As the Homepage Starts to Flounder, Publishers Need to Look to Social Influencers

Can publishers expect to rely on the same volumes of homepage traffic that they historically enjoyed? With readers discovering content in new ways, particularly through the likes of social media, is the traditional homepage on the decline? If this is true, and the evolution of content consumption continues to favour social over checking the daily news site, then how can publishers ensure they are still able to achieve the same reach? Rich Routman (pictured below), president, Minute Media, believes the social influencer is the answer. Here, Routman outlines how social influencers can help ensure continued brand engagement for publishers.

It’s been some time since publishing brands have sought out to secure large scale, exclusive traffic deals with portals, with the sole purpose of enhancing audience reach. The evolution of the portal landscape, combined with the rise of social media, has completely changed the game, creating far fewer options for affiliate marketing than in previous years. Publishers, much like marketers, are looking for more precise ways to engage the right audience on their platforms. This has led to a new category of traffic enhancement: the social influencer.  Working with social influencers to seed content, when done correctly, is now as scalable as the old fashioned AOL home page link. This is especially true when targeting the coveted millennial audience, most of whom don’t even know what a homepage refers to.

Rich Routman, President, Minute Media

But finding the right influencers for your brand is a data-heavy practice that takes research, trial and error, and the focus of an audience development team. It is important to make sure that any influencer you partner with has a workable connection with your brand and comes across as a seamless integration and not a paid post. The most successful brand/influencer relationships are honest, organic, and authentic and have a common ground that simply makes sense. This is not to say that cross-industry collaboration cannot work, but being true to your brand creates and reinforces authentic consumer connections. It’s also important to find influencers who reflect your tone and voice and can mirror your brand’s overall image.

The beauty of influencer marketing is that you do not need to rely on famous personalities or celebrities. True influence is the key here and can be achieved by working with a base of partners who may bring different components to a set of diverse traffic and content needs. Sometimes working with a group of influencers with smaller reach can be more effective than working with a single partner with an extremely large following. And, while clicks or shares may be the end result, getting into an influencer’s stream also carries some brand value in and of itself.

Before starting any influencer program, it’s important to map out what your brand objectives are. Is it purely to increase reach? Appeal to a younger demographic? Grow your following? Engage more with a specific type of consumer given certain forms of advertiser demand? Social influencer marketing can help with all of these; but this category of audience development needs front and backend measurement to really work.

As an industry, it has been widely acknowledged that the homepage is dying; and based on current industry traffic trends, it’s not going to be a slow death. However, the pivot into influencer marketing as a platform to replace homepage traffic attrition is more targeted and scalable than the industry currently realises. Bottom line, it’s time to stop thinking about the homepage redesign and to start focusing your attention to side-door diversified traffic, including influencer marketing. The sooner we come to grips with the incumbent death of the homepage, the sooner there will be a more concerted effort to replace its scale and impact.