Social media editors have evolved from newsroom novelties to indispensable assets. The role is charged with the weighty task of bringing content to social platforms. But that catchall position, wherein media companies often lump Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Snapchat, and Vine into a single responsibility, is quickly headed in a new direction.
News site Vox is looking to staff both a Snapchat video editor and a Snapchat producer in its D.C. headquarters. It’s a targeted callout that speaks to the larger trend between social media and journalism: the rise of distributed content, the practice of publishing original content to specific platforms.
Until now, the formula had been more or less the same for most online publishers: push content on social media that links back to the site. The race for traffic has dominated social strategies across the board, but as Jonah Peretti, BuzzFeed's CEO and an early adopter of distributed content, will tell you, it’s making less sense.
"That is an experience that feels a bit outdated," Peretti said during a presentation at SXSW. "What if you said, 'I’m going to take the content on the site and push some of that content out onto the stream?'"
This new school of thought is also being explored by the Huffington Post’s recent high-level hire of Liz Heron.
Heron, who previously headed up Facebook’s journalism partnerships, is now Huff Po's executive editor. She's in charge of audience development, editorial strategy, and making distributed content a priority.
"We’ve been expediting this transition to distributed content," says Huffington Post CEO Arianna Huffington in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. "[Heron's] been a driver of this transformation that is happening at all media companies."
Strategically enough on HuffPo’s end, Heron was part of the team that launched Facebook’s Instant Articles, a mobile platform for news organizations to publish articles natively to Facebook but with their own ads.
If the majority of people get their news from social media, wouldn’t it make more sense to keep them there?
Using social media to draw attention to your site where, hopefully, audiences will engage with additional content just isn’t effective anymore. With the average user logging 1.77 hours per day on social networking sites, up from 1.61 in 2012, the logic of how to use platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and even Snapchat needs an upgrade.
Granted, there may not be the HR bandwidth to dedicate a mini-staff to every social channel. But if distributed content is the (immediate) future of publishing, it needs to be a bigger part of any social strategy.