Publishers Without Comments Sections Are Losing Out on Revenue

Data reported by Spot.IM shows that digital publishers are leaving around $30M on the table by not hosting social communities on their sites.

Today, Spot.IM, SimilarWeb and AdClarity released data showing that digital publishers are leaving around $30 million “on the table” by not optimizing social interaction on their website. The report is spearheaded by Spot.IM, a company that helps publishers create communities on their websites with their free code; Time Out uses the platform around its content.

They found that:

  • SimilarWeb’s website rankings identified 30 highly-ranking digital publishers, and its analytics platform provided advanced data for the online performance of each site.
  • Data provided by Adclarity indicated that that the sampling of 30 digital publishers reached a monthly advertising revenue of just over $50M.
  • Data compiled by Spot.IM showed that embedding social capabilities into a site would enable a 50 percent average increase in page views.
  • According to data from Adclarity, a 50 percent increase in page views would lead to an increase of $350 million per year for these publishers in ad revenue, even without considering increased premium advertising, native advertising or other partnership programs.

It’s an interesting time to talk about social communities around news content. Recently, Reuters pulled the plug on its comment section for opinion pieces and columns. Spot.IM’s selling point is that Twitter, Facebook and Google are monetizing conversations around publishers’ content. In contrast, Reuters made it pretty clear that they thought social networks were a more natural place to have those conversations; or that the benefit of maintaining the community on its sites just wasn’t worth the hassle. Let the big guys take what they want, basically, because they’re going to do it anyway.

Though that, perhaps, is their own problem. Ben Whitelaw wrote on Medium about how The Times and The Sunday Times track their social communities and work on monetizing them. He writes:

But working with a new department within News UK, it won’t be long before we understand more about the optimum point in a customer’s lifecycle that we should prompt them to get them involved or the kinds of response which work best for encouraging repeat commenting or the key influencers within the community to make people stick around. If we can reduce churn by a few percent using that data, it would provide an estimated revenue uplift of several hundred thousand pounds. Which goes some way to answering the question about the value of comments, I think.

That anecdotal data is in line with the Spot.IM report, whose co-founder says in a statement:

We’ve isolated digital advertising revenue to look at the impact adding social would have. But this is only one part of a much larger picture of the monetization of digital publishing. Increasing time spent on site and page views would also have an impact on the revenue derived from content discovery, digital partnerships, and premium ad placements. Going social ‘on-site’ could in fact have a much larger potential payoff for publishers.

And so the great debate continues on the value of commenting and socializing around a publisher’s site.