Consumers are relying more and more on social media for their news needs, a trend potentially driven in part by Facebook’s deep integration of news and news sharing in their ubiquitous mobile experience. In June 2016, Reuters and Oxford University published a joint study in which consumers rate Facebook as their primary source for morning news. News sites and apps ranked as a distant second. A Pew study showed similar trends, suggesting that at least sixty-two percent of all U.S. consumers get some portion of their news via social. On the Internet of Things (IOT) front, a recent Media Post study indicated that Amazon Alexa’s news feed is the third most popular feature on the device. The bottom line is that consumers who want their news are consuming a lot of it on social media.
As Facebook and Amazon expand their control of the consumer conversation via their reach in social, shopping research, and news, Google’s audience is relying less on the search engine for anything that falls outside straightforward query results. For example, eMarketer shows clearly that channel shoppers rely substantially more on Amazon than on search engines when researching products.
Typically, when Google’s back is against the wall, the search giant is quick to rise to the challenge; and that’s just what they are doing now. In recent weeks, Google launched an update to the personalized news feed for mobile (part of the Google personal assistant experience), which makes it easier for users to get both search results and personalized news in one mobile experience. This update is the most recent example of how Google is finding new ways to deliver an enhanced experience that provides value beyond just search. For advertisers, this move may also offer brands a new way to own a top search ranking outside of voice, text, and paid search results.
The recent focus on “Fake News” may also provide an advantage for Google. Having been cited as one of the main contributors to the fake news problem, Facebook is now aggressively addressing the issue on its own platform. Meanwhile, Google has an excellent opportunity to capitalize on fake news concerns and bring consumers back into the fold by focusing on search engines’ ability to deliver reliable personalized news along with general search results.
This could be a significant win for Google. A recent Reuters survey on consumer sentiment about Fake News discovered that ninety-five percent of users felt that an association with fake news damaged consumer perception of a brand.
Following this line of thought, it’s logical to assume that consumers may trust Facebook less because of the fake news that’s been on their website.
In addition to integrating the Google assistant news feed into the mobile experience to deliver personalized, trusted news sources, which are based on user behavior on Google news searches and Google feed settings, Google is also well suited (because of their algorithmic infrastructure) to build spam filter criteria that are more effective at filtering out bad news and will ultimately improve the experience at scale faster than other digital platforms.
Additionally, Edelman Trust Barometer (which examines government, business, and media consumer sentiment) recently reported that consumers trust search engines and online sites more today than they did in 2012. On the other hand, trust levels for social media actually decreased a few points, which shows a slight shift in consumer sentiment related to media origin, content, quality, and trust.
As Google rolls this update out for consumers, iProspect will begin monitoring natural search campaigns with relevant content queries (keywords) that could potentially populate with news. We will examine this across a diverse range of clients over the next thirty to sixty days, and look for any changes in traffic behavior related to this new search experience.
What Can Brands Do?
Brands should look for opportunities to capitalize on this new development. They should look to build more top-of-funnel content, publishing portal-style content to connect with consumers. Brands have a unique opportunity to gain both voice/text search results, as well as news stature at the top of the page. This by no means is any easy undertaking; it will require more investment in content production and regular content publication. Brands will also need to be sure they are delivering and executing on optimized news feeds for Google, following new feed best practices. Additionally, Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) will likely begin to converge with this new feed personal experience that Google has created. Brands will need to adhere to AMP best practices as well as AMP integration in news pages for faster loading. (iProspect predicts this will be a factor within the next six months.)
iProspect Future of News
From a Google assistant perspective, with the more personalized experience integrated into the personal assistant, brands will have to examine how they are creating better content news experiences. Specifically, brands will need to examine how they can create more habitual use of to-of-funnel content in their daily lives (ease of use). The Google assistant AI will then begin to assign priority and relevancy to brands that are doing this effectively for consumers.
From a Facebook news feed perspective, brands will have to ensure they are leveraging open graph social tags to help define content and origin. These will be key indicators for Facebook to identify which content is real news and which is fake.
The new game in town is consistent, trustworthy news (aka trustworthy content). Brands that deliver this will be fine, those that don’t will spend more time on reputation management than news creation.