Traditionally you’d think focusing on a single-digit percentage of the population would result in something not being popular. But actually it has the opposite effect. When media can spread through social networks, close personal connections are the distribution mechanism.

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BuzzFeed measures (whether editors should throw more social media resources behind the story to help promote it or just let it die) with something it calls social lift—an index of how a story spreads on social media, a quantification of its virality. This is subtly different from how many clicks it receives. Over the years, BuzzFeed has built a large core audience—readers who regularly come to its homepage, follow it on Facebook or Twitter, or use its app. They represent a valuable group, but BuzzFeed’s growth depends on finding new readers—people who read BuzzFeed stories that pop up in their Facebook or Twitter feeds. Social lift helps determine whether a story is merely popular with BuzzFeed’s core audience or if it is bringing in new readers. And it measures a story’s success based not on the absolute number of readers it receives but on what portion of its potential audience it reaches.

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The whole mission of BuzzFeed is to get people to share. That is not the mission of The New York Times. The mission of The New York Times is about the best journalism in the world and giving people accurate, timely information. I don’t think that BuzzFeed is competing in that space. But the Times should be there when people search for a big news event.

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A “premium publisher” is defined by the brand equity that a particular publisher offers. While so much discussion recently surrounds audience, we often forget that there is also an equity exchange between a publishing brand and an advertiser brand that can be very valuable. Properly executed alignment with a premium publisher should pay dividends for a brand beyond simple message reach.

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Unlike web pages, mobile apps do not have links. They do not have web addresses. They live in worlds by themselves, largely cut off from one another and the broader Internet. And so it is much harder to share the information found on them.

In tech speak, the problem is known as “deep linking,” the technological hurdle of giving apps some sort of links.

Although deep linking is a worry for large tech companies (Facebook App Links, Twitter Cards, Google App Indexing), it is also a big opportunity for start-ups looking to unseat them (Branch Metrics, URX, Quixey).

If apps are so much trouble, why use them at all? This is the idea behind another kind of start-up: those trying to turn the link problem on its head by making websites work more like apps (Famo.us).

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Picture how this can work for Facebook: A developer chooses to build her app using Parse. To get users to discover it, she’ll buy Facebook’s App Ads. When she hits a certain threshold, she’ll start to pay $100 a month for Parse’s services–and more as the app continues to grow. (“You don’t have to pay us until your app gets huge,” Parse’s Sukhar told the f8 crowd.) At this point, to generate revenue, the developer joins the Audience Network, where Facebook will get an unspecified cut of the ad revenue from the spots that run within her app. And finally, in an effort to get users to use her app more often, she takes advantage of deep linking or other tools Facebook might offer down the road. That’s at least four ways that Facebook could get paid off the same developer–and Facebook would garner the additional benefit of knowing which apps mobile users were excited about.

This challenge reveals a fascinating strategic shift for the social network: The greatest obstacle standing between Facebook and its ambitions has nothing to do with persuading any of us to log in to Facebook tomorrow or to spend more time using its features. It’s entirely dependent on outside app developers’ adopting these tools.

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Pierre Omidyar, Chris Hughes, and Evan Williams all have one thing in common. They admit to hating conflict.

Aversion to conflict is a surprisingly common trait in “disruptive” tech moguls. I’ve always found it ironic that the people who pioneered social technologies that have connected more than a billion people around the world are some of the most un-social people on the planet. These moguls are happy to disrupt the world– from the other side of a screen, preferably via a “platform.” The platform defense is golden for these moguls, a get-out-of-jail-free excuse for taking any responsibility of things written or sold or bartered or happening on their multi-billion dollar properties.

Unfortunately, as these platform owners start fancying themselves as media moguls, they quickly discover that the news business doesn’t quite work that way.

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Whew. That is a long list of distinct uses of news: updates, followups, explanation, diversion, answers, recommendations, connection, instructions, discussion, service, sharing, action. Any of those uses can be mobile. None of them has to be. Isn’t that too much to expect of one site or one app? No wonder readers constantly complain of news sites: “It’s so hard to find what I want.” That’s because we are still trying to cram a big, old newspaper into a bottomless portal on a little, tiny screen and then add all kinds of new functions and different media. We hope it will be appealing and worth the bother because it carries our brand. Perhaps we can use mobile as an excuse to rethink the value of what we offer and as a means to unbundle our services into their useful bits — as Google and Facebook do. If we allow users to declare their own needs at a particular time or in a particular place or because of a particular mood, we can better serve those needs. Perhaps mobile will force us to get better at building profiles of our users as individuals so we can serve each of them better. Mobile can make us reorganize what we offer around our users rather than around our content. Mobile isn’t just another content-delivery mechanism. Don’t try to be mobile first. Be user first. Context over content, that’s the lesson of mobile.

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Another misconception about mobile is that phone and tablet apps will recapture for media companies the control over experience, brand, and business model that the web and its links took from them… Newspaper publishers and TV and radio stations have tripped over themselves to make apps. But… that apps are frequently downloaded but rarely or never used.

Apps… have many limitations. They tend to cut content off from links out to other content and links in from outside recommendations. They are expensive to make. They require marketing to get users to find, download, and use them. Though they provide a clean and controlled environment for ads, apps on the whole have not been embraced by advertisers — mostly because the audience for each app remains small. When they began, apps gave designers and editors better tools to create sleek and responsive pages, but HTML5 and responsive design now make mobile web sites more appealing. On the whole, I believe making apps has proven to be a distraction for many news companies.

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