Digital Publishing
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68% of news publishers to produce more “advertiser-friendly” evergreen content this year, study finds

Almost 7 out of 10 news publishers intend to produce more evergreen content this year, according to a survey of publisher executives by Digiday in February.

This shift in strategy is a direct response to market conditions. Although news content is expensive to produce and difficult to monetize, its shelf-life has decreased over time—to just hours or minutes—with the news cycle spinning quicker than ever.

Steadier traffic, longer shelf-life

“In an attempt to offset those challenges, news publishers say they are now investing in more evergreen content instead,” says Mark Weiss, from Digiday Research, “with the hope it will attract a steadier stream of traffic from search and social channels and better satisfy the demands of advertisers.”

Whereas breaking stories can quickly garner lots of views, they also become irrelevant faster. Content with a longer shelf-life lends itself better to repeated social distribution and, of course, search queries.

Mark Weiss, Digiday Research

News ≠ Views

Ebner, a German publishing powerhouse with about 80 magazines and dozens of websites did a content review and found that 85% of web traffic was generated by a tiny portion of what they wrote. On analyzing reader habits, they found that while news often drove the traffic, it did not determine the time spent on the sites.

We saw they were interested in news, but it wasn’t where they spent their time.

Gerrit Klein, CEO of Ebner Publishing International

An important part of the process, Ebner found, is repurposing news into evergreen content, and occasionally resurfacing the evergreen content, based on new developments.

News output to rise, nevertheless

That’s not to suggest that news publishers are moving away from news. The focus on evergreen content is essential to balance out the unpredictability of news cycles. Such content can serve audiences all year long, as a complement to traditional and hard news coverage.

Digiday found that “of the news-based publishers who said they plan to make more evergreen content, 79% said they still expect to increase their overall editorial outputs this year.”

Evergreen content = Advertiser-friendly

Publishers are finding it harder than ever to monetize hard news content, the Digiday survey noted. With increasing brand safety concerns, advertisers are tending to avoid sensitive and divisive issues in the news altogether. Evergreen content, on the other hand, is typically more advertiser-friendly.

“Ad buyers themselves report that clients are increasingly asking them to skip news sites altogether on their media plans,” Mark Weiss said. “Earlier Digiday research found that 43% of media buyers avoid advertising next to news-related content.”

Multipurpose, and profitable

Not only are advertisers more willing to partner on evergreen content rather than on hard news, it can also—in the form of buying guides and product reviews—help generate both audience and commerce revenue for publishers, through affiliate links.

“Major news publishers such as the New York Times, Insider and New York Magazine have all pushed into affiliate commerce with evergreen content in recent years with The Wirecutter, insider Picks and The Strategist, respectively,” Digiday reports.

And the strategy is yielding dividends. 35% of publishers now generate e-commerce revenues primarily through affiliate links, Digiday found. Moreover, 62% of publishers generating income from e-commerce said those revenues grew over the past year.

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