feel is better.

But it’s interesting that Facebook has decided that this separation strategy doesn’t work. Snapchat will have to hope Facebook is wrong.


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Facebook launches a local news accelerator for publishers

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 Facebook is trying to play extra nice with local news publishers by putting $ 3 million behind the launch of the Local News Subscriptions Accelerator. The three-month pilot program will help 10 to 15 U.S.-based metropolitan news organizations gain more digital subscribers both on and off Facebook. Read More
Mobile – TechCrunch

Google is replacing Facebook’s traffic to publishers

New data from Chartbeat show the exact numbers.

Google’s increased traffic to publishers is replacing the traffic publishers have lost from Facebook, according to new data from Chartbeat.

While Facebook has been tinkering with its algorithm to prioritize posts from friends and family over publishers, more publishers have been signing up for the Google publishing format launched in 2015 known as Accelerated Mobile Pages. AMP hosts publishers’ content directly on Google’s servers so it loads faster for mobile users.

During its developer conference this week, Google announced that 31 million websites are using AMP, up 25 percent since October. Google says these fast-loading mobile webpages keep people from abandoning searches and by extension drive more traffic to websites.

The result is that in the first week of February, Google sent 466 million more pageviews to publishers — nearly 40 percent more — than it did in January 2017. Those pageviews came predominantly from mobile and AMP. Meanwhile, Facebook sent 200 million fewer, or 20 percent less. That’s according to Chartbeat, a publisher analytics company whose clients include the New York Times, CNN, the Washington Post and ESPN. Chartbeat says that the composition of its network didn’t materially change in that time.

Last year, we published a similar dataset from digital analytics company Parse.ly, which showed that Google had again become the main source of referral traffic to publishers. Facebook first beat out longtime referral champ Google in 2015.

Referral traffic made up 47 percent of publisher traffic so far this year, according to Chartbeat, with Google and Facebook accounting for most of it.

You can expect Google’s referral traffic to publishers to increase. At the developer conference, Google rolled out AMP for email and AMP Stories, Google’s answer to Snapchat and Instagram Stories that will appear in your search results.


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Apple News Drives Significant Traffic to Stories, Publishers Can Pitch Articles via Slack

Apple News can yield a flood of traffic for news publishers, with the app accounting for as much as 50 to 60 percent of readership for some stories, according to a paywalled report by Tom Dotan for The Information.

Apple News has generated half of Vox.com’s daily traffic at times, according to a person familiar with Vox’s numbers. An executive at the website of a major TV network said Apple News has accounted for as much as 60% of traffic for some stories.

The report claims Apple has an editorial team of about a dozen former journalists, led by veteran Apple executive Roger Rosner, who decide which articles get featured in the Top Stories or Spotlight sections of Apple News, or in the News tab on an iPhone, accessible by swiping left from the first page of the home screen.

The editorial team in the United States runs a dedicated Slack channel in which publishers can pitch stories to Apple, which tends to favor big breaking stories, special features, and multi-part series, according to the report. Apple is said to have similar teams working with publishers in Australia and the United Kingdom.

The curation process isn’t praised by all publishers, as smaller to medium-sized sites say Apple News tends to favor big mainstream outlets, which get featured prominently when users first sign up for Apple News.

A bigger issue that publishers have with Apple News is that many don’t earn any significant ad revenue from the app.

Part of the problem relates to how it sells ad space next to stories. Apple initially used its ad team iAd, but it later outsourced sales to NBC. It has yet to integrate Google’s industry standard ad-serving tool DoubleClick, which publishing executive say would make ad sales much easier.

This may change soon, as Apple has supposedly begun to run a closed test of Google’s industry standard ad-serving tool DoubleClick with around 20 publishers, in line with a report from last July. However, it’s unclear when or if Apple News will roll it out wider, according to the report.

All in all, while Apple News has proved more successful than first expected, there is still some progress to be made as Apple aims to become a key distribution outlet for news publishers around the world.

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Apple News generates little income for smaller publishers, curators take pitches from publishers on dedicated Slack channel

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Apple’s editorial team reportedly takes pitches from large reporting venues on a private Slack channel, and a team of about a dozen staffers decide if the story lives or dies on Apple News, and as a result, what makes money from being spotlighted on the service.
AppleInsider – Frontpage News

Google Offers New Mobile Story Tech to Publishers

Google has rolled out a developer preview of its new AMP story format, which is designed to give content publishers an easy way to deliver news and information on mobile devices with visually rich, tap-through stories. “On mobile devices, users browse lots of articles, but engage with few in-depth,” noted Rudy Galfi, product manager for AMP at Google. “Images, videos and graphics help publishers to get their readers’ attention as quickly as possible and keep them engaged through immersive and easily consumable visual information.”
TechNewsWorld

Snap paid publishers more than $100 million last year

That’s up from $ 58 million in 2016.

A picture of Snapchat’s Discover section. Snapchat

Snapchat paid its publishing partners “more than $ 100 million” in revenue-sharing advertising deals last year, up from $ 58 million in 2016 and just $ 10 million in 2015, the company reported on Tuesday.

Some of Snapchat’s advertising revenue comes from ads that it shows alongside videos and stories created by its publishing partners — media companies like ESPN, Bleacher Report and People magazine. Money made off those ads is usually split — Snap keeps some and pays some back to the media companies who provide the content. (The splits are not the same for all publishers.)

That business is growing, and that’s great news for Snap, which is about to make content from outside partners an even bigger part of its newly redesigned app. (The redesign is still rolling out to all users, but should be available to everyone by the end of the quarter.)

If Snap can make real revenue for media companies, they’ll be more likely to partner with Snap on things like shows or stories down the line.

Of course, the arrangement doesn’t work for everybody. CNN, for example, launched a daily news show on Snapchat back in August, but cancelled it shortly after when it wasn’t making enough money.


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