It’s been over six months since we published this year’s Publishing Trends Report 2023, and it’s fair to say that things have been pretty turbulent.
Facebook’s second pivot to video is in full swing, and has seen publisher’s referral traffic slump. Twitter has been flooded with misinformation and changed the way that publisher’s content on the platform is shown. Threads burst onto the scene and fell away just as quickly. Oh, and all the big tech businesses can’t keep themselves out of court.
So, how have things changed between the publication of our last Publishing Trends Report and now, and what remains the same? What were the main social media trends of 2023?
Social Media Trend #1: Social traffic slumps
Rewind to late 2022-early 2023. We asked publishers what their greatest challenges were in the year just gone and the most cited responses were staying ahead of Facebook’s algorithm changes and lost traffic. Fast forward 6 months and the picture remains gloomy.
Looking at the Social Media Index, a free resource showing the percentage of publishers’ referral traffic coming from different social media platforms, the current changes to promote video content and deprioritize news content, seems to have begun in the middle of 2022. And the dropoff has been steep.
|Did you know that publishers not using Echobox have seen an average decrease in Facebook traffic 4 times greater than those who do? Get in touch today and find out how Echobox can help you maximize referral traffic.
On July 17th of 2022, Facebook produced 15.50% of referral traffic for publishers. A little over a year later on August 3rd 2023, this figure dropped to just 4.84%.
It is possible that in the coming months traffic will rebound as publishers get used to Facebook’s new normal. But the growing regulatory pressure for Facebook to pay publishers in jurisdictions around the world means that in all likelihood its tough stance will not change in the foreseeable future.
Elon Musk’s stewardship of X has been chaotic from the start. Since late 2022, publishers have seen, to list but a few: the introduction of paid verification, leading to an increase in fake and imposter accounts; the end of free API access, placing onerous costs on those posting to the platform at significant volume; the designation of institutions such as the BBC and NPR as “government-funded media” and “state-affiliated media” respectively; a rebrand; and the removal of headlines from news articles.
Research from earlier this year also suggests that engagement is declining, with the number of daily active users falling 9.8% year on year.
When we asked our respondents whether the changes that had been made to (what was then) Twitter up to that time had made them reconsider their use of the platform, 81% said No. With all that has gone on in the intervening months, the answer, now, may well be different.
Social Media Trend #2: A new era for audience development?
Given that traffic from Facebook and X have fallen, the pressure is on for publishers to find new ways of engaging audiences online. 53% of respondents to our survey said that finding new audiences would be more important to them in 2023.
How are publishers doing it? Our report found that the two major focuses for audience development were TikTok, Instagram and email newsletters. Each has a different strategic use for publishers, but each in their way are hugely valuable.
TikTok and Instagram are platforms with enormous market share and a predominantly young user base. But referral traffic levels have always been much lower by virtue of how content is presented on the platform. Certain solutions can help. Echobox’s Link in Bio pages, for instance, are available to all Echobox users with an Instagram integration, and can collect all of the links for articles shared to Instagram, making them browsable and enabling viewers to click back to a website.
Nevertheless, for publishers sharing to TikTok and Instagram, the major draw is, first and foremost, community building — creating brand awareness and loyalty around a publisher’s work. And it can be enormously successful. The UK’s Daily Mail has seen enormous growth on TikTok, increasing reach by 1700% in six months and being garlanded as the most followed news outlet there in the process.
A growing number of publishers are looking at other channels, too. Google Discover and private channels like What’sApp are just a few of the strategies that publishers are experimenting with.
Perhaps the most developed alternative to the established social channels is email — a focus for publishers for quite a few years now. 56% of respondents to our survey at the beginning of the year indicated that they would increase the number of newsletters that they offered, while newsletters were already produced by two-thirds.
Increasingly, publishers are integrating newsletters into a broader subscription strategy. A report from The Reuters’ Institute identified newsletters as a key part of a subscription funnel with publishers giving most attention to the “first 90 days of a new subscriber” in the knowledge that “regular (daily) usage is the biggest predictor of continued subscription. Subscribers acknowledge this too, pointing out how trial periods allow them to ‘get to know’ a brand.”
Argentine publisher Clarín, for instance, achieved incredible subscription growth with a strategy including exclusive newsletters for subscribers.
For Hearst Italia, meanwhile, newsletters are intended as part of a revenue strategy that includes the planned introduction of paywalls. With click rates increasing by 31%, newsletters are helping to demonstrate the value of Hearst Italia’s brands, and safeguard the company’s financial future.
|Want to scale your newsletter program simply and efficiently? Echobox Email is easy to set up and even easier to use. Automate some or all of your newsletter workflow and produce email newsletters tailored to each subscriber. Publishers using Echobox to send emails have seen an average increase in click rate from emails of over 40%. Contact us and find out more about how Echobox can transform your newsletters.
Social Media Trend #3: Generative AI extends its reach
When ChatGPT was released at the end of 2022, it immediately caught the public’s imagination. A year later that enthusiasm doesn’t seem to have abated, and with its integration into Microsoft’s Bing browser it has touched off a generative-AI arms race. Meta, Alphabet, Apple, anyone who’s anyone in tech is looking to climb aboard the AI train.
Our report indicated that there was a roughly even split between those who were persuaded by the business potential of this kind of generative AI and those who weren’t.
It’s easy to see why. For publishers, chatbots such as ChatGPT are an area of opportunity as well as risk. A number of high-profile news publishers have taken the decision to block Open AI’s web crawler from “reading” their content over copyright concerns as well as fear that readers who can find a short precis of an article won’t read the full thing.
On top of this, the well-known propensity of programmes like ChatGPT to “hallucinate” and provide misleading or false information, makes publishers’ whose very reputation relies on accuracy, wary.
The other side of the coin, however, is that publishers are increasingly using software like ChatGPT to streamline their workflow. The responsible implementation of generative AI can have a positive impact on over-stretched social media teams.
Echobox, for instance, uses ChatGPT’s generative AI to help create the perfect share message for social media, as well as email subject lines and preview text. This saves time as well as learning what a publisher’s audience responds to best.
A recent survey by the London School of Economics’ Journalism AI initiative has found that 80% of respondents “expect an increase in the use of AI in their newsrooms, and 73% believe generative AI tools such as ChatGPT and Google’s Bard present new opportunities for journalism.”
|Echobox can save you time with our ChatGPT integration. Automatically generate the perfect share message on you social posts as well as email subject lines and preview text, all designed to follow best practice to increase engagement with your audience. Get in touch with us to learn more about how Echobox can help you.
The Publishing Trends Report 2023 was a snapshot of an ever-evolving process of transformation in the news publishing world. The world captured in 2024 will be more uncertain than perhaps any time since the pandemic, with declining pageviews from social media compounding a squeeze on advertising revenues.
Achieving strong performance in such challenging circumstances requires innovative thinking. Echobox is here to support that. By using Echobox’s AI-powered technology to share on social media and email, publishers can dramatically cut down on the amount of time their teams spend on unnecessarily laborious workflows, leaving busy teams free to do their jobs.
Read our full Publishing Trends Report here.