My mother once sent me a copy of a clipping from the local paper in the post. It was a reader's letter that I had written protesting against the plans to close down my old handball club. It made me happy to get the clipping, and I called her right away to discuss and comment on the matter. Since then I have also shown it to my friends, most of whom approved the content with a 'thumbs-up'.
This story is one example of real life social interaction surrounding the content of a newspaper, which in this case had great relevance to me in particular. In those days this took place with the involvement of media such as the newspaper, printed letter and telephone – today, the same interaction would have taken place online via social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The desire and need to share, discuss and display has not changed, and is a firmly rooted social mechanism in people's way of interacting with one another. The distribution form has changed, and with the breakthrough of social media, it has become easier and quicker to satisfy our need for interaction.
Research has shown that we share our experiences on social media primarily to please others, to define ourselves, develop and nurture our friendships or to bring attention to a particular matter. Every single day, thousands of quality articles are written for newspapers across the world, which have those qualities that we as readers and users of social media look for when we share. Unfortunately, this content usually survives for just 24 hours, when the next edition of the newspaper arrives at the newsstands.
The digital edition of the newspaper provides the editorial desk with more leverage for extending an article's lifetime. By allowing an article to be shared on social media sites, the content is given a well-deserved retirement as the object of debate, reading pleasure, indignation, reactions and counter-reactions in a forum of social interaction that sticks out in the discussion over tea and biscuits in the canteen.
At Visiolink we are taking advantage of the built-in share feature which iOS and Android make available to users. This means that the reader can share across those networks most relevant to him or her, in just a small number of standardised steps. With iOS 8, Apple has opened up for third party integration in the sharing window, so we can expect more sharing options in the future. It works in such a way that if the reader has the third party vendor's app on his or her device then the app will display as an option in the sharing widow. In the illustration below, memo app Evernote is available as a sharing option together with our old friends email, Facebook and Twitter. In addition, the sharing window provides the opportunity to print the article via AirPrint, save it to the reading list on Safari and use AirDrop to share it via Bluetooth to friends nearby.
Business model from multiple perspectives
Some publishing houses are concerned about this business model and the potential loss of income of allowing the reader permission to make paid content freely accessible online. These concerns should however be balanced against the brand value of social media exposure, where both existing as well as new target groups spend their daily online existence. It is important to consider which user experience you as a media brand wish to create. If access to the shared article is limited to a headline and subsequent meeting with a payment wall, this can create a negative experience of the brand. It is our firm belief that the sharing of articles ought to take place with the greatest possible openness and access to the content.
Shared articles also work towards generating traffic and as teasers for the e-paper. When a friend opens a shared article, a link will appear at the bottom of the text. Clicking on this link ascertains whether the user is reading the article on a PC or mobile device, after which he or she will be led directly to the article in the app or web browser. Alternatively, the user will be presented with the purchase page in the app or on the publishing house's website, and finally, the user can also be sent to App Store/Google Play, if the app is not installed on the device.
No functionality without statistics. We track which articles are shared by which media, and tally up how many times a shared article has been read. In this way, the editorial desk can follow how popular an article is and how long after the publishing date it remains current.
My old handball club is sadly no more, but the involvement of the local newspaper in the case ensured a nuanced and multi-faceted debate between local residents and politicians. Despite the fact that the debate today would to a far greater extent have taken place online, this story still says something about the importance of getting information actively into play in the relevant context. Sharing content is not only a functionality in an app, but much more an active decision to bring your content into the public debate, wherever your readers are.