Where are we on the social distribution hype cycle?


Then comes late 2013 – and the rest of the media industry is starting to get sick of competing with cats. The numbers on Upworthy and ViralNova are too staggering, and the content so basic, that people lose faith in Facebook. It’s for the dogs. (Or the cats.) While publishers have learned the value of some formats – lists, emotional calls to action, writing for intense advocate groups – they don’t want to give over completely to them. Some writers get exhausted. By December 2013, Luke O’Neil in Esquire writes an article deploring the rise of the second wave viral publishers, the phenomenon of viral newsiness trumping truth, and calls 2013 “The Year We Broke the Internet“.

But. The revolution is still happening, quietly. Publishers can’t ignore the fact that each month, more and more of their traffic comes from Facebook and Twitter, including to their stodgy or worthy content. That their teams are adjusting their headlines for the social web, and starting to win traffic to core content, not just listicles. That new specialist publishers are building big audience quick – see Elite Daily, or MindBodyGreen.

Even for many classic publishers, social traffic is exceeding traffic from their front pages. They start to respond: putting up their periscope to watch what other publishers are doing, buying access to the best technology for mastering the social web, deepening social network connections with their audiences, and putting in place new editorial processes focused on winning the war for attention each day.

That interpretation would put us right through the hype cycle and coming out the other side already:


Thing is, I don’t know that we’re quite there yet. The scale of disruption that social distribution will bring hasn’t quite been recognized by anyone except the bleeding edge of new (and fastest adapting) publishers.

For many of the rest, social is still seen as a sideshow, or a nice way to boost numbers, but they are not yet planning around it.

We recently looked at growth in interaction with content for English language publishers from September 2012 to now.


With interaction with the top 10 publishers growing sevenfold, you can see the new world steamrollering in. And the growth is not limited to the publishers at the top of the charts. The number of English language publishers getting over 2 million Facebook interactions per month has ballooned from five in September 2012 to 46 in April 2014.

So it might be we’re still here:

If so, we have an interesting few years ahead.

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