Why the Guardian, Daily Mail et al need to embrace social distribution to survive ‘platformification’

Legacy publishers such as the Guardian and Daily Mail Group need to fully embrace social distribution or adopt a community based model if they are to survive the “platformification” of the media, according to Adnan Ebrahim, the founder of Car Throttle, which has been dubbed the ‘Buzzfeed for cars’.

As consumers increasingly absorb the news via mobile and social apps and the likes of Facebook and Snapchat up their game when it comes to producing content, the dinosaurs of the publishing world need to adapt to audience’s 24/7 browsing behaviour.

“We have to look at the way users behave – they get most of their news through social and mobile first. 80 per cent of our traffic is mobile and I’m sure it’s the same across the board. Unless you can deliver a great mobile app that encourages retention, which unfortunately is not something that these publishers have because they’re not dynamic enough, the environments aren’t suited for users coming back 24/7, whereas Twitter, Facebook, Instagram they are.

“So they need to either fully embrace social distribution but realise they are building on top of someone else’s property, or they need to embrace a community platform model like us [otherwise] all these amazing media companies not going to survive the platformification of the web,” Ebrahim told The Drum.

Car Throttle itself has undergone recent change. Founded in 2009 the platform transitioned from a blog to a publisher last year and released an android app in December 2015. However, it’s social journalism model hasn’t changed and remains an integral part of the Car Throttle business model. Around 99 per cent of the content published on the site is from its users, with the remaining one per cent produced by a team of writers who set the conversation and quality levels.

The platform generates 20 million page views each month, controls the largest car-based YouTube channel in the UK, with around 1 million subscribers, and generates 1 million views per day on Snapchat.

Car Throttle’s advertising model is based on three main products: branded content, in feed advertising and brand profiles, which are similar to Facebook’s ‘pages’ and allow brands to push out their own content and pay for ‘boosts’ and social shares. Moving forward Ebrahim is keen to deliver more native advertising and push more budget towards social influencers, particularly in the wake of the ad-blocking debate.

“We have one of highest ad blocking audiences that exists: young millenial males, who are tech savvy. We estimate that somewhere between 30-40 per cent of our page views are ad blocked. From a branded content point of view, we get around that because native content can’t be ad blocked. From an in feed point of view that is potentially something that we are susceptible to but we think that actually if we deliver advertising that users love we can slow down that rate that they ad block on Car Throttle.”

Ebrahim is now eyeing a bite of the fashion and beauty cherry and is set to replicate Car Throttle’s social journalism model and apply it to new platform Missfit. Targetting females (92 per cent of Car Throttle’s audience is male) Missfit aims to offer women what Instagram and YouTube can’t, a community of discussion.

“As we know discussions aren’t great within Instagram and YouTube. There are media platforms like Bustle but that doesn’t really cater to a comments based community, so we think there is a gap in the market for us to go in to beauty and fashion and into fitness as well in the next year.”

Ebrahim will be speaking at The Drum’s Media Slap in May. For more information and to book tickets visit the website.

Natalie Mortimer

Natalie is The Drum's fashion, design, luxury and food & drink reporter.

Tweet her @nataliemortimer

All by Natalie