Not sure. I think maybe it is, but also makes me feel a little bit queasy
Not sure. I think maybe it is, but also makes me feel a little bit queasy
The ABCes have just been released (why always on a Friday?), which leads to 2 things: publishers congratulating themselves about their performance and everyone else asking who really cares.
What’s bizarre about this is it seems unique to newspapers (I don’t see the monthly search engine metrics or the monthly social network figures each month) and that no-one beyond the newspapers themselves really seems to be asking for it. Agencies and clients all seem pretty disinterested in the whole spectacle, and you can hardly blame them, since it seems entirely out of step with the rest of the digital industry. I mean, newspapers are not a special category online – the average user doesn’t really distinguish between news content on a newspaper site, the BBC, Sky or MSN. If we are going to report monthly figures, let’s have a fuller picture of the online environment. Hopefully this is what might happen once UKOM launches
And, of course, the numbers are virtually meaningless: 30m unique users for a British newspaper site when there’s only 45m adults in the country! Take 30m users and filter out …
1. Unique people rather than browsers/machines/devices; your 30m is now closer to 10m
2. All non-UK traffic; 10m becomes 4m
3. Bounced traffic (i.e. all who view one page then leave); 4m becomes 2.5m
4. Visitors for less than 30 seconds; 2.5m is now 1.5m
5. Then look at daily traffic rather than monthly. After all a newspaper is made to be consumed every day, not once a month; that’s why all the content is updated every day. 1.5m becomes ~800k? If you’re lucky? Feels a lot less impressive than 30m doesn’t it?
I work at the Daily Mirror, and that means I’m strongly obligated to scorn everything the Sun does, but even so I genuinely scorn their platform plugged into thesun.co.uk: MYsun.co.uk. It’s a fully-functioning social network, much the same as facebook, except for Sun readers/users.
At first glance it *seems* like a good idea, since it touches on buzz areas like ‘social media’ and ‘user engagement’. But I think this is really a pretty clueless ‘big publisher’ response to the social media challenge, driven more by editors and journalists than digital media experts.
4 reasons why this is unbearably lame:
1. ‘Cover what you do best. Link to the rest’. Jeff Jarvis’ famous dictum to newspaper companies, which has been almost entirely ignored by the newspaper industry. It basically means focus on what you do well and let other media owners fill in the gaps, rather than trying to replicate their content and be all things to all people. Creating a standalone social network for your users/readers, when so many other fully functioning social networks already exist goes completely against this.
2. Be open, not closed. Social media represents a big threat/opportunity for publishers, since users can share stories amongst themselves and bypass the publisher entirely. There are many clever and innovative ways publishers could integrate with social networks that are yet to be invented, that could boost engagement and relevance of the publisher’s brand. But inventing a ‘walled garden’ social network for their own users is lame. It’s also a classically News Corp move. It’s like at the bottom thesun.co.uk they have a links section with ‘news from around the web’, and all the links point exclusively to News Corp sites like Fox News and New York Post. Which are of tiny interest to Sun users!
3. The network effect. Social networks rise in usefulness and value to users according to the size of the network. They’re a bit like railway networks in that respect, in that a network with only 2 stations is of limited interest, but a network that covers every inch of the country is terrific. Facebook is fantastically useful for users because everyone they know is on it. What’s the point of a social network like MYsun, which might (optimistically) have about 5% of your friends on it? It doesn’t really work as a social network then does it?
4. What, exactly, is in it for the users? MYsun has loads of benefits. News Corp can boost their magical database of 20m users with some highly-engaged potential customers; they can cross-promote other Sun services like SunTalk; their reporters can talk direct to consumers for quotes to run in the paper; they can use it for immediate reader feedback and research; they can even sell stuff, like holidays.
But all these benefits are for News Corp; I struggle to think of any real benefit for users in simply replicating all the things they already do with facebook
the last few weeks has seen plenty of publishers, most notably Rupert Murdoch, criticising Google for the quality of their traffic. there’s a couple of things that I think really need to be understood about Google and it’s benefits
1. Google is central to net users’ experience of the internet – it’s not the enemy. it’s not about casual users lazily trolling around looking for free stuff vs your engaged users coming straight to you. Google is central to the way people use your site, and is in fact a tool of engagement. My favourite news website is guardian.co.uk. To go there I type ‘guardian’ into my search window; if I want to look for something I remember reading on guardian.co.uk I will use Google (rather than guardian.co.uk’s own search tool); if I want to look for guardian.co.uk’s coverage of a news story I will go to Google and type e.g. ‘sarah plain autobiography guardian’ as I know this will be easier than navigating the site for the story. Am I not an ‘engaged’ user?
2. There is no low quality traffic – only low quality content. This is Rupert Murdoch’s whinge about Google:
“If they’re just search people and there are ten, 20, 50 references on that subject and they look through and see an interesting headline and hit that… when they click it, sure, they get a page of a story that’s in my paper. Who knows who they are or where they are? They don’t suddenly become loyal readers of our content.”
So in other words, this is the seemingly-reasonable argument that Google delivers low-quality readers to timesonline.co.uk or theaustralian.com.au, as they’re just casual users who don’t value the content.
This is rubbish: the harsh truth is that this is your fault as a publisher for not producing content people value enough to become loyal to. Probably because it’s been commoditised to such an extent that it is completely undifferentiated from every other news site. There is no low-quality traffic, only low-quality content
(Obviously it’s impossible for publishers to convert more than a fraction of search traffic into loyal readers (or customers), but that’s just one of the realities of the internet. Having said that (a) the more unique and differentiated your content is, the better you will be at doing this, and (b) at some point, most of your most engaged and loyal users likely started off as search traffic)
3. Google follows logic of the mass market – if you’re not a mass-market brand don’t worry as much about Google. Again, the problem is not with Google it’s with publishers bending over backwards to get good Google SRPs. Google is a popularity contest – it doesn’t rank by what the most discerning people read, or what the best content is, or the content that was produced by high-quality paid journalists; it ranks by what most people are searching for.
Publishers realise this, and so over time, thought they were playing a very clever strategy of producing the type of content that they think will pop up in more searches. This garners traffic but produces undifferentiated, samey, generic content with interchangeable headlines and copy (and in some cases, keyword stuffing with and black-hat SEO with high-demand keywords like ‘Britney Spears’).
But if you’re not a mass market brand that produces mass-market copy, why try and compete here? Publishers need to realise that while being a well-optimised site is a great thing (from the point of view of user experience as much as being high in SRPs), it’s absolutely not the only thing.
two pieces of research here both saying the same thing. First of all from PaidContent/Harris Interactive, this chart that shows that 13% of 16-24s would pay to keep reading if their fave news site started charging. This compares to 35+ readers, where only 1%-2% would do the same.
Then from Continental Research:
“In our research, 26% of 16-34-year-olds were prepared to make micropayments, compared with 18% of those aged over 35″
So that’s interesting. Wouldn’t you think that the, *ahem*, ‘digital natives’, who never bought a newspaper, who think that it’s their right to get free music/movies/news, would be least likely to pay?
Could be that the digital natives are also native to online payment – iTunes, asos, amazon, ringtones, yada yada – that paying for content comes more naturally to them. And for the older demographics, who think of the internet as an inferior substitute for TV/paper, and who are too scared to pay for stuff online. I think there’s an interesting project in the offing on young vs old attitude to news content and perception of value.
happened across some excellent points, well made, by the Australian business journalist Alan Kohler (for my money one of the best business journalists on the planet) on his excellent business spectator site.
Kohler breaks down the key issues around paid content in a really simple, really persuasive analysis, that deserves to be read more:
The lesson for News Corp and other publishers is that there is no intrinsic ‘value’ in what they produce other than what readers and users see in it. And readers and users are pretty agnostic as to whether the person who wrote it went to journalism school and is demanding a paycheque, or they’re just an enthusiastic amateur. It may be some time before consumers are prepared to get their knowledge of the wider world from, say, trending topics on Twitter, but it is possible, and undoubtedly on the increase.
[News Corp digital media exec Richard] Freudenstein replied: “Quality journalism comes at a price. Although they play a key role in the digital age, even the best-intentioned citizen journalists and bloggers cannot provide the same service. Journalism is not a commodity …”
Actually, it probably is a commodity now, Richard, after 15 years of publishers, including you, giving it away and, more importantly, the appearance of vast numbers of non-journalists happily producing high quality “content” for nothing or very little.And is there any standard qualification for the “quality journalist” who produces it, so I know that what I’m paying for is worth paying for?The problem is that publishers like News Corp never did anything to define or distinguish their journalism to stop it becoming a commodity. Everyone talks about “quality journalism” but what is it? I have my own ideas about that, but is there a definition written down anywhere that I can check against what I’m reading to determine whether it’s “quality journalism”, not a commodity, and therefore “should come at a price”?
Here’s another excellent quote from same piece:
It is a colossal miscalculation to think that consumers distinguish between stuff they read on paper and stuff they read on a website, and that they have somehow decided they will pay for one and not the other.
There’s a lesson here for those who claim that consumers “demand” free news online and will never pay for access. They don’t demand any such thing, they just take it because it’s there. If all news sites started charging for access, then they’d pay as the consumer desire for news is still there, and consumers already pay for news in paper form.
So Rupert Murdoch has threatened to remove his News Corp owned newspaper websites from Google. First of all, let me preface by saying that I’m sure this will never ever happen, for the following reasons:
(1) Murdoch seems confused about his own properties’ policies on search engines. He implies that the Wall Street Journal has already removed itself from SRPs, but as lots of other people have pointed out, this isn’t the case. If you search for Kraft-Cadburys you can see WSJ pages returning high in the results – you just can’t access the article if you try and click on it.
(2) Someone in his organisation will have a word with him if this ever comes close to following through with this silly threat.
What would happen to News Corp’s traffic if it did remove itself from Google however. Over the last few months, about 22% of The Sun.co.uk’s traffic originated from search engines. I had actually expected it to be closer to 40%
News today that News Corp’s plan to charge for online content have hit a delay and now possibly won’t happen by next June. Not all that surprising, when you consider they’ve now had time to do plenty of research that no doubt shows what most other research on the subject shows … that is that only 5% of users would pay for content.
More likely what’s behind this delay is the realisation that (a) they need a significant chunk of fellow content publishers to partner with them and agree to move to a paywall, and (b) most other publishers will be waiting and watching to see how News Corp do before they even consider switching.
According to Rupe they’ve been talking to other publishers such as the Telegraph. It’s not surprising that the UK seems to be the centre of their paywall efforts, as this is the region that seems to be suffering most from an advertising recession. According to some recent figures I’ve seen from the IAB, the rate of online display advertising in the UK is likely to decline by about 5% in 2010, when every other country will see price inflation.
Getting other publishers on board is absolutely critical for News Corp, and this is why this Google effort could be quite important. By producing a simple, one-stop interface for consumers to get access to news by internet & smartphone, across a whole range of sites, Google can drastically reduce the transaction costs for consumers, and could be one big step on the way to making this thing work.
fine article from venture capitalist Bill Gurley about Google’s move into SatNav. Apparently Garmin’s stock dropped 17% on Google’s announcement. There’s also a good exposition of Google’s model of ‘less than free’ for their Android OS which is worth reading … Google are basically paying handset makers (through search ad revenue splits) to use their OS. How exactly are other OS manufacturers, whose model is based on charging handset makers for using their system, supposed to compete with that?