FML Blog

New formats boost engagement, publishers go native and distribution platforms lure publishers

Friday, March 18, 2016      Future Media Lab.       0

Filip Ševčík

(Left) Filip Ševčík, Communications Trainee at EMMA/the Future Media Lab..


 Continuing with our bi-weekly news roundup, Filip Ševčík shares the news that caught his eye over the last two weeks. The news round-up is a way for the Future Media Lab. team and members of the Future Media Lab. network to share articles about innovations and developments in the media sector, including references to relevant media policy debates.


Here are Filip’s choices for this week:



Boost audience engagement with homepage redesign. Better typography, finite list of stories or broader cross-section of articles are some of the key innovations that transformed The New York times’ Page One and led to higher frequency of user’s visits, increased average time spent on the site and especially, improved the retention rates by up to 60%. However, there might be more ways to success and Melody Joy Kramer, Poynter columnist, put together over 60 ideas how publishers could differentiate their homepages.


New formats & improved comments. Atlantic tries to engage audiences with new A&Q format that addresses common myths and assumptions about large and complex topics by asking more questions. The disadvantage is that not every subject might be presented in this form. Trust, on the other hand aims to improve engagement with audiences via comments and provides insight and tools for better moderation, based on user’s history of contributions.


“Advertising accounts for half of all data used by publisher pages on iPhones”, estimates Enders Analysis, after a small-scale study found that ad content constitutes between 18%-79% of transferred mobile data on news websites and that JavaScript adds another 6% to 68% to the amount. However, drain of data tariffs isn’t the only issue users have with current forms of advertising. When the Guardian asked readers why they use adblocks, the common answers mentioned keywords such as intrusive formats, security risks, malware and lack of control and alternative payment models.


Need for speed. Ad and content blocking features are increasingly incorporated in mobile and desktop web browsers. The latest addition is Opera, claiming that it can speed up loading times up to 90%. In the meantime, MIT developed a new system that evaluates dependencies between website’s objects to determine the most efficient way to load a page. On average, it decreases the loading time by 34%.


Sweden unites against adblockers. Because more than 30% of readers utilise adblocks, most of the Swedish publishers will collectively block adblockers in August. However, the effect of the campaign is questionable, since it doesn’t solve why users block ads in the first place. It might be good to improve the user ad experience first.


Going digital. After the print circulation of El País decreased 15% to 220.000 copies, the title decided to phase out its print edition and focus solely on the digital product. It’s already the second national newspaper that went digital only in a short period of time – should we expect mass abandonment of print because of decreasing revenues? It’s hard to predict, yet newly launched print daily New Day battles with rapidly falling sales since the end of February.


Going native. Pure, digital only revenues might be volatile nowadays, especially with the rise of adblocking. That’s the reason why publishers are looking towards the possibilities of native ads, which are mostly unaffected by such technology. For example Hearst and New York Times plan to scale its native ad campaigns to Europe and follow on success they had in the U.S., be it 35% growth of digital revenues or superior scroll rate of native ads over editorial posts. De Persgroep Advertising qualitative research is also optimistic and found that native ads positively influence people’s view of advertised brands and products. Both brand awareness and likelihood of purchase double, if users read at least one article of the campaign.


Google tweets and curation algorithms. Since March, certain verified individuals and organisations are able to publish short posts that will appear as a carousel on top of search results related to the publisher. This new social feature of Google seems very similar to Twitter, but the project is still in an experimental phase and we’ll have to wait for its final version. And yes, Twitter is becoming more like Facebook, with its algorithm curated newsfeed, so don’t forget to opt-out if you’d like the old version back.


Distribution platforms offer new features to lure-in publishers. So far, publishers were hesitant with Apple news. As Scott Dadich, Editor in Chief of Wired points out, there were no guarantees about the audience size, adoption rate and absence of real-time metrics. Apple recently opened-up its news to all publishers and introduced new native ad format that will blend in with other news in the feed to offer better monetization opportunities. Facebook also enhanced its services by releasing a WordPress plugin that enables publishers to post Instant Articles, even without the necessary coding skills.


What is necessary for quality journalism to thrive? Emily Bell, Director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, talks about the way platforms transform the media landscape. Should publishers be more like tech companies or the other way around?




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