Digital Publishing Platforms
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TikTok strategies increasingly important for publishers

Publishers looking to engage younger audiences are experimenting with TikTok strategies

Publishers are looking beyond the more established social media platforms for engagement.

TikTok strategies in particular have moved up the agenda for publishers looking to engage younger audiences. The platform is responding with added features that make the platform more effective for audience development.

Context

  • The shift to TikTok comes at a time of increasing uncertainty for established social media platforms. Facebook has recently underlined its ambivalence to news content with the removal of funding for publishers and under Elon Musk’s ownership, Twitter is increasingly considered unsafe for mainstream brands.
  • In its 2023 Predictions Report, The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism reports a minus 30 net score for Facebook in relation to publishers’ plans for the year; Twitter scored minus 28. This is in direct contrast with a positive net score of 63 for TikTok.
  • In a separate report – “How Publishers are Learning to Create and Distribute News on TikTok” – The Reuters Institute says 49% of publishers across 44 markets are regularly updating TikTok accounts with news-related content.

Reasons to be on TikTok

  • Scale and engagement are key draws for publishers on TikTok. The platform now has over 1 billion users with under 25s, in particular, using the app. UK media regulator Ofcom reports average TikTok usage at almost an hour every day (57 minutes a day) for Britons aged 15 to 24.
  • Many publishers have built significant followings on the platform. US video-first news provider NowThis has a combined following of more than 8.5 million between its news and politics accounts. Spanish news start-up Ac2ality – reporting the news in under a minute – has 4 million followers and Vice World News has gained 2.7 million followers in less than a year.
  • However, building follower counts is less important in developing TikTok strategies than on other platforms; publishers do not necessarily have to build huge followings to score high engagement figures. Report author Nic Newman says publishers seeing high engagement are: 

Putting considerable effort into the platform-specific content, and this is reflected in much higher engagement scores

Success factors

  • It’s important to post regularly, according to Gabriela Campbell Gomez at Ac2ality:

The more you post, the more your account is going to be shown to other people.

  • Nikhita Chulani at the Guardian says authenticity is also important:

You get rewarded for making a TikTok that looks like a TikTok. And it can be low production as long as it’s authentic and honest in its purpose.

  • Grab attention, says Clodagh Griffin at The News Movement:

The first three seconds on TikTok is literally the most crucial… it’s like the modern-day headline.

Regulatory warnings

Despite its runaway success, publishers need to remain aware that regulatory discussions around TikTok are likely to ramp up in 2023. 

Governments are looking closely at charges that the platform algorithm can lead to addictive content consumption. There is an ongoing discussion in the US about banning the app, and European fears about children’s safety and reports that TikTok spied on journalists are fueling a backlash against the video-sharing app.

Charges of spreading misinformation have also been leveled, with research from Newsguard showing TikTok users were exposed to misinformation about the Ukraine war within 40 minutes of using the app.

This piece was originally published in Spiny Trends and is re-published with permission. Spiny Trends is a division of Spiny.ai, a content analytics and revenue generation platform for digital publishers. For weekly updates and analysis on the industry news you need as a media and publishing business, subscribe to Spiny’s Trends weekly email roundup here.