It’s no secret that media companies face difficulties when trying to bring their printed products online. Consumer expectations are completely different between the two fields, and the discrepancy in advertising rates forces publishers to rely on subscription billing. Different outlets each have their own approaches to what might be the winning strategy for online media, and one organization now believes that a website – once the core of a business’s online presence – isn’t as necessary anymore.
According to Hold the Front Page, a resource website for the U.K. news industry, six sister weekly papers – the Montrose Review, the Kirriemuir Herald, The Forfar Dispatch, Guide & Gazette, the Brechin Advertiser and the Arbroath Herald – virtually shut down their editorial websites. The online spaces that previously held all their content now redirect visitors to the papers’ Facebook profiles, encourage them to subscribe and provide links for email and advertising.
“In some of our smaller areas we see social platforms as an effective way to stay connected to our readers,” said a spokesperson for Johnston Press, owner of the six newspapers, according to Hold the Front Page. “We want to focus resource on increasing engagement through those platforms in support of a quality print product.”
— HoldtheFrontPage (@journalism_news) May 31, 2017
This is a very interesting – some might even say drastic – strategy for solving the problem of collecting revenue online. Many publications might start asking themselves if their businesses should follow suit. The idea that social is dominating the online space is one repeated time and time again, but is it truly accurate?
Johnston Press appears to be operating under the assumption that most readers prefer to engage with media companies through social rather than through individual websites. Their internal marketing data might prove this true, but what works for them might not work for others.
Even if other companies find success on social media, it might not be to the scale necessary to garner enough subscription billing revenue to maintain operations. According to a survey from Pew Research Center, only 18 percent of adults said they frequently get their news from social media. Meanwhile, 38 percent said they never do so.
What’s more, getting rid of a central website ignores the power of the omnichannel experience. Customers aren’t often cognizant of their expectations. Though they spend a lot of time on social media, they’ll be disappointed if they can’t access a website directly. These points of friction are small, but they’re enough to negatively affect the customer’s enjoyment.
The key to creating an optimal omnichannel experience, Nielsen Norman Group noted, is providing consistency and familiarity across all channels. They can’t be exact, of course, but customers should arrive at a website or social media profile and have their expectations met. This means that branding and tone must be the same on both platforms, but also that customers arrive at a social profile and find snippets of content worth sharing. Likewise, they arrive at a publication’s website and see in-depth content that wouldn’t fit on a social platform.
An effective omnichannel strategy uses the strengths of different channels to engage subscribers. Before abandoning a website to drive support for social and print, businesses should first search for innovative ways of maintaining revenue. They may find a new strategy that increases acquisitions and allows them to continue investing in their websites.