Thursday, May 08, 2008

Some People *Really* Don't Get It

This post may seem like a rant about something very small and local, but it's really not. At the heart of it is a concept that's relevant to any business looking to increase traffic to its website -- especially a media company.

According to a recent We Media/Zogby Interactive poll (as reported by Reuters)
Nearly 70 percent of Americans believe traditional journalism is out of touch, and nearly half are turning to the Internet to get their news.... While most people think journalism is important to the quality of life, 64 percent are dissatisfied with the quality of journalism in their communities.
Radio stations and newspapers across the country are looking at shrinking audiences and circulation numbers as more people move to the Internet for information and entertainment.

As content creators, these businesses have the potential to successfully transition to this new market. But only if they understand why it's important to do so, and how the demands of the Internet differ from their offline business models.

Let's make it country simple: people go online to get instant information. And if potential customers don't see it on your site, they'll search on until they do -- and it's not likely they'll be back.

Real world example (rant time).

Tuesday we had Town Council elections in Orange, Virginia. Wednesday I wanted to find out the results. I started with the two local sources of information -- the Orange Review, and WJMA FM.

The Orange Review is a weekly paper, but on the bottom of their website's front page is a box titled "from the Continuous News Desk." So how current was the Orange Review's news? Over 24 hours after the election, the top story was:

Six scramble for two seats - Published 6 days, 11 hours, 40 minutes ago

News flash: a weekly post is not equal to continuous news.

So I went to the WJMA website and clicked on headline news. Their news was even less helpful:
Incumbents won in Culpeper and lost in Orange in yesterday's town council elections in Culpeper & Orange
WTF?!? We've had this discussion about WJMA's "news" before, and things haven't changed. WHO WON? WHAT ARE THEIR NAMES? They won't tell us who won, but they repeat the names of the counties twice in the same headline!

So I went to the Daily Progress, which is the regional daily paper based in Charlottesville (about 40 miles away). Their headline?

Orange voters pick Gibson, Higginbotham

Thank you. That's all I wanted to know (although the rest of the story was well worth reading and had lots of additional helpful information).

So count me into that 65%.

And there's an economic impact to this story as well. In the future, I'll go to the Daily Progress website for local information. Which means traffic for their site will go up, and traffic for the Orange Review and WJMA sites will go down. And since traffic impacts online ad revenue, the Progress' site just generated a little more money for their company. Sure, I'm just one person, but how many others in Orange County have learned the same lesson?

- Ralph


  1. Something important to note. The Orange County Review is owned by Media General, the same company that owns the Daily Progress. I think between them, they share the same web content coordinator.

  2. Then their coordinator isn't very coordinated. If Media General is using a single source for their Charlottesville, Madison, Greene, Orange, et al. websites, then it should be a simple matter to route content to the sites where it would do the most good.

    If a story has an Orange byline, for example, then it should appear on the Orange Review's site in addition to the Daily Progress' (which would probably be the main source site for this region's news).

    Just create a metadata field for the area the story's relevant to. That way the adminstrator would only have to post to the Progress' website. The other sites could snag the appropriate stories from the Progress site when their posted.

    The more content can be re-purposed, the more valuable it becomes.

    And if you're not going to make the Orange Review website the go-to site for breaking Orange News, why have it at all? Just make an Orange page on the Progress site and be done with it -- or leave it lumped in with "local news," which is where I found it.

    - Ralph

  3. Matthew Rosenberg is doing the best he can with a limited set of resources. The transition for Media General to the web has not been a very smooth one, and we'll see if their strategy works out in the long-term.

    It all depends, I guess, on your sense of local. I for one would love to see more of a regional and state approach, because I think people are better informed if they know what's going on all around them.

    Unfortunately, I'm not currently managing a regional news service.

    Do you have a list of all the folks in Orange County who are gathering news?