For years, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE), a Washington-based nonprofit, urged Walmart to remove Cosmopolitan from its checkout displays, accusing the publication of being “hyper-sexualized” and “degrading to women.” As a result, Walmart removed the magazine from more than 5,000 stores across the United States.
“This is what real change looks like in our #MeToo culture, and NCOSE is proud to work with a major corporation like Walmart to combat sexually exploitative influences in our society,” said Dawn Hawkins, executive director at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation.
This move sends a chilling message to major publishers — at any moment, distribution channels could change or disappear completely. What can publishers do to soften the impact of distribution shock?
What is Distribution Shock?
Unfortunately, the magazine stand isn’t the only area where distribution shock can occur. Facebook recently announced that it will prioritize feeds from friends and family over publisher content. The move was a reaction to overcrowded news feeds and the spread of misinformation.
“Publications deemed trustworthy by people using Facebook may see an increase in their distribution. Publications that do not score highly as trusted by the community may see a decrease,” said Adam Mosseri, head of news feed at Facebook.
The world’s leading publishers have revised their content deployment strategies in response to the social media giant’s recent updates. However, less agile publishers were not as fortunate. LittleThings, a women’s lifestyle blog, in the throes of an anticipated acquisition, experienced a 75 percent decrease in organic traffic.
“No previous algorithm update ever came close to this level of decimation,” said CEO Joe Speiser in a staff memo published by Business Insider. The position it put us in was beyond dire. The businesses looking to acquire LittleThings got spooked and promptly exited the sale process, leaving us in jeopardy of our bank debt covenants and ultimately bring an expedited end to our incredible story.”
Unfortunately, publishers are no stranger to the overnight changes enacted by the tech industry’s gatekeepers.
In 2006, Google penalized BMW for its use of “doorway pages” or text-heavy pages stuffed with keywords designed to deceive Google’s indexing system. Google deindexed BMW, removing the automotive giant from its search results.
We cannot tolerate websites trying to manipulate search results as we aim to provide users with relevant and objective search results,” a Google spokesman told Times Online. “Google may temporarily or permanently ban any site or site authors that engage in tactics designed to distort their rankings or mislead users to preserve the accuracy and quality of our search results.”
How Publishers Can Avoid Distribution Shock
The truth is, subscriptions are the only the audience that publishers “own.” In recent years, many industry-leading publishers have begun to prioritize paid subscriptions strategies. However, paid subscriptions account for only a fraction of publishers’ readers.
Publishers can expect that channels will be disrupted from time-to-time and should consider pursuing the following strategies to soften or eliminate distribution shock:
If you disappeared from a distribution channel, would that channel “feel” the effect? If you disappeared from your audience’s newsfeed, would they notice? If not, you need to work utilize new engagement-building mechanisms. To increase audience engagement, many publishers rely on data-driven insights around audience characteristics, preferences, and interests. When you have a deeper understanding of your audience, you can create more meaningful, value-driven, and engaging content.
How do your readers come in contact with your content? Don’t rely too heavily on one distribution channel. Again, this comes down to understanding your audience. Give your readers alternative methods to engage with your content. Beyond primary distribution channels, consider investing in extra touch points — mobile applications, newsletters, podcasts, videos — to keep your content top-of-mind.
Unlock the Power of Data-Driven Publishing
Audience intelligence is paramount in the quest to avoid channel distribution shock. Enhance your publishing power with data-driven insights from NativeAI’s intuitive and easy-to-use platform.
The platform offers three distinct features:
1. Audience Interest Analysis: Recognizes more than one million distinct audience interests based on content classification and engagement history.
2. Real-Time Dashboard: More than visits, the dashboard tracks audience engagement in real-time the
3. Engagement Quality Intelligence: A special metric developed by NativeAI, Engagement Quality (EQ) combines time spent, scroll depth, user actions, story length, and more.
Check out our Actionable Insights Mini-Course and learn how to gather and evaluate the most meaningful content marketing metrics.