How are online publishers using or partnering with social media platforms (such as Facebook, IG, Snapchat) to monetize or distribute ads and/or content in the US?

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How are online publishers using or partnering with social media platforms (such as Facebook, IG, Snapchat) to monetize or distribute ads and/or content in the US?

Online publishers are using social media platforms to monetize or distribute ads and content in the United States. Through an analysis of the top 10 U.S. Online Publishers, a list is compiled of case studies from BuzzFeed, New York Times, Huffington Post, National Geographic and Wikipedia. This provides an overview of how the biggest players in the digital publishing space are using Social Media.


1. New York Times
The New York Times is a gigantic, global publisher whose revenues come from both subscriptions and ad revenue. An internal memo released by the company explains that their primary goal in using social media is engaging customers on other platforms, while encouraging them to consume the content on their own subscription based platform.

The New York Times has partnered with Facebook to display their articles, in exchange for a split share of ad revenue if it comes via the social network. This allows the NYT to continue to build their brand in the United States while making use of the huge Facebook ecosystem. The Times also places a large emphasis on reaching younger generations, something that is achieved via mobile. The Facebook partnership allows them to reach millions of users who may not currently be accessing the Times via their official website or app.

2. Buzzfeed
Built off viral marketing and digital publishing revenues, Buzzfeed uses many creative social media strategies. They place a major emphasis on generating engagement around their content — many of their Instagram posts do not link directly to their site. They do, however, generate thousands of comments, likes and follows which build the Buzzfeed platform and brand. This is the result of a focus change from the Buzzfeed core website and app to publishing a majority of content directly to social platforms.

Buzzfeed has many social accounts targeting various niches: News, Food, Video, Animals, DIY, BFF and Entertainment. This allows them to fragment their content and target a more concentrated audience directly while still keeping their brand intact. On Snapchat, Buzzfeed uses multiple people to curate their story, doing day-to-day activities like eating in restaurants or going out on the town. This makes their viewers feel like the story is coming from their friends rather than a large company and helps Buzzfeed increase engagement.

3. The Huffington Post
The Huffington Post uses frequency of posting as one of their primary tactics. Through data compiled via Bitly and HuffPost's own analytics, they found that their posts reach peak engagement at the 5-minute mark, so that is how often they make a post.

The Huffington Post also follows the Buzzfeed strategy of having different social media accounts for every vertical they target, which allows them to curate their feed much more effectively. Because of their engagement-driven strategy, The Huffington Post is near the top of U.S. Publishers by interactions, which sometimes exceed 24 million per month.

4. National Geographic
National Geographic uses social media as a tool to get their stories out as quickly as possible. The Pew Research Center found that 62% of users turn to social media for their news consumption, and National Geographic is able to get pieces their articles out to social platforms at the same time they're being written.

National Geographic employs the effective strategy of crowdsourcing their social media content. They offer grants and other awards to young photographers/journalists who share their experiences on the NatGeo social channels. This increases engagement dramatically as well as creates a wider variety of content.

To make all this more effective, National Geographic tailors their strategy to the particular platform they are posting on. Hard-hitting information goes to Twitter, Facebook is for sharing their full articles and driving website traffic, Pinterest allows users to search NatGeo's content and Snapchat engages the younger audience with quizzes and other interactive tools. To monetize this traffic, they drive all their viewers to their website or television station, which results in subscriptions, ad revenue or both.

5. Wikipedia
Wikipedia is a non-profit organization that depends on donations for income. They do, however, employ a very detailed social media strategy to drive engagement and keep their content in front of viewers.

In their social media outlines, Wikipedia consistently mentions using social media to share their content — using it primarily as a way to get quick snippets of information to their readers. This increases the value of the brand, as readers are now engaging with the content as well as receiving it in real time. While Wikipedia does not directly monetize their social media campaigns, it does drive donations and as such is an important part of their strategy.


While all these companies use different and creative techniques to build traffic and distribute content, the monetization strategy amongst all of them is largely the same.

— Product sales (Incl. subscriptions, content lockers, digital or physical products)
— Ad revenue
— Sponsorship or Partnerships

Each of the companies above uses a combination of some or all of these strategies to turn their engaged viewers into revenues.


Provided are case studies for 5 of the top U.S. digital publishers and how they use social media to engage viewers, publish content, and ultimately monetize that content. While each company has their own strategy, the recurring themes are modifying the content for the platform, driving engagement and redirecting users to a proprietary web property.