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Seen’s approach to news on social platforms
Plus, subscriber growth experiments from German publisher Die Zeit
In this newsletter, we talk a lot about the value of direct reader relationships that aren’t subject to the whims of social platforms. Michael articulated the “lean & niche” playbook where publishers reach a narrow, valuable audience on owned platforms.
But in this industry, we often have a goal of impact, in addition to financial returns. And the reality is that most people spend much more time on social media platforms than news sites or newsletters.
Last week I read a fascinating Q&A with the co-founder of Seen, a social-native news brand with 7 million followers (mostly on Snapchat). The company’s approach and initial success points to a potentially sustainable model for news on social platforms.
Seen’s editorial strategy is built on “quality user-generated content.” The company creates AR filters and lenses to help users on social platforms tell their stories. For example, their tools can provide prompts for self-interviews and directions to shoot higher-quality video. Their editorial team then works with a subset of these users to create well-produced videos for one of Seen’s 12 shows.
When compared to other social news efforts, their editorial approach is notable because it centers around content from everyday people, rather than professional creators or journalists. It’s also interesting that the process is similar to how traditional editors source & workshop columns from outside contributors.
In terms of its business model, Seen earns some income from advertising revenue shares with Snapchat & Facebook. But the company is focusing more on its brand studio, which helps organizations tell their own stories on social media. According to co-founder Yusuf Omar, Seen is cash flow positive with a staff of over 55.
I’m hopeful that Seen can further validate their approach and work towards a playbook that other mission-oriented news brands can follow.
How German newspaper Die Zeit ran experiments to grow subscriptions:
Changes to the number of lines of text a reader sees before hitting the paywall increased trial subscriptions. (The winning number of lines was 7.)
Trial subscriptions increased 23% after testing different versions of a promo footer’s positioning, layout, and wording.
On a new subscriber’s first article, a footer offering “5 tips to get started” contributed to increased retention.
How local publisher Bridge Michigan got past a subscription growth plateau:
Bi-monthly newsletters on topics such as local business, health, and the environment.
A virtual book club & associated Facebook group.
Benefits such as subscriptions to other publications.
And here’s the latest news in digital media:
The NYT launched a newsletter that alerts readers to extreme weather in their area.
Graham Holdings is restructuring to separate its lifestyle brands from marketplaces.
The FT is dedicating a team to experiment with AI.
India and China are expelling each other’s journalists from their countries.
Most Netflix users who share a password say they would pay if Netflix cracked down.
AI industry leaders warned about the threat of extinction in an open letter.
Strange promoted posts on Twitter are linking to an old Guardian article.
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