Social Media ROI: Newspapers’ Future on MySpace
[By D.J. Siegel] With limited resources, newspapers must be increasingly conscious of where to invest time and effort to maximize return. Not all social networking sites are created equal, and one-time industry king MySpace has recently ceded large audiences to juggernauts Facebook and Twitter.
|This article is part of a series on social media ROI. In this series:
When it comes to reaching online readers, newspapers are on the fence with MySpace. Editors at Florida’s Naples Daily News, for example, use MySpace for posting and sharing content, recruiting, and letting employees and contributors engage with their audience. “It was an early site and early tool, and remains something that if you want to share one of our stories, is a site you can easily use,” said President and Publisher Chris Doyle.
But, “our MySpace usage is not as aggressive as our Facebook, Twitter and Buzz usage,” Doyle reported. “We only have so many hours in a day, and we have to decide where to focus our efforts to increase audience.”
In Lynchburg, Virginia, The News & Advance has cited usability as one factor in the decision to jump the MySpace ship. “I find when it comes to social media, Facebook and Twitter are more conducive to interaction and sharing stories,” said Matt Busse, Multimedia Editor.
With Facebook, “the design is better, cleaner, more focused on content and interaction… It’s easier to post links to news stories and comment on them,” said Busse
“Are we potentially losing some reach by not being on MySpace?” Busse asks. “That’s a valid argument, but you have a limited amount of time to devote to these things, so you have to put it into what you feel gives you the maximum impact.”
This sentiment was echoed at the Dallas Morning News, where MySpace is currently “kind of sitting static, feeding our RSS headlines,” said Travis Hudson, Social Media Editor. The newspaper’s use of MySpace is mostly limited to journalists using it as a reporting tool to find sources or people in the news. The newspaper’s page primarily displays linked headlines from the newspaper.
Hudson concedes that MySpace is “a way to reach out and interact with people, but I don’t find the usefulness as much as with Facebook and Twitter.”
Follow the Leader
Usability is important when it comes to social networking, but even more vital to newspapers is identifying and following their audience, which seems to be migrating away from MySpace.
Facebook has posted huge growth in the last year, reporting a nearly 100% increase in worldwide monthly page views (44 billion to 87 billion) from 2008 to 2009. MySpace, however, declined from 47.4 billion monthly page views to 38 billion in the same period, a roughly 20 percent drop. The social network’s audience share in the United States also dropped to just 30.3 percent this year, according to data from Hitwise.
In terms of valuable unique U.S. visitors, Twitter saw massive growth from 2008 to 2009, exploding 1,928 percent and attracting 21 million unique monthly visitors. In May 2009, the once unconquerable MySpace was officially overtaken by Facebook when it posted 77 million unique visitors, up from 70.28 million the month before. MySpace dropped to 68.4 million from 70.25 million in the same time period.
Simply put, MySpace is losing ground to its competitors, and newspapers must go where the readers are to stay on top.
Even in a decline, MySpace still posts consistently massive numbers, and certainly still offers a large audience for newspapers to target. But that audience itself might not be as desirable as those of competitors like Facebook.
More than one-third of MySpace users are 17 or younger, compared with just 17 percent at Facebook and 12 percent at Twitter. Forty-one percent of MySpace users earn between $25 and $50k annually, compared with 22 percent at Facebook and 26 percent at Twitter (both of which post larger audiences in the $50 – $75k earning category).
In short, MySpace users are younger and earn less money than their Facebook and Twitter counterparts, and that’s bad news for newspapers looking to attract advertisers.
When it comes to MySpace, “the content that was there didn’t seem like a fit for our core news business,” reported Chris Doyle at Naples Daily News. “We never fully jumped into MySpace because it really didn’t hit our consciousness the way Facebook and Twitter did in terms of adoption of mainstream people.”
For the Dallas Morning News and other newspapers, social networking ultimately comes down to a question of investment vs. return. Setting up an effective presence on MySpace takes time and consistent monitoring – effort that could be more efficiently expended elsewhere.
At the Dallas Morning News, “we’re choosing our battles,” said Travis Hudson. MySpace is “being trumped by other [sites] that are bigger. Trying to stay on top of other ones is more important.”
MySpace is “not the kind of place we’re investing time in distributing our content,” Hudson reported. “Our friends have given up entirely and shifted to Facebook and Twitter; they are better venues to have a presence. That reflects more upon all Internet users, not just Dallas News.”
At Lynchburg’s News & Advance, “what we care about is getting the news to people, where people are,” said Matt Busse. “In the social media arena, we find Facebook and Twitter to be more popular and more effective for what we’re trying to do.”
Accordingly, the News & Advance’s sister site The-Burg.com has abandoned its MySpace usage in favor of higher profile sites Facebook and Twitter.
Newspapers strive to reach a general audience,” said Busse.”The thinking is [to] reach as many people in your geographic area as possible.’’ Facebook “has a much larger user base. It’s much more conducive to geographic targeting.”
A new tune
As their audience continues to skew young, MySpace has sought to capitalize on this youthful market by injecting more music promotion into their site. This would in theory attract entertainment editors looking to tap into the music community, but that hasn’t necessarily been the case for newspapers.
“If I want music information, I go to MySpace,” reported Regina Murphy with Kansas’ Emporia Gazette. The Gazette’s MySpace page allows readers to post links to bands for increased print coverage, and to promote upcoming shows in the area.
Murphy describes MySpace as “a good resource for sound files and pictures, and for band schedules.” But, while the Gazette lists MySpace as an effective information gathering tool, the social networking site falters when it comes to keeping information current, a must in the news business.
“They simply aren’t keeping pages updated,” said Murphy. “For bands promoting themselves, it’s still fairly effective but I don’t see it doing anything else…It’s becoming less and less of a good resource. Bands are moving more to Facebook.”
A presence on MySpace offers a return, but it’s not substantial according Murphy. She said she gets a “ten to fifteen percent return on investment with MySpace. Facebook is probably closer to 60 percent.”
Matt Busse at Lynchburg’s News & Advance agrees. “MySpace definitely has its uses, it’s great for musicians,” he said. “But I just feel more and more people are going to Facebook.”
For the Dallas Morning News, “MySpace has an advantage because of easability of embedding songs in your page,” said Travis Hudson. But, “it’s not a place where you can just jump in and put your links and expect a return on your time and investment. You really have to ingrain yourself in the fan base, and I don’t see that as something beneficial for our entertainment section.”
MySpace down the line
“It’s a lot of things, that’s how it started out,” Doyle said. “Now as you have other sites come along and niche things out, they have to decide what their identity will be.”
The Emporia Gazette is more pragmatic about their use of MySpace moving forward. “Our use will decline, but not disappear,” said Murphy. “It already has declined and is fairly minimal, but comes in handy when I need it.”
For Lynchburg’s News & Advance, the prognosis for MySpace is much more grim. According to Matt Busse, MySpace “is not the place to be in social media” and has run its course as the industry leader.
“It’s not like we all got together and said ‘We hate MySpace,’” Busse explained. “You have to go where the audience is, and we feel like the audience more and more is on Facebook and Twitter… [They] are better sites and their growing popularity and MySpace’s decline reinforces that.”