People still get their news from traditional publishers, but they digest it today on social networks, which makes them the world’s new mass media.

So concludes Grzegorz Piechota, former Polish newspaper editor and now international research academic and author of “Evaluating Distributed Content in the News Media Ecosystem.”

“It is publishers’ content that drives daily news consumption and engagement on platforms,” he told INMA’s Brainsnacks audience on Sunday during the programme’s second keynote address. However, publishers are not making the money for their contribution to what Pierchota called the “attention economy.”

Grzegorz Piechota speaks about paid content at INMA World Congress Brainsnacks session on Sunday.
Grzegorz Piechota speaks about paid content at INMA World Congress Brainsnacks session on Sunday.

What can they do about that?

Piechota advises publishers to turn the tables by changing the very nature of their relationship to the likes of Facebook and Google. After all, those two digital behemoths have already won more than 70% of the digital advertising market.

“The platforms are the winners. Already they’ve grabbed most of the growth in major markets,” he said in front of a slide showing that publishers get only US$0.29 cents out of every advertising dollar spent.

“So hire them to work for you,” Piechota said. “Use them as ‘fishing ponds’ for customers that will expand the reach of your branded content campaigns. You are hiring them to do the job for you.”

In other words, publishers need to be in the business primarily of audience rather than content. And when it comes to audience, he called social platforms the “most underestimated resource to acquire users.”

Under this strategy, publishers should specialise content with different business models attached and “optimised for acquisition, retention, upgrade” of the associated audiences.

It’s a niche publishing approach, for sure.

“We need to recognise we are not mass media anymore. And we should not just chase money and chase reach,” Piechota said. “Probably most of the business models will require segmentation and authentication information. And it means that you need to have data about the user, not the content. So the data that you get from platforms about how your content is performing is not really useful.”

Instead, the data on which to focus is about how the consumers of the content are performing. With that, one can then concentrate on optimizing the average revenue per user or ARPU.

“Platforms are not your friends and they’re not your enemies,” Piechota restated at the end. “Hire them to work for you.”