“This is the most exciting time ever, to be in journalism. More people are consuming more content in more ways than ever.” -Mike Allen
This morning’s conversation featured Manav Tanneeru, wearer of many hats at CNN.com, Dave Morgan, Executive Editor of Yahoo! North America, Mike Allen of Politico and John Bracken, Director of New Media at Knight Foundation (Knight is one of Tribune’s generous benefactors, and we love Knight. Shoutout.)
Create Content with Value, Cause It’s Competitive Out There
The success of Politico (which started with 30 employees and is now nearing 200), is based on the premise, “What if we did a paper with only interesting stories?” The changing habits of consuming news (less loyalty to the major papers, brands) has been a benefit.
“Traffic is one of the attributes we consider, we don’t even tell our reporters our traffic because we dont want them to value that above our audience. We’re not there to serve a mass audience,” said Allen. “Think about ‘if i didnt write this story, or made this video, would I read it?” It’s amazing how many things in our news orgs dont meet that test. Before you invest time producing something, would someone email this, blog about it, would i book segment based on this? If you’re hitting a couple of those, you’re breaking through and creating value for your audience.”
Yahoo’s thinking about original content as well. It’s aiming to change the content they provide. “Yahoo is traditionally a good aggregator, but if all we’re doing is distributing great partner content, then we’ll be replaced,” said Morgan. The company’s web strategy is moving more toward reporting for the audience and not just hosting the audience. A lot of people can do commodity information – score of the game, who won the election – what do you add to that? What is the unique content you provide.
“Everyone can do their job on a laptop, which means anyone else can too. If we can’t do it shorter and sooner, someone else will and should. That’s the great part about the way people consume news now, it’s almost completely a meritocracy. it used to be if you were the Miami Herald, LA Times, you had a guaranteed audience. We don’t have guaranteed time with the audience anymore,” said Allen.
It’s Not All About the Pageviews
Remarkable ideas are remarked on, remarkable content moves up. It’s wrong for traditional companies to think, how can I move up in search rankings instead of, what can i do to make irresistible content?
When we get too obsessed with what people want to know, are we shortchanging them on what they NEED to know? There’s little interest in non-US news in the US, but the world’s more connected than ever. Will there still be outlets to provide the important stuff that the audience isn’t naturally hungry for?
“In the foundation world, we get grant applications that say, our web traffic is this, this number of Twitter followers, etc… What are web metrics that matter? What does that really mean?”
If you’re a reporter you should not be thinking about SEO first, but still, everyone in the newsroom should have general understanding of core principles that allow something to be elevated. CNN chooses slugs very carefully, Daily beast used tags in URLs, etc.
If you’re starting something, you’re a lot better off to start in niche because you have a more obvious revenue stream. You have a specific audience to target, i.e. Politico’s focus is on serving Washington insiders.
The two major considerations of Politico as they head into the future:
1.) Sideways traffic, and how to maximize it. (Audiences don’t go to homepages as much as specific story pages, much of the readership consumes content without typing in politico.com)
2.) Fewer people with desktops/laptops – how to move to mobile.
Generally, part of our task is to think about the holes being created at the same time all this exciting change is happening. “When there’s a news gap, it’s very significant. The newspaper has been the closest thing we have had to a community forum, and when that goes away, what replaces it?
Is the frame we have for local news still appropriate for the digital age? How do we carry it over to the web, when people are going to their own places for news?” said Bracken.
Local news is an area most ripe for innovation.. using tools already available is empowering. But news experiments won’t fill all holes. If Brooklyn was reported with just blogs and Twitter, there would be huge gaps in its portrayal. How do we dig deeper?
“If youve arrived at a winning model, enjoy it because it’s already changed.” -Yahoo!’s Dave Morgan