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Distributed content: A primer

You know you need to reach your targeted audiences where they are. But how do you decide where to distribute your content, how to test other platforms, and how to determine their effectiveness? Start here.

If you’ve read the “Embrace Platforms” section of The Essentials, you know by now that publishing on the platforms used by your target audiences is table stakes. Your audience has gone elsewhere, and engagement on your own site has dwindled. Reading habits continue to shift as social media platforms, not news sites, become your readers’ destinations. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and even Google, have taken over as the go-to place for information and communication. It should seem obvious, then, that a strong distribution strategy is needed to help your newsroom reach your target audiences where they spend most of their time.

This section of Better News guides you through choosing platforms and testing distributed content examples from other publishers. Before you dive into the resources for planning and tactics, use the following primer to help you focus on key areas of a distributed content strategy.

First, find your audience.

Using lessons learned in the “Reaching New Audiences” section, use data and qualitative insight to find out which social media platforms, apps, aggregators or search engines your target readers use.

Then, define your goals for distribution as well as for being a destination.

How can you both maintain your own site as a destination and build a presence on third-party platforms? Which is more important for your business? By understanding how platforms impact your revenue and audience goals, you can find the right balance. For example, you’ll want to know if an article published in the Facebook Instant Articles format would perform better in revenue and engagement than an article in your own site’s mobile web format.

Choose the right platforms.

Use what you know about your target audience groups and meet them where they are instead of expecting them to come to you. Ensure the platforms you pick align with your goals for revenue, editorial strategy and audience engagement. Make sure you have a reason for testing a particular platform. Is your audience spending a lot of time there? Is revenue promising? Can the platform drive recirculation back to your own site?

Ensure you have the right resources.

Is your newsroom structured to create content for platforms? Resources might be needed for workflow, development of platform formats like Facebook Instant Articles, or design to ensure consistent branding across platforms. Identifying the resources you need before you launch your plan will ensure an accurate test of the platform’s impact.

Test and measure.

First, identify KPIs for your distributed content tests. Do you want to increase revenue? Are you using platforms to drive digital subscriptions? Or, is engaged time the metric you’re focusing on? Test for period of time, and have a plan to use the results of your test to help you decide which platform to stick with, and which to reevaluate.

Keep up with platform changes, and adapt quickly.

Social media and tech platforms are known to introduce significant changes at a moment’s notice. To become a publisher with a successful distribution strategy, you’ll need to stay in-the-know about your platforms’ updates, and you’ll need to be ready to switch gears if your strategy calls for it.