Applications that aggregate articles based on what others in one’s social network are reading and reformat them into an attractive magazine and presentation formats are growing in popularity, but they are raising concern among some publishers.
The processes build upon the referral and curating functions of colleagues and friends in social networks and reduce the need for users to go to multiple sites for content on their own. Some of the best known social magazines are Flipboard, Newsmix, Currents, and Pulse. Some publishers are starting their own social reading apps, such as New York Times that has a Facebook app pulling together stories that friends have read in NYT.Many publishers are fearful of these developments, however, because they represent another step away from publishers controlling when, where, and how readers use their content, reduce the impact of the publishers’ brand strategies, and diminish control over the presentation and marketing of their content.
But publishers really don’t have a choice whether or not social magazines and readers grow in importance. That ship has sailed. The real choices is whether publishers use them for best effect and whether they are willing to accept the benefits of having more readers driven to their content and reaching persons who haven’t used their content before.In coping with this and other disaggregation of content, however, many publishers need to adjust their own ways of presenting digital content. Because readers from social magazines, other aggregators, and search engine are directed to individual articles, it becomes more important to think about how that material appears to these new readers and what can be done in its layout to attract the new readers to stay on the site and sample more content. They are not entering through the home page so greater thought needs to be given to what appears on article pages.
Social magazines provide another mechanism by which deliver content to new readers and to existing readers in new ways. They are not the ‘silver bullet’ for solving publishers’ digital challenges, but they are another means by which benefits can be obtained and pursued.Focusing on what control social magazines transfer to users and their branding downsides is a distraction for publishers who are beginning to learn the value of letting go of the control in the digital environment. Digital media are now bringing 15-20 percent of the traffic to many publishers’ digital content and they are feeling the benefits of letting readers decide the means and uses of that content.