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Inside Forbes: Mobile and Social Forces Unite to Drive the News Business

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IInside Forbes: Mobile and Social Forces Unite to Drive the News Business
 
 

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Inside Forbes: Mobile and Social Forces Unite to Drive the News Business

Very little shocks me about the media business any more. Even less catches me off guard when it comes to digital media. Then came the 24 hours after the NFL championship game between Seattle and San Francisco. That’s when I watched the power of mobile and social came together on Forbes.com like never before. I set out to track the numbers with five tabs on my browser for five different data dashboards: Chartbeat, SimpleReach, Google Analytics, Omniture and our internal stats engine. The force lifting the numbers was the social Web’s version of Seattle’s Legion of Boom.

It all began with this post – 22 Brief Thoughts About That Richard Sherman Interview. Published a few hours after the game, it took off instantly, gained momentum over night, then kept going and going for 24 hours. Here are the salient stats for that memorable day:

– 81% of all social referrals to Forbes.com linked to the post.

– 96% of the 2.3 million social referrals to the post came from Facebook.

– 87% of the 72,000 social actions around the post were Facebook Likes, shares and comments.

– 65% of the post’s 3.5 million page views were driven by social traffic.

– 49% of all site traffic came from smartphones (up from 30% on previous Monday’s), 9% from tablets.

The deeper I dig into these and other numbers like them, the clearer the picture gets. Mobile and social are fast becoming one. Mark Howard, our chief revenue officer, takes it one step further. For marketers, he says, mobile, social and native advertising are one in the same (more on that below).

With that, let’s take a look at four graphics:

The two lines in the chart above track our mobile visits (that’s all visits, as opposed to unique visitors) and social referrals for 2013. They’re certainly in lock step. The 25 million mobile visits last month include tablets and account for about one-third of the 75 million total visits to Forbes.com that month. During the same month, there were 10 million social referrals, a number that’s difficult to break down between mobile and desktop for a host of reasons that only data geeks would savor. Twitter traffic is the most transparent, giving us a bit of a clue. Two-thirds of Twitter referrals in December 2013 came from mobile devices. As you might expect given the blockbuster football post, social referrals rose to 13 million in the first 21 days of January 2014. I look forward to parsing the monthly data in a week or so.

I called Alex Knapp, a member of our social team who works out of Kansas City, to get his thoughts on all this. “Social media is the new portal,” he told me. Alex, I said, connect that to mobile for me. “When people are reading news on phones or tablets they’re pretty much finding interesting content through social, not web sites — and not just their friends. People especially use their Twitter feeds to follow curators who are likely to share interesting content. Most Twitter users are more likely to do that than share themselves.” (Note: the Richard Sherman post was was shared on Twitter by Jake Tapper of CNN; Toure, co-host of The Cycle on MSNBC; Ayssa Milano, the actress; Dante Stallworth, a well-known NFL player; and Lacrae, a Christian hip-hop celebrity. Together, they have 4 million followers). Alex also explained that that the Sherman post was a social/mobile spike. He pointed to this post, Mentally Strong People: The 13 Things They Avoid, as a social/mobile “snowball.” Here are the stats since it was first published in mid-November 2013: 980,000 social actions, 4 million social referrals and 9 million page views, with 48% of those page views from social sources. In the first month of the post’s life, mobile traffic on Forbes.com rose to nearly 40% from the low 30′s in the preceding 30 days.

Now check out the bar graph below, particularly the two middle bars. From eMarketer, it shows the time spent by different demographic groups with social media. Nearly 70% of females, 25-49, and 56% of males, 25-49, are engaging with social media via smartphones (both groups spend far less time on tablets). Over the past three years, both demo groups played a significant role in driving Forbes.com traffic dramatically higher.

I saw the numbers in the chart below (November 2013) for the first time a few weeks ago when comScore came in to tell us about its multi-platform reporting capabilities. The light blue bars represent mobile-only domestic unique monthly visitors. The darker blue bars, desktop-only domestic unique monthly visitors. comScore says it’s still working on similar international numbers. comScore currently puts our international unique monthly visitors (presumably all desktop) at about 10 million, bringing the Forbes.com worldwide audience to about 36 million. (Note: comScore’s just-released December report increased our mobile-only number to 12.4 million; the Bloomberg-labeled bar includes both Bloomberg.com and BusinessWeek.com).

Here’s a graphic that goes to the hot button topic of the moment — native advertising. The visual below comes from my colleague Mark Howard. As he sees it, mobile, social and native video ads are the trifecta for marketers. That trend was definitely on both our minds when developing the new mobile site we launched a few weeks ago (you can read about it here). It features easy-to-use vertical and horizontal news streams in the spirit of social networks. It also gets at a critical issue for all news organizations: how to monetize consumer migration to smartphones. Our new site provides the natural breaks between content that will accommodate new ad formats more suited to a smaller screen, particularly the social/mobile/video treatments that our BrandVoice partners will seek for their native advertising campaigns.

That blockbuster football post, from SportsMoney contributor Tommy Tomlinson, says as much about mobile and social as it does the unique FORBES content-creation model that feeds both. More than ever, it takes a combination of quality, quantity and variety — with a strong dose of authentic voice — to attract the news enthusiast — mobile, social or otherwise. Tommy’s post, in turn, introduced consumers to other expert voices (here’s one I immediately clicked on) and our popular SportsMoney lists – The World’s Most 50 Valuable Sports Teams and The NFL’s Most Overpaid Players. Staff reporters and our carefully selected 1,200 contributors are aggregating audiences with their knowledge and perspective, extending the FORBES brand across the social Web.

A day after the Sherman post one of our most experienced editors sent me an email that captured the potential of journalism in a mobile/social era. “One hell of a f-ing day — it’s when our model shines. I could never have assigned an angle like this. I’m just not that good, never will be. Hire right, set up the machinery, get the f-out of the way. Win.” Traditionalists would do well to consider that professional candor, humility and advice, then buy into the realities of how audiences now prefer to find, consume and share the news.

* For those obsessed with data like I am, there are lots of audience numbers floating around, from Omniture (we’ll breakthrough 60 million unique visitors this month) to Google Analytics to beyond. Each uses a different methodol0gy, making comparative analysis difficult. comScore, while certainly not perfect, remains the third-party data most accepted by the advertising industry.

My new ebook, The Path Forward for the News Business, is a full account of the steps FORBES is taking to implement new models for both content creation and advertising. You can get it here. My first ebook, The FORBES Model for Journalism in the Digital Era, can be found here.

Source: Forbes

 

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/31" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.

 

 

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