Facebook's cross-functional mandate

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Scott Galloway says publishers’ response to Facebook has been “uninspired.” Continuing to under-invest in Facebook, he contends, will accelerate the structural decline of the magazine publishing industry.

Galloway is a marketing professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business and the founder of L2, a digital think tank that is making some waves with its Digital IQ rankings of brands and magazines. At the MPA’s American Magazine Conference in October, Galloway challenged magazine publishers to respond more aggressively to a rapidly changing media landscape, led by the disruptive force known as Facebook.

“There’s not a single brand in here that is managing their capital allocation correctly as it relates to Facebook,” he said. “If you look at the opportunity around Facebook and the capital you’re allocating to Facebook, I would argue that the music doesn’t match the words.”

Galloway (pictured) basically called on publishers to pivot their business models around Facebook. “The [current] cost model is broken,” he said. “Internet media does not work – it’s a terrible business. We are in a downward spiral in terms of pricing that we can’t snap out of.”

At minimum, Galloway wants publishers to invest significantly more in Facebook, which he referred to not as a platform, but as a market unto itself – with considerably more potential than, say, China.  

“The new model is becoming clear,” he said. “Facebook is killing everybody.”

Apples to oranges?

Most magazine brands continue to ignore the fundamentals of social media, Galloway said. As a result, they have allowed brands – in other words, their advertisers – to develop direct relationships with the very audiences that publishers have historically monetized through those advertisers.

Galloway cited luxury clothing retailer Burberry – with its 8.5 million Facebook “likes”– as a real threat to lifestyle publications such as Cosmopolitan and Vogue. “Those [8.5 million] people have raised their hand and said, ‘I would like to have a direct relationship with this brand and will likely read a great deal of what you send out on a daily basis,’ ” he explained.

  

It’s debatable, of course, how many of those 8.5 million fans actively engage with the brand on Facebook or anywhere else. Guy LeCharles Gonzalez, blogging at LoudPoet.com, disagreed strongly with what he termed Galloway’s “lazy apples to oranges comparisons to make a debatable point that’s meaningless without proper context.”

“Comparing Burberry to Cosmopolitan and Vogue vis-à-vis Facebook completely misunderstands what each one is ultimately selling, and by extension, where social media fits in their overlapping but very distinct worlds,” Gonzalez added.

Gonzalez’s main beef was with Galloway’s implication that Facebook ‘likes’ have a direct correlation with business performance. “A ‘Like’ on Facebook does not equal a sale,” he wrote, “and Burberry’s having ~8x as many as Cosmopolitan is the kind of meaningless anecdata that gets dropped at conferences with maximum disdain and zero context.”

Galloway acknowledged that the ROI from Facebook remains cloudy and that publishers must make a “leap of faith” about Facebook’s future payoff. But he also noted that L2’s Digital IQ Index, which measures a publisher’s digital competence across Web, mobile and social media, shows a strong link between Digital IQ and business performance.

“We have seen a significant correlation between Digital IQ and shareholder growth and year-on-year revenues,” he said. “Once you become a ‘Genius’ [L2’s highest ranking] you’re more likely to drive shareholder value above and beyond your competitive set.”

Only Time magazine achieved L2’s “Genius” status, which means it has used digital – specifically, social and mobile – to differentiate itself from competitors. Other “Gifted” brands – including Playboy, Vogue, People, Cosmopolitanand Seventeen, the five most “liked” magazines on Facebook – have shown some common attributes in their approach to attracting fans.

Facebook investment: Time, money and collaboration

Galloway noted that Facebook is now the global market leader globally in terms of time spent on the Internet. Women spend one of every six minutes online on Facebook, and men spend one in every eight of their online minutes on the social media site.  

“We’ve never had a technology that’s had this type of adoption or this type of influence this fast,” he said. “The response in [the magazine publishing] industry to Facebook is fairly uninspired.”

What, then, does a more inspired response look like? It takes a village – or at least a cross-functional team working together to build a larger and more engaged Facebook community.

Editorial

It’s always about resources, right? Do more with less, blah, blah, blah. But there’s no ignoring the fact that editors must become more disciplined about posting content and interacting with their Facebook communities. Don’t leave it to the marketing team – you won’t like what you see up there.

As a rule of thumb, publications should have at least one dedicated social media editor (focused primarily on Facebook and Twitter), along with policies that define contributions from all editorial staffers. Don’t just promote print or website content – innovative publishers are creating or at least repackaging content specifically for consumption on Facebook.

The keys are frequency and consistency. Just as you need to regularly refresh website content to give people a reason to come back, so must you frequently refresh your Facebook wall. Frequent posts will drive even more content, with your audience supplying the bulk of activity through comments, likes and posts of their own.

Poynter’s Jeff Sonderman offers seven tips for managing a social media team.

Product development

Development teams must have the tools, resources and commitment to experiment with new Facebook-specific products. For example, new “Facebook editions” from the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, News Corp.’s The Daily and others represent a significant step in the evolution of online content delivery.

  

Interactive apps, including social games, present another opportunity for publishers to attract and engage Facebook users. Development resources should also funneled to improving integration between a publication’s website and its Facebook page.

The approach here is simple, yet out of reach culturally for most publishers: They need to think more like technology companies.

Sales

Sales teams must be reoriented around monetizing Facebook – through sponsorships, integrated commerce offerings and other non-display programs.

Because Facebook owns the display advertising piece, there’s a mandate for publisher/advertiser innovation on Facebook. Two examples:

  • Hearst is partnering with Buddy Media on a series of “sapplets,” or branded social media applications, which Hearst will provide to advertisers for custom content and sponsorships across several of its magazines’ Facebook pages.
  • Hearst’s Car and Driver recently announced a partnership with Cie Games to integrate Car and Driver content with Cie’s Car Town Facebook game.

  

Custom media and marketing services also come into play here, as publishers can offer their content expertise to help brands build their own Facebook communities.

Analytics

Facebook is improving the audience analytics it provides to businesses. Publishers can leverage this data to create a stronger value proposition for its advertising partners. Key metrics found in Facebook’s Insights analytics tool include:

  • Fans: By gender, age, location
  • Reach: By gender, age, location
    • Organic reach: content viewed from the news feed, ticker or your page
    • Paid reach: unique users who saw your page from an ad or sponsored story
    • Viral reach: unique people who saw a story about your page published by a friend
    • Total reach: unique people who saw any content associated with your page
  • “Like” sources: on page, news feed, ticker, from a Like Box or Like Button (from an external site, likely your own website), from another Facebook page
  • Talking About This:  The number of unique people who created a story about your page.
  • Viral Reach: The number of unique people who saw a story published by a friend about your page.

  

Publishers will also need to track these metrics in the context of business performance, such as how Facebook activity drives paid print or digital subscriptions. 

The argument about whether Facebook is friend or foe to publishers is moot – it’s both. Publishers can’t afford to ignore either the threat or the opportunity.

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