Thoughts on the major shift in search and social traffic

And putting my out of office on for two weeks - See you the last week of July!

Hello. I’m sending out a brief newsletter as I start two weeks of vacation. I’m unplugging to spend some much-needed time recharging with family and friends in the US.

As I take time off, the stories dominating my reading right now just underscore the fundamental shift that we’re seeing with major things that have underpinned media online for much of the last 15 years: The search and social landscape is undergoing profound shifts right now. Search accounts for about a third of referrals to publishing websites, and AI is threatening to upend what has been a very stable source of traffic for the industry over the last few years.

Traffic from social sites has been much, much more volatile, and as I have written about, this has meant the end of major digital publishers who road the social wave and generated a lot of traffic but found that generating a sustainable business from that traffic was much more elusive - think Mashable, Mic, Vice and Buzzfeed. These brands were once expected to dominate the 21st Century media landscape, and now, I expect most will be a soon to be forgotten footnote to the middle early phase of digital publishing.

And we see that publishers, especially news publishers, are trying to claw back some of the advertising revenue that they have lost to the Big Tech platforms through regulation. However, as we’re seeing in Canada, the platforms are not taking this lie down.

We’re in a period of major change and uncertainty. Publishers will need to redouble their efforts to build direct and deep connections with their audiences. First-party data, newsletters, apps and other tools and techniques of audience development will become more important as ways to drive loyalty and habit. Right, my out of office is on. I’ll see you the last week of July!