Sunnier Side of the Office

Reality Check Is Coming for Subscription-Thirsty Publishers

Facebook in January announced its sweeping algorithm change: The platform would place more priority on user content than on organic brand and publisher content. This move served as a painful reminder that has long flummoxed publishers — digital ad revenue is often an untenable revenue model, especially when revenue can be so deeply affected by changes in platform algorithms.

Some observers have said in light of this change that a bright spot for publishers is subscription-based revenue. There is one big problem. For most publishers, the subscription-based model isn’t a feasible one to rely on for a significant portion of revenue. Sure, you’ve seen publications like the New York Times tout their subscription growth, but the fact is that it won’t work for most publications.

From Digiday: “The reigning perception is still that most online news can be gotten for free. A 2017 Reuters Institute survey found 16 percent in the U.S. paid for online news in 2017, up from 9 percent in 2016. That sounds impressive, but 79 percent still said it was “somewhat or very unlikely” that they’d pay for online news in the future.”

RIP, LittleThings, a Facebook Algorithm Casualty

 By Katie McKinley

Also related to the Facebook January algorithm change: its first known casualty. While the update is meant to be a positive for consumers, it has already begun impacting publishers that relied heavily on the reach Facebook provides.

Last week, LittleThings, a fast-growing lifestyle site that built its audience by sharing feel-good content on Facebook, shut down after the algorithm change, ultimately putting 100 people out of work. What was once a great case study for building audiences through Facebook is now a cautionary tale for sites depending too much on a singular traffic source.

LittleThings started out as a pet e-commerce site, PetFlow, and grew to become a publisher focusing on feel-good content to engage PetFlow’s largely female customer base. The site specialized in sharing pet videos, underdog stories, acts of kindness and parenting content.

LittleThings’ audience grew to about 50 million uniques in only three years, thanks largely to their use of Facebook as a distribution channel, accounting for about 75% of its traffic.

CEO Joe Speiser often dismissed comparisons to other Facebook-grown publications like Upworthy and explained that publishers need to adapt with Facebook’s changes and “as long as you constantly pivot to that, within the Facebook ecosystem, you’ll be fine.”

 But that success didn’t last, and it’s entirely possible that other publishers who built their success on Facebook will meet similar fates.

Facebook Releases CPMs for 2016 Election Campaign, Everyone Outside Advertising Asks, “What are CPMs?”

Facebook last week saw itself having to respond to a Wired article written by former Facebook employee (and Chaos Monkeys author) Antonio Garcia Martinez, suggesting the Trump 2016 election campaign paid lower CPMs (cost per thousand ad impressions) in Facebook’s ad auction than Hillary Clinton, thanks to its allegedly more engaging creative. Brad Parscale, the digital director of the Trump 2016 campaign, supported that claim in a tweet.

This prompted Andrew Bosworth, Facebook’s VP of AR (and former VP of ads), to respond on Twitter (LOL) with a chart that shows the Trump campaign actually paid higher CPMs on most days than the Clinton campaign did.

I’m willing to bet that before last week, most people outside the industry didn’t know what a CPM was, and probably still don’t. But if you’d like a fun rundown of this “spicy drama” about CPMs, read this meme-laden BuzzFeed story.

This Week in Social: When Life Gives You Lemons, Take a Bite and Go Viral  

By Jessica Gaylord

In 2014, the Internet was abuzz with Ice Bucket Challenge videos, a viral sensation that raised awareness and millions of dollars in charity for the ALS Association. 2018 has ushered in a new viral phenomenon for charity called Lemons for Leukemia Challenge.

Friends Chris Betancourt, 20, and Dillon Hill, 19, started the challenge in an attempt to set a World Record for the most donors added to the national bone marrow registry within a 24-hour period. Similar to the Ice Bucket Challenge, the Lemons for Leukemia social media campaign calls on participants to record themselves biting into a raw lemon, post the reaction online, and then challenge others to join them.

Despite setting the bone marrow registry record on March 1, interest in the Lemons for Leukemia Challenge has not soured. From the Good Morning America news team to actors Dwayne Johnson and Danny Devito participating, puckering up for the cause continues to take off online.