Mail Online boss: Reliance on social sharing a flawed business model

Social sharing

Moderator – Richard Lui, journalist and news anchor, MSNBC and NBC News, Hal Crawford, editor-in-chief, Ninemsn, Keith Hernandez, executive director, international strategy, BuzzFeed, Kate Torney, director of news, ABC and Martin Clarke, publisher & editor in chief, MailOnline. Image Mumbrella

The homepage is not dead according to the global editor-in-chief and publisher of the Mail Online Martin Clarke who said today, during a panel discussion on shareable content, that his organisation never considered the sharability of a story and it was very risky to do so as a business model.

“Sharing is not all we think about – we don’t do a story because we think it will get shared, we do it because we think will it get read on our homepage”, Clarke told an audience at a panel discussion at Mumbrella360 today.

“If you have a business model that relies on sharing you are quite vulnerable because you depend on third parties – Facebook could disappear tomorrow.

“I rely on that (sharing) being a spin off, rather than what I do”.

The comments were made in the context of the recently leaked report into the New York Times’ digital future which revealed only a fraction of overall traffic came via it’s homepage, leading the report authors to conclude the homepage was essentially dead and that the future of online media lay with social sharing sites like Facebook.

Clarke said the strength of the Mail Online’s homepage following meant the content worked and as a result was more likely to be shared, leaving the paper free to focus on its landing page.

“What helps us the most in the first place get traffic is the large audience who visit every day then share that content,” he said. “I don’t think the brand is what is important, it’s the content. I think its helps but once the content gets shared beyond that first tier it’s not.”

Fellow panellist, Buzzfeed international director Keith Hernandez, said his company took the opposite approach with it’s model and always considered the shareability of content.

“For us it starts with a human emotion, stuff won’t get shared without a compelling feeling to it,” he said.

“Positivity is more popular than negative – people will click on the political scandals and sex, but they won’t share that on their social networks.

The editor-in-chief of Ninemsn Hal Crawford said he believed the days of click bait were over, saying the high watermark was a car chase story involving Britney Spears where page view traffic was going off the charts: “We ran a live stream of the chase – that was the hight point of where we were just trying to get clicks on the page because that was our business model.

“That’s not the way online editors think anymore, if you lie to an audience thats a very short term strategy.”

Robert Burton-Bradley


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