Trinity Mirror’s digital publishing director David Higgerson, left, has described endorsement by readers on Facebook and Twitter as an “online currency” which journalism needs to value in order to help bring revenue into the industry.
The company publishes monthly ABC figures on the number of Facebook ‘likes’ and Twitter ‘followers’ its regional daily newspapers receive, which are reported on by HoldtheFrontPage.
On his personal blog, David wrote that while the figures are covered in a “straight-down-the-middle sort of way”, they often prompted questions from commenters about how social media engagement is monetised.
David continued: “It’s a discussion which happens in newsrooms too, and the idea of counting followers and likes only really makes sense if you buy into the fact readers have a new sort of currency to bestow on you: Their endorsement.
“We live in a world in which revenue follows endorsement. Where I live, people are as likely to turn to Streetlife or the local Facebook forum for advice on who to get to do their kitchen as they are to pick up the Yellow Pages or the local newspaper to find an advert.
“That’s because they value the endorsement of someone they know – know in real life, know as in connected with via an online platform – highly. And the same is true of news.
“In a world where anyone can technically be a publisher, news brands have to compete for attention like never before. Being a local publisher is a unique selling point, but it’s not enough to guarantee readers. You are far more likely to get readers if they feel you are giving them something which the appreciate or enjoy.”
“And that’s what makes a like or a follow such an important endorsement. If you can convince someone to like or follow your page on the site they spend a lot of time on, you are winning their endorsement to spend time with them.”
“A like or follow doesn’t convert into pounds instantly. But it does make it far easier to engage with a reader in a way which enables brands to generate money.”
David went on to describe the three ways in which online newsbrands could appear on social networks – by paying to be there, by having their work shared by a reader or by having a relationship with readers on that particular platform.
He added: “It’s at that point the monetisation process which so vexes people concerned about what social media means for journalism can begin.
“That’s why time spent managing a Facebook page, for example, is time well spent. It’s time spent convincing people you have something worth saying that they want to listen, and that you’re (hopefully) listening back to what they’ve to say. It’s time spent preparing the ground for on-going endorsement, and it’s that endorsement which makes us stronger.
“Put simply, endorsement is an online currency which readers value. Journalism needs to value it just as much to ensure the other currency – the real-world currency – flows in our direction too.”
The company does not currently publish social media statistics for the daily titles it acquired in its takeover of Local World.