Publishers Deliver Content to Social Networks

July 7, 2008

Publishers have started setting up shop in social communities such as MySpace and Facebook. There’s no denying the sheer volume of users and traffic surrounding these social networks.

Instead of trying to herd all that traffic to their sites, publishers are taking their content to the social masses. For example, check out Seventeen Magazine’s MySpace page.

We’ve seen where Publishers have created or even purchased social networks in order to gain new readership. But what revenue opportunities exist when the publishers create their own areas directly on existing community sites to take advantage of the massive number of eyeballs? Hearst Digital (publisher of Seventeen Magazine and many other titles) is one such publisher.

“They have a lot more users on their site than we have on ours, it doesn’t make sense to rebuild a social network with Cosmo or Seventeen. It makes more sense to take our content to where the users are,” says Chris Johnson, vice president of content and business development at Hearst Digital. Right now, Hearst is focusing on spreading its brand and has done very little in the way of advertising across its various community site initiatives. The primary reason for is that the ad revenue sharing scenarios are simply going to be hairy.

“We’re exploring the opportunities but it would have to be under the right circumstances,” says Johnson. “There would have to be a value-exchange in place with the network. They want to sell advertising and we want to sell advertising, so we have to figure out a way to do it together and share in the revenue.”

The social community host is likely going to be very demanding and want the majority of the revenue. But think about it. These community pages on social networks are largely free and highly trafficked. We’re talking guerrilla marketing at its finest here. Even the increase in readership and brand awareness is worth the minimal effort it would take to re-purpose your content (and some original socially-oriented content) onto your Facebook or MySpace page. Layer on top of that the potential for advertising dollars, and the question becomes “Why not?”. Even if you throw Google AdSense or Chitika advertisements onto the page, you’re still giving yourself an opportunity to earn at least what I would deem an additional revenue stream for a small to mid-size publisher. And for larger publishers the opportunities are even greater.

For some publishers, the cost of purchasing or building a social network is prohibitive. Rather than trying to build community features into their site over the next year, another option is to concentrate on establishing a presence on social networking sites and increasing awareness of their publication and their brand. I also believe this might show that certain publications can appeal to a wider audience by publishing to less traditional spaces.

Now, the argument can be made that sites like MySpace and Facebook might actually discredit a publications who target adults in - say - the business sector. Publications like Seventeen Magazine are a better fit given their target audience has a large presence on those two sites. I disagree. Audiences on those sites are maturing, and even if you focus on the 18 - 35 year old demographic, that fits a large number of the readership for a business publication. According to eMarketer, one half of online adults will use social networking by 2011. In the United States, social networking site ad spending will increase from 920 million in 2007 to 1.6 billion in 2008. Those numbers are hard to ignore.