Good post. One of the bigger problems with the ITZ-Belden study is that in the slides just prior to to the ones about “fly-bys” versus core loyalty, there are unique visitor numbers indicating UV counts beyond 100 percent of market population. Since those numbers are questionable, and evidently in conflict with recent NAA-Nielsen numbers, it tends to throw the later loyalty numbers into doubt. Nor, as far as I’m aware, has ITZ-Belden done any follow-up to clarify things.
“…it doesn’t strike me as particularly difficult to figure out where a reader’s coming from and show him, say, other most-popular stories, or what his Facebook friends have read, or what people who also searched for a given term read.”
I’m not sure I agree with this statement at multiple levels. Automatic fine-grain tracking of visitor geographic locales at a server level is still not trivial. And by automatic fine-grain I mean down to a postal code level without additional elements such as registrations and logins.
It seems to me that the second part of the statement also tends to distract from what should be a higher priority end game which goes something like this: In a recent Pew Research study on newspaper readership, a key point which emerged among younger readers was that although they liked reading a newspaper, they had a difficult time understanding local issues because of a lack of background available on questions of, for example, civic debate which may have evolved over a period of years. Hence the graying of reader demographics.
The point here is that until news orgs start providing such background, which has the potential to raise the level of dialogue, the conversation is likely to be limited by parameters of “most-popular,” or Facebook friends, or similar search terms.
“None of this makes the challenges faced by newspapers smaller. But it does suggest that the solutions may be found on a smaller scale.”
I agree, but there are a couple of factors with this which make smaller scale innovation problematic. The first is that there seems to be a common viewpoint on the part of newspaper companies that everything that needs to be done needs to involve large economies of scale. For reasons somewhat related to this, there has also been a long-term shift away from a William Allen White style of journalism which reflects local communities toward one which mostly provides local communities with a window on the world. We know instantly about a bomb in Beirut, for example, but almost nothing about business malaise on Main Street.
Thanks for the comment, Perry. I think we agree on most everything here. I absolutely agree on the need for most papers to focus more closely on Main Street than Beirut — I’ve written a few times about how newspapers should do everything in their power to make themselves civic glue again, particularly since Google is still finding its way in local search.
Your comment re the Pew study reminds me of Matt Thompson’s Nieman article on why readers love Wikipedia. Agree with your points there, though I think there’s still room for providing better context to readers based on how they’ve arrived at an article. Surely we can do both.
I used “where a reader’s coming from” sloppily — I didn’t mean geography, but the nature of the referring link: Is the reader coming from a query for a certain search term, from a Facebook/Digg link, from a link in a most-popular list, from an “email this” link, etc.
[…] Posted in Branding, Communities, Paid Content by reinventingthenewsroom on October 15, 2009 My post earlier this week led to an interesting phone conversation with Greg Harmon of Belden Interactive. […]
Just read the Newman pdf. That sucked away my night.
Sorry to steal your non-work hours, Fitzy. But it was really interesting, right?
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Web veteran Jason Fry explores the challenges faced by newspapers in the digital world.