Love or Hate? Publishers on TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram

With the news this week that Facebook has re-created the original Facebook, going back to their .edu roots, it is perhaps time to check back in on how publishers are reaching new audiences on social media. However today there is more than just Facebook and Twitter publishers must develop strategies for. With this wide range of social platforms, we see some that have been overlooked by many news brands so today we’re checking in on the important questions publishers have about TikTok, YouTube and Instagram.

TikTok: Should publishers be experimenting now?

TikTok has been in the news frequently lately, due to President Trump’s threat of banning it in the US. At the last minute, a deal was struck between Oracle and Wal-Mart for the US business of TikTok. This odd pairing was parodied by the most famous newspaper account on TikTok, The Washington Post, run by Dave Jorgenson.

When it comes to legacy print news brands on TikTok, The Washington Post is the gold standard. However there are more and more publishers experimenting with TikTok every month. In France, Le Monde has grown to 62k followers while Italy’s Corriere dello Sport has nearly 60k followers. The number of publishers experimenting with TikTok will likely grow in the US as well, as TikTok announced this summer a $1 billion creator fund to encourage posting on the platform. While it’s still unclear how many publishers will be part of this program, or how much they will receive, it is clear the program is meant for publishers who have already started their TikTok presence. To be eligible, they’ll need to have at least 10,000 followers on TikTok and have received 10,000 views over the last 30 days. Through their previous Creative Learning Fund, TikTok paid publishers including UpWorthy and the magazine Self, to post educational content. Over a 7-week period, participating publishers published 35 posts for $50,000.

Ultimately while the future of TikTok has been up in the air for a while, it is a bit more certain now than it was a week ago. As the 2nd most downloaded app globally, publishers would be foolish to overlook this platform.

On a pure business level, it would be completely crazy if you didn’t try to appeal to an app that 1 billion people have downloaded — many of them under 20. That’s so many potential subscribers to your newspaper, so why wouldn’t you take them seriously?

Dave Jorgenson, creative video at The Washington Post

YouTube: Has the failed pivot to video pushed publishers away?

Perhaps scarred from a ‘pivot to video‘, YouTube has been an overlooked platform for many legacy print news organisations. However, we are seeing more and more publishers focusing on their YouTube strategies today.

The Economist knows its audience is already watching videos regularly online, with 86% of its readers watching videos online every week. To capitalise on this, the team has focused on their YouTube strategy, where they’ve already grown to more than 1.6 million subscribers. The next step in this strategy is to drive referral traffic back to their own website, which they have done by creating videos specifically designed to do this. The team at the Financial Times knows the important role video plays in driving subscriptions as well: if a user interacts with a video on their first or second visit, they have a higher propensity to subscribe.

With this success in mind, The Evening Standard set an ambitious goal for themselves this year: grow their YouTube channel from 6,000 subscribers to 100,000 by October. With just a few days until their deadline, they are almost there with 99.1k subscribers. This experiment started small in the beginning, by simply making use of the 60 videos per day the team was already publishing on their own website. This has further expanded to include sharing podcasts as well. The next step is to create entirely new content for YouTube specifically, a proposition that is helped by the fact that view count is up 5000% now.

Instagram: Is it really a news platform?

With the news from Reuters this year that Instagram will overtake Twitter for news consumption, publishers cannot afford to overlook this platform. The younger generation that is driving this growth is unique for their general feeling that important news will ‘find them’, according to recent research. That means rather than going to dedicated sources for news, such as a new website or a TV bulletin, they believe anything important will seep into their existing digital spaces.

This is seen in The Economist’s Instagram audience, which falls mainly into the 18 to 34 age range. This audience is highly engaged on Instagram, with internal research showing that their followers open the app ‘a staggering 35 times per day‘. To succeed, they have taken their learnings from other platforms and adapted them for Instagram, while still focusing on highlighting their hard-hitting journalism. One such example is a focus on habit-formation through a regular Stories feature every Sunday of the six most important articles of the week.

Research shows that 1 billion people visit Instagram every month, and 63% of Instagram users log on every day. On average Instagram users spend 28 minutes per day on the platform, meaning there is a large, engaged audience for publishers to address.

Publishers and platforms have long had a love/hate relationship, and there’s work to be done on both sides. However social media isn’t going away so publishers need to think strategically about how they can leverage these audiences.

Mary-Katharine Phillips
Mary-Katharine Phillips
Media innovation analyst @ Twipe
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