Another important aspect of online news is that it is a social activity. The latest Pew study explains, “News consumption is a socially-engaging and socially-driven activity, especially online. The public is clearly part of the news process now. Participation comes more through sharing than through contributing news themselves.” Indeed, Internet users who share news with their social graph act as modern day gatekeepers as people look to their friends for the latest news, similar to how they rely on their peers for product information.
This is how the Huffington Post has found real success. Included on each individual piece of content are prominently placed buttons which allow readers to easily share it with their networks on Facebook, Twitter, and other direct media sites with the click of a button. I have heard that 40 percent of the Huffington Post’s traffic comes from Facebook — a statistic that confirms the Pew study’s findings.
An effective content distribution strategy is a vital part of success for any online news site because no matter how good the content is, no one will find out about it if it isn’t readily available on sites they are already spending time on. Put simply: if you don’t have a plan to distribute your content effectively, don’t bother creating content.
The conundrum for news publishers is their desire to produce revenue to cover the increasing costs of running a news organization, and many of them are now looking to paid subscription models to do so. But only 19 percent of Internet users are willing to pay for news online. And that number includes those who already pay for online news.
These publishers need to remember why the Internet was able to overtake traditional news organizations as a news provider in the first place — it made news widely and easily available.
Transparency and availability is the future of online journalism. Widely available, real-time breaking news coupled with direct conversations with reporters will bring users into the story — similar to the car chase phenomenon — and ultimately establish a strong connection between the user and the news outlet.
That’s why publishers of online news cannot afford to fall into the mindset of restricting their content’s availability to its own site. To bring new readers into the funnel, these individuals must first be compelled by your content, which is why it is so important to lower the barrier to entry for newcomers. Distributing fresh, interesting content to popular sites that many Internet users are already spending time on every single day is an easy way to attract new readers and bring them into the funnel. Only after that can they be persuaded to come to your site on a regular basis.