How your news brand can reclaim homepage traffic from Facebook

The popularity of Facebook is incredible. A third of the UK population visit the site every day. The average time per visit is 20 minutes.

People don’t visit newspaper homepages any more, they visit Facebook instead (especially on mobile).

Mark Zuckerburg says Facebook will be “the best personalized newspaper in the world”.

What’s even more incredible is that news sites are making very little attempt to fight back. It’s very much business as usual. Want to change it? Here’s how…

1. Personalize

To be a destination, it helps to have the right blend of content. Of course, the “right blend” is different for everyone. Millennials are narcissistic and want to see a reflection of their own interests.

The answer is personalization. There are two tricks:

  • Blend it… 70% personalized 30% “main line” stories
  • Make it simple by avoiding the whole faff around registration/login

2. Aggregate

Facebook (and Drudge Report) aggregate content from other places. Sites that want to be user-centric should do the same.

Users care about the personality of their content, not which publisher it’s from. Aggregate stories that fit your brand and users will love you for it.

For example, Metro might link to an UsVsTh3m game, a MailOnline celebrity gallery, or an i100 infographic.

The bulk of content (say 80%) would remain pure Metro, but if another site does a story better then link to it.

3. Turn consumers into co-creaters

A recent Wired article about how to make products compelling says, “The key is for the user to contribute some element of their own—a tweet, a comment, a video—and for that, in turn, to set in motion a chain of events resulting in the delivery of the next trigger”.

Upworthy have a “Submit link” menu in their site navigation.

4. Let users express themselves

People love to express themselves. When Metro added polls to the site it was massively popular – 5 million votes in one month!

It worked so well because the polls were simple – just two options. It’s simple but more expressive than a Facebook Like.

Bringing it all together

Personalized news that has personality and none of the dross of my Facebook feed… and i get to contribute / give my opinion? Yes please!

All four hypotheses above are verifiable with relatively simple experiments (example). Admittedly polls didn’t have an obvious impact on homepage traffic but the next iteration might have an impact.

UPDATE: For a broader look at how make your homepage a destination, check out my more recent post.

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