Wetpaint CEO Ben Elowitz on the Future of Digital Media
This piece from Theresia Gouw Ranzetta is the eighth in a series of 10 posts about the future of the media industry contained in a report titled: Rebooting Media: The Digital Publishing Revolution for a Fully Social Web.
Facebook becomes the jumping off point for many browsers who count on their friends to curate interesting media for them. How news gets “found” becomes less about searching Google news, and more about checking your Facebook newsfeed.
Q: What’s changed fundamentally about media with the rise of the social Web, and what do publishers need to do to adapt?
Publishers need to understand the “start” point for their digital users. It used to be a portal, so you cut a deal with one of them. Then, it was a search box, so you SEO-optimized your content. Now, it is a social media platform (Facebook or Twitter), and publishers need to understand how to optimize their content for maximum social sharing and social media amplifications. Don’t get me wrong: in each phase, it has always been about great content. But that is just the necessary first building block. Then you need to figure out the distribution to get maximum audience engagement.
Q: We’ve gone from SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to SMO (Social Media Optimization), so how will search change as the Web becomes more social?
Reference or informational search will remain relatively unchanged (for example, “What is the capital of Iowa?”). But “search,” where you are looking for guidance or information that has a subjective or has a taste aspect to it, will be completely transformed by social. Instead of typing in “Best sushi restaurant in Palo Alto,” you will ask your friends, or go to a site with a like-minded social groups (foodies, vegans, etc.).
I think we are still in the early days of SMO. Many large publishers have not yet even thought about this, nor are they aware that they should be. As with SEO, they will need to upgrade their content management / publishing systems and processes. Many will turn to start ups, like Wetpaint, to help with this.
But SMO can be even more. Unlike in the search world, where a supposed Chinese wall existed between SEO and SEM, leading platforms can now encourage their advertisers to also invest in SMO as well. So a very savvy company can leverage and get synergies from their investments and learnings from SMO + SMM (Social Media Marketing) in a collaborative way.
As with the early days of the portal and search platform eras, the ecommerce players were the first to experiment, invest and learn about the power of the new platforms to get broader distribution / audience. This is understandable, given that their business models more easily lend themselves to direct data gathering and learning for marketing spend. Once again, in social, I see the ecommerce players blazing a trail for publishers: the GroupOns, Zyngas, ModCloths, and Birchboxes of the world are good places to start.
In parallel to social, I think we are also seeing a platform shift – from PCs to mobile Internet devices. So, clearly the rise of iOS and Android are important platforms for publishers to understand and adapt to, both in terms of the technology and the distribution nuances.
Q: How do you build a brand in publishing when, with greater frequency, media is distributed through social channels?
You need to learn how to build your brand following on social media and realize that, no matter how strong your brand is in other channels, this is a whole other effort. It is not just an add-on and thinking of how to get “Likes.” The “packaging” of your content needs to be social media optimized for sharing and tie to your social media presence on your Facebook page and Twitter. It is an interconnected ecosystem that cannot be thought of as separate pieces.
Q: What are the critical success factors in publishing as we look to 2020; and who will be the winners?
Understand that we are in a new era. Social media distribution, branding and user-driven pull – not your push distribution – will win. Also, understand how your mobile approach is intertwined with what you need to do. The winners today will be the companies that have created these new social and mobile platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Apple iOS and Google Android), as well as the market leaders who have successfully built the first leading companies on top of these platforms (Zynga, Groupon etc.). As for the winners in 2020: I’m in the business of funding start up innovation, so I would say it’s the companies that may not even yet be formed – but they will be, in the next year or two.
Theresia Gouw Ranzetta joined Accel Partners in 1999. She is an investment Partner in Accel’s Palo Alto & New York offices and focuses on companies in the social commerce, vertical media, consumer mobile applications and privacy/security markets.
To download the complete report, please click here: Rebooting Media: The Digital Publishing Revolution for a Fully Social Web