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Publishers made substantial bets that social media could foster brand engagement, boosting interest in their content. With their content distributed on platforms from Facebook to Google and across a variety of popular syndicated sites, publishers were hoping those forays would lead traffic back to their own sites.

But publishers are platforms have a tense situation at the moment. The distribution platforms — not the publishers — have reaped most of the harvest of benefits. That’s reflected in a new eMarketer report, “Media’s Digital Challenge: Publisher Strategies for Monetizing Content Across Platforms.”

“In experiments with Facebook’s Instant Articles, Google’s AMP, and Snapchat’s Discover platform, the notion was that readers would be enticed by the depth of reporting and high production values that they would look for more of the same on the publishers’ sites,” said Patricia Orsini, an eMarketer analyst and the author of the report. “Instead, readers spent more time with those platforms, and therefore boosted revenue to those platforms.”

Why do publishers continue to distribute content on platforms other than their own? It’s all about scale, notes eMarketer.

“They’re getting their content in front of audiences who want to consume it [in a social media] experience, said Jason Kint, the CEO of Digital Content Next (DCN). “Eyeballs are one thing, but economically, it’s a zero-sum game when you back out of Facebook and Google. [Those platforms are] taking almost all the growth [in digital advertising]. The effect of the duopoly right now isn’t healthy [for publishers].”

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