HOLLYWOOD, Florida – Less than a month after announcing it would publish a daily collection of news stories in Facebook Instant Articles, The Washington Post says the move has been “a win financially,” a positive sign in an era of strained relations between traditional publishers and digital giants.
Last summer, the Post was among the first publishers to offer branded content on Instant Articles. Just last month, the company said it would publish news stories as well.
In an interview with Beet.TV while attending the IAB Annual Leadership Meeting, Post Chief Revenue Officer Jed Hartman explains the impact of Instant Articles on the company’s own digital readership.
“For us it’s been a win because we’re watching our total audience stay about the same when we went on to Facebook Instant Articles,” says Hartman. “That’s the close as you can get to an A/B test. But our page views grew, so the audience was going deeper because it’s a far better experience.”
He adds that Instant Articles has driven more reader engagement. “More engagement means more impressions, and we’ve been able to monetize those impressions. For us it’s been a win financially,” Hartman says.
From a technology standpoint, if any media owner knows the value of speedy delivery, it’s Jeff Bezos. As the Post continues to grow its digital audience, constant technology upgrades put the time element front and center.
“Our owner likes to say give the gift of speed to our audience,” says Hartman. “We’re constantly working on removing friction for users who want to engage with the Post and making sure our content is wherever they are.”
Using a lot of its own homegrown technology, the Post has built a personalization engine to divine reader interests. If a user is not engaged, or if they are moving too slowly or too fast, a message pops up with a personalized story. “That all enhances engagement as well as click through to the story,” Hartman notes.
At a time when other media companies are jettisoning staff, the Post has hired “a couple hundred” journalists since Bezos of Amazon fame acquired the venerable news organization in the fall of 2013, according to Hartman. He cites comScore figures showing a digital audience of just over 100 million in the U.S., plus about another 30 million internationally. “The bigger you get, the more opportunity you have to get small, by targeting,” says Hartman.
In this tumultuous political environment, not every marketer wants its ads adjacent to related news coverage, which suits the Post fine because only about 20% of its content is politics/global news, according to Hartman.
The Post recently added another 30 people to its video unit because video is becoming “front and center with everything we do. We’ve certainly been a mobile first company. Now we’re becoming a mobile and video first company,” says Hartman.
The company runs ads in pre-, mid- and post-roll video content as well as within news feeds. With its FlexPlay product, video assets can be converted into shorter units and animated GIF’s, “so it’s lightening fast,” Hartman says.
This video is part of a series produced at the IAB Annual Leadership Meeting. Beet.TV’s coverage of this event is sponsored by Index Exchange. For more videos from this series, please visit this page.