Social Media’s Expanding Role in News Delivery

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A new report finds that social media referrals have overtaken Google search and Google News as the leading driver of traffic to news sites.

In its quarterly Authority Report (registration required), the analytics company Parse.ly reveals that social-media sources account for 43% of incoming traffic to client websites in comparison to 38% from Google. These figures are based on Parse.ly’s client list of over 400 news media outlets, which include press publications like WiredThe Atlantic and The Daily Telegraph as well as digital-only outlets like Mashable and Business Insider.

Although Google remains the primary driver of overall search and referral traffic, Facebook has doubled its share of news referral traffic from just 20% in January 2014.

Parsely Referral Traffic

The July 2015 Social Media and News Study (PDF) by the American based Pew Research Centre also finds that the proportion of social media users obtaining news from Facebook or Twitter has risen across nearly every demographic group.

Social Media News Distribution
The supremacy of Google search has created a marketing industry out of search engine optimisation (SEO). However, publishers are now turning towards social media optimisation (SMO) to enhance their presence and reputation within content sharing platforms. While social media offers publishers greater opportunities to personalise and spread content, it also makes them more reliant on the already powerful social media companies. These companies are also moving to expand their role in news distribution.

With an active user base of 1 billion and over 2 million active advertisers, Facebook trialed Instant Articles against a test audience of mobile users in May. The service allows news partners like The New York Times and The Guardian to publish full articles on Facebook’s app instead of relying on referral links from users’ Facebook feeds. While promising much faster load times for mobile users, Facebook guarantees publishers 100% of revenue from adverts associated with the article and 70% of the adverts Facebook sells. However, as Business Insider report, the roll out of Instant Articles is far from complete.

Meanwhile, Twitter is experimenting with new features to support more focused news delivery. In June the company announced Project Lightening which will offer users curated coverage of live events. This will also see the development of the company’s editorial role as a set group of tweets will be selected and packaged to convey the ‘experience’ of an event.

Cover image courtesy of PDpics.

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