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Research shows opportunities and threats of distributed content for publishers

Study by Publishing Executive shows publishers are concerned about distributed content but may be at risk by again taking a wait-and-see approach to online publishing.

Publishing Executive has released a special report on how publishers are managing the challenges of distributed content. Distributed content (or content hosted and consumed partially or in full on external platforms, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Google AMP, and Medium) presents unique set of challenges and opportunities for publishers.

To help publishers better understand this issue, Publishing Executive surveyed its audience of senior-level executives in the media and publishing industry on how publishers are sizing up the threats and opportunities associated with distributed content and how they’re managing this disruptive phenomenon.

The Distributed content conundrum: Special report on the opportunities and threats of distributed content for publishers can be downloaded here.


Key Research Questions

  • How do publishers feel about the effects of distributed content?
  • What are the associated opportunities and risks of distributed content?
  • What are publishers doing to manage these risks and opportunities?

What’s the "distributed content conundrum"?

As the past year has demonstrated, distributing content across various external platforms has its risks and uncertainties. Frequent algorithm changes by platforms put publishers at the mercy of each social network’s whims. Vague - and in the case of Facebook, outright inaccurate - disclosure of metrics has further put publishers at unease. And at a time when first-party data has emerged as publishers’ saving grace, relinquishing the direct-to-consumer relationship to platforms is a bitter pill to swallow.

However, being part of the social stream has definite upsides for publishers, from brand reach and audience growth, to traffic and on-platform revenue (Google AMP and Facebook Instant Articles). And so this is the distributed content conundrum publishers are faced with: How best to balance the opportunities and threats associated with distributed content?

The survey also revealed that most publishers don’t have a full understanding of the impact distributed content is having on their businesses nor do they have a plan in place to manage distributed content. It will be interesting to see how publishers’ attitudes about distributed content change as their awareness evolves.

What did the research reveal?

One key finding from the report is that despite being concerned about distributed content, few publishers have a plan in place. 63 per cent of publishers indicate they are concerned about distributed content, but only 27 per cent of publishers have a plan to address distributed content. Further, only 22 per cent of publishers feel they are very aware of the impact that distributed content is having on their businesses.

“Publishers are clearly concerned about the affect of distributed content on their businesses,” says Publishing Executive editor-in-chief Denis Wilson, “Though that’s not to suggest they’re on high alarm. But what might be alarming for the industry is that most publishers aren’t fully aware of the impact distributed content is having on their organizations and fewer have thorough plans to monitor and manage it.”  

The research also revealed some of the strategies and tactics publishers are employing to mitigate the risk and reap the advantages of distributed content.


Key Research Findings

  • More opportunity than threat: overall publishers see distributed content more positively than negatively.
  • A bit concerned: 80 per cent of publishers are somewhat concerned or not at all concerned about distributed content.
  • Admittedly unaware: only 22 per cent of respondents say they are very aware of the impact distributed content is having on their businesses.
  • Wait-and-see: only 8 per cent of publishers say they have a thorough plan in place to manage distributed content and its effects. But publishers should be cautious not to wait on the sideline too long.
  • The benefits: publishers see distributed content as an opportunity to drive audience development, increase brand awareness, and generate revenue.
  • The threats: Publishers are concerned with the disintermediation of their relationship with readers that occurs on external platforms.

Distributed content research ()

Download the report here.


This report is based on an online survey conducted by Publishing Executive over a three-week period. A total of 81 responses were collected from a combination of B2B and consumer publishers. Publishing Executive’s research initiatives are led by Nathan Safran, director of research at NAPCO Media, parent company of Publishing Executive.  

Source: Publishing Executive


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