Digital Media Tightens Its Belt After Feasting On Garbage Metrics; Social Media Gets A CAT Scan

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LOL Remember Comscore Rankings?

Digital publishing is in a period of self-reflection. Instead of bragging about mass reach, the new norm will be looking at rational numbers to evaluate reach and readership, writes Brian Morrissey, former president and editor-in-chief of Digiday who now writes a Substack newsletter called The Rebooting.

The heady days of Facebook News Feed and social distribution – when reach and engagement numbers were tenuous at best, coupled with the string of retroactive acknowledgments of inflated metrics – have been replaced by more mature considerations, like a quality audience that can drive online subscriptions.  

There is still room for magical accounting, so to speak. News and entertainment companies brag about subscriptions without acknowledging when many or most accounts are actually on heavily discounted or free trials, and are likely to churn. Sometimes publishers tout total subscriptions when they really mean people who submitted an email address, not people who make a recurring payment. 

The current moment of self-reflection will be a healthy transition for online publishing.  Growth-obsessed and venture-backed media will be replaced by outlets with narrow focus that can turn a profit without claiming to reach the majority of adult Americans. 

“Outside of CNN, no publisher is bragging about their ComScore reach,” Morrissey writes.

The MRI Machine 

The ad agency IPG is keeping track of social media brand safety.

Its Media Responsibility Index, or MRI, looks at platform policies or content for potential red flags, including hate speech, biometric data collection and storage, gender identity and ad targeting; reporting of BIPOC and underrepresented creators and misinformation labels.

The third installment of the report was released on Wednesday, Digiday reports.

The most obvious way the MRI incentivizes change (and platform participation – LinkedIn didn’t respond) is by awarding a gold star to whichever company has improved its platform most by the standards of the report. 

The winner this time is … Twitter.

And wherever there’s a winner, there’s a loser. In this case, that means Facebook, which is in the hot seat for recent offenses.

Clearly, the idea is still in the works, but it’s one of many recent efforts by agencies to tackle brand safety on social, or even just to wrangle social platforms into some kind of order.

Brand New At This

More and more brands are hiring for and launching in-house media operations. Which is another way to say, more marketers are realizing how easily they can hire away disaffected and underpaid journalists to work on the company side. 

This is particularly true in B2B media, where there’s a roaring trade news industry and many freelance consultants. But companies like Netflix and Shopify are also investing in self-styled newsrooms or editorial operations.

These aren’t doomed to fail. Far from it. But there will be growing pains. 

For one thing, investment in a news operation is a long game, writes Shareen Pathak, another former Digiday editor, who co-founded a publishing consultancy Toolkits.

These nascent brand-backed newsrooms tend to fall within the marketing org. And marketers are accustomed to rigorous ROI on all expenditures, sometimes even with zero-based budgeting.

“Patience and a willingness to just keep going can pay dividends,” Pathak writes. Doesn’t sound like a good fit for marketers, though.

“This can particularly be difficult for brands with strong marketing muscles, who operate in a launch-first mindset.”

But Wait, There’s More!

Doing Things Media, owner of popular Instagram meme accounts, raises $21.5 million. [Fortune]

Roku partners with Entravision to bring its business to Mexico’s markets. [release]

Comcast-owned FreeWheel rolled out its own Partner Certification Program. [release]

Is zero-party data a real thi… zzz.  [Marketing Brew]

Why Netflix needs to buy another streaming service. [The Information]

You’re Hired!

The online TV advertising company Sabio names Jon Stimmel as chief growth officer. [release]

Hawk hires agency vet Henry Taylor to expand supply-side partnerships. [release]

PubMatic appoints Lashanne Phang as its new global mobile lead. [release]

Stagwell brings on three senior execs for its Stagwell Marketing Cloud: Abe Geiger as chief product officer, Elspeth Paige Rollert as CMO and Matt Lochner as managing director. [release]

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