As Mobile Saturation Nears, Video Explosion Persists

Inside March’s Magazine Media 360º Brand Audience Report.

We may be entering a new mature stage in internet audience growth and development. At least, that’s what’s suggested by March’s Magazine Media 360º Brand Audience Report. The bottom line for the year-over-year stats is that they show continued contraction of desktop web averaged for all the brands within the report (-12.1%), and flattening of mobile growth (-1.3%).

While some of this relates to shifting methodologies around comScore’s mobile metrics earlier this year, the trend was apparent well in advance of that.

It’s not coincidental that we’re only now seeing brands like The New York Times, Bloomberg, The Guardian and others more publically limit their reliance on social distribution platforms. The land grab for pageviews and social followings is plateauing. And hopefully it’s being replaced by a greater focus on depth of engagement, direct traffic, on-site experiences and deepening a well-defined and loyal user base.

Still, some sites continue to expand quickly and are finding growth—especially in video.

Men’s Health (-9.5% desktop, +11.4% mobile) set a new traffic record off “viral-minded stories,” Digital Director Sean Evans tells min. “One example is our increased scouring of the intersection of celebrity and health or fitness. The article ‘How WWE’s Big Show Lost 70 Pounds and Transformed His Body’ received the most unique visitors,” he says. And first-person pieces like “I Did Burpees for 15 Days” have been persistently shareable.

Despite People’s decline in desktop traffic (-34.3%) and flat mobile numbers (-.1%), the brand says its own metrics of on-site and off-site content views were actually up 39% YoY and 12% from February, for a total of 1.8 billion views. And like many magazine brands, People is now emphasizing its performance in organic search. Along with AMP and Google News, these non-social sources were up 22% YoY and responsible for 37 million visitors.

In addition to search, more than a few publishers have been emphasizing their syndication relationships as key growth drivers, especially for video. Condé Nast Traveler (+18.3% desktop, +26.9% mobile, +5292.3% video) is not only among the few magazine brands still seeing growth across all screens, but is among the top growth stories in video. The brand suggests that, by its count, its 28.4 million video views in March constituted 771% YoY growth in inventory off several destination videos, including on Uppsala, Sweden (6 million views), Sweden’s Icehotel (4.8 million), and Kuala Lumpur (4.7 million). AOL, Yahoo and MSN are CNT’s top syndicators, helping to drive 4,600% in growth from that channel in a year. But the brand also indicates that its owned-and-operated views are up 539% YoY, largely from greater integration of videos into the article experience.

The Atlantic (-9.2% desktop, +9.4% mobile, -93.5% video) is seeing mobile growth, thanks in part to wide distribution across Facebook, AMP and Apple News, the last of which is starting to come up more in conversations with publishers. “Beginning in 2015, we aggressively pursued distribution on all platforms, and are seeing growth on our website and on distributed platforms,” says Kim Lau, SVP digital, and head of business development.

Essence (-57.1% desktop, -31% mobile, +281.3% video) is clearly crushing it in video audience growth. The brand credits celebrity and entertainment franchises like “7 Things to Know” and its weekly “Essence Now” series.

And finally, Glamour (+11.1% desktop, +8.1% mobile, +205.9% video) continues to leverage and extend the monster 107-million-view success it enjoyed on Facebook with December’s ‘Your Cycle in Two Minutes.’ “Stay tuned” for more in that vein, says Annie Fox, senior executive digital director. “We continue to develop series specifically for YouTube, like our recently launched ‘70 People Ages 5-75 Answer Questions’ and deliver snackable videos with substance for our syndication partners like AOL, Yahoo and MSN. We also just won a People’s Voice Webby for our series, ‘Every Scar Tells A Story.’”

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