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Week In Review: Eight Reasons Why Buzzfeed Is Struggling; Snapchat’s Latest Redesign

1. Eight Reasons Why Buzzfeed Is Struggling

See what we did there? We made a Buzzfeed-style listicle headline to highlight how the website that started the whole trend of social clickbait driven headlines is now in trouble because a social network with eight letters in its name decided to mess with its own algorithms, thus royally screwing all the publishers that had come to rely on it.

Given that everything on social media has now become suspect thanks to the taint of fake news, it seems that people are moving back to traditional (and trusted) news sites, and that maybe nobody really wants to watch that much video … unless they’re actually watching TV.

Click on this to see it full size and less blurry.

This chart, which we’ve gratefully lifted from Recode, illustrates just why Buzzfeed is in trouble and why they had to lay off over 100 people last week. While close to half of Buzzfeed’s traffic comes from social media, traditional news sites like the Washington Post, New York Times, CNN and Fox News pull in 15% or less of their traffic from social. Even more telling: the Times, CNN and Fox all see the majority of their traffic coming from direct visitors to their sites, something most web publishers have all put given up on these days.

Why It Matters

Publishers are figuring out that relying on Facebook for traffic was a bad move, lulling them into a false sense of security they’re quickly seeing yanked away as Facebook is no longer the guaranteed traffic driver it once was. What sucks (for them) is that many of these publishers have changed their sites and shifted their content strategy so drastically. it’s going to be quite a trip to get things back on track.

Facebook, that old honey badger, doesn’t really care, as they’re busy promoting their own content, short form video they’ve developed for their new Watch tab based on all that they’ve learned from their publisher friends.

For the TV industry, it’s a lesson in what not to do, When you turn over distribution to someone else, that someone else is never going to have your best interests in mind, regardless of whether you’re talking about an MVPD or an SVOD service or Facebook.

What You Need To Do About It

If you’re a network, you need to make distribution a priority, so that viewers know who you are and what you stand for. Not every network can or should launch its own OTT app, but making sure that you are on as many platforms as possible (so that one is not dominant) and that you’ve got consistent branding across all of them is key. Social platforms can help you identify who your audiences are (superfans in particular) and what’s getting them excited. They can even help drive tune in.

But as Buzzfeed and other publishers are finding out, social networks are under no obligation to “friend’ you or “like” you, and as such, they’re going to do what’s in their own best interests, not yours.

If you’re an MVPD, you’re at much less risk of getting of getting burned, given that you own the broadband pipes the social networks rely on, so you’re pretty safe for now.

Advertisers who don’t know to be wary of Facebook by now must have been sleeping these past few years, as Facebook changed the rules on them time and again. If brand safety is an issue (and it most definitely is on social media), advertisers are figuring out that there’s nothing quite like television. Or Snapchat. Which leads us into our second news story.


2. Snapchat’s Latest Redesign

Nothing was guaranteed to make a Gen Xer or older Millennial feel hopelessly out of touch as much as trying to figure out Snapchat. Except maybe trying to figure out Snapchat in front of a 15 year-old who understood exactly how to make certain geofilters show up and could respond to a Snap from a friend without somehow messing up said geofilter-getting process. (BTDT.)

After a couple of fairly abysmal quarters, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel finally figured out that if he wanted any users over the age of 23, he needed to simplify the interface so that the rest of us could like, you know, get a clue. [Insert eye roll for egregious use of mid-90s teenspeak here.]

Why It Matters

One thing Spiegel has insisted on is a separation of advertising-centric spaces and user-centric spaces. So that it’s possible to spend hours snapping with friends without ever seeing a single ad or piece of third-party content.

The flip of that, however, is that all the featured content on the site has been hand selected (see how we didn’t say “curated” there) from leading publishers, and thus Snapchat has no fake news problem. That’s a huge win for the site, especially if the new redesign makes the Discover section more usable.

We’re talking basic stuff here, like being able to choose the order of the stories so that we see ones from our favorite sites first. Maybe even let us see more stories/deeper libraries from those sites and give us the ability to watch all our clips offline.

Pulling off all those web 1.0 style features is not all that difficult, so we’re hoping Spiegel comes through. Even if he winds up with an app where everyone under 25 is chatting and everyone over 25 is reading the news, at some point the two sides will meet and Facebook might finally have a legit competitor.

What You Need To Do About It

If you’re an advertiser or a publisher (and both networks and MVPDs are publishers here), put some pressure on Snapchat to make the Discover section more user friendly and thus more valuable to your users. Feeling dumb isn’t fun for anyone.

Tell Spiegel it’s up to him to prove that social media doesn’t have to be the cesspool it’s turned into today.