What’s the best way to get heavy foot traffic to your new cafe in New York City?
a) Rent a property right next to major tourist attractions and build your cafe there
b) Buy a property out of the way of tourist attractions and build your cafe there
(Yes, obviously buying a property next to major tourist attractions would be the best move, but you don’t have that kind of money.)
Here we face the dilemma of the “long short road” and the “short long road.”
Piggybacking on the foot traffic to major tourist attractions will fill your cafe fast. Building up a reputation and a customer base without the tourist attraction boost will take much more time and effort. The problem with the “long short road” over here? The property is not yours. A rent hike, failure of the landlord to renew your lease, or eviction is going to throw a serious wrench into your cafe’s viability. Had you taken the “short long road,” a successful cafe would have been based on your ability to draw customers on your own - and no one would have been able to take it away from you.
As a publisher in 2016, you face the same dilemma of the “long short road” and the “short long road.”
67% of American adults are on Facebook, and 66% of Facebook users get news on Facebook. That creates an audience of almost half of all American adults reading news on Facebook. What would you do to reach half of all the adults in the United States?
Facebook recently launched Instant Articles, enabling and encouraging publishers to put their news directly on Facebook, so the user has a faster experience on mobile (and so the user never has to leave Facebook. Hmmm…)
It’s easy for a publisher to be using Facebook to publish, and it would seem to be rewarding for a publisher to use Facebook to publish.
Except this is the long short road - the one that looks short, but ends up with many times that you’re forced to take the not-so-scenic scenic route.
Facebook keeps changing the rules of the game on publishers. They’ve slowly been choking off the organic flow of traffic to publishers and brands. “Our users prefer content from people to content from companies and brands,” they said. “So we’re decreasing the amount of content from brands in the News Feed.” Already in 2014 there were major drops in Facebook Pages’ organic reach, according to a study done by Social@Oglivy:
The head author of the study, Marshall Manson, writes, “Facebook sources were unofficially advising community managers to expect [organic reach] to approach zero in the foreseeable future.”
We may not have reached zero yet, but the future certainly isn’t looking any rosier.
What’s the prognosis for publishers, then?
Oh, just fine - if you’re willing to pay, Facebook says. Then you can get your stories in front of users - no problem. And all those fans you worked and paid to amass will still be useful, because your boosted posts will be more effective.
Facebook’s land-for-rent doesn’t have rent control. And publishers who have built their business there are experiencing rent hike after rent hike to be able to maintain their position and flow of consumers.
What’s a publisher to do?
Don’t abandon your successful cafe just because there was a rent hike. Yet at the same time, the wise proprietor will start scouting out a parcel of land he can BUY, and develop a strategy as to how he will transfer his business over as much as possible to the establishment he has full control over.
1) Your website
It’s the nuclear core of your publishing company. Your site, your brand, your content. Give your readers reasons to interact with your content ON your site. Monetize fully and wisely, whether that’s with subscriptions, products, or advertising.
2) Email newsletters
To read on your website, visitors have to make the trip to you. They might not think of it, or they might not be in the mood. Subscribing to an email newsletter is your content being invited into your readers’ homes.
You’re not always in the mood to go out to eat. But if your favorite cafe offers free delivery (with free food!) to your doorstep, you’ll probably accept. Just like your site, you control your email newsletter. The format, the frequency, the ability to monetize. Optimize your design and you can habituate your reader to click and engage with the content.
Get that content to readers where they are - but in a manner you still have control over. If your readers are increasingly on mobile, it may be tempting to just use Facebook’s Instant Articles. Before you dive in, think about what you could get out of an app. Can you monetize it? Would you be able to offer readers a reason to come view your content on your app?
You can do it.
The crowd is congregating near the tourist attractions. Don’t ignore them, but don’t sell yourself out or sell yourself short. Any medium you don’t own should be a means to an end, not an end in itself. The end? Get them to your owned property: your site, your email newsletter, your apps. Give them reasons to stick around.
Build your publishing empire… on land you own.