[…] Greg Harmon on Web Traffic Numbers « Reinventing the Newsroom reinventingthenewsroom.wordpress.com/2009/10/15/harmon_on_traffic_numbers – view page – cached Posted in Branding, Communities, Paid Content by reinventingthenewsroom on October 15, 2009 — From the page […]
Thanks for the followup. Also a size-large attaboy to Greg Harmon for expanding on the original ITZ-Belden presentation. For example, the 40,000 UV count with 20,000 local from Billings, Montana (~90,000 population) makes a lot more sense and is roughly in line with NAA-Nielsen numbers which seem to indicate UV’s of 20-25 percent in the aggregate among metro dailies.
For the ink-stained wretches among us who come from news side, crunching these kinds of numbers tends to prompt a thousand yard stare, but the local UV’s are important to the business side of things if you consider that there seems to be two divergent directions the business of journalism is taking as it transits online. One direction is that the media “play” should be targeted at a global audience where the scale dictates that what counts most are sheer page hits. The New York Times, for example, in its effort to maintain its position as a national newspaper of record falls into this category which, for want of a better term, can be called the top-down model.
At the other end of the spectrum are local efforts such as the West Seattle Blog, Voice of San Diego, or Howard Owens’ Batavian which are coming at things from a bottoms-up model. And one of the bigger problems faced by smaller news orgs now spooling up is that without accurate anticipated visitor numbers it’s difficult to measure the bottom threshold of where a community’s size can support some type of initially adequate yet growable and sustainable effort. Is there a potential business model for small local operations? Maybe, if you consider a couple of somewhat rhetorical questions.
Here’s the first question: Why would a Billings, Montana hardware store owner expect to sell a hammer to a kid in Bulgaria?
And here’s another one: Is it better to sell ads against 200,000 page hits at $.50 per CPM, or is it better to sell against 20,000 localized page hits at $20 per CPM?
It also seems to me that one of the larger points of confusion about local traffic is because current analysis tools tend to be geared toward the top-down business model. It shouldn’t be that difficult, for example, to use a combination of server logs with IP addresses, cookies, and required-for-story-comments registered logins to get some fairly accurate numbers on locals. And those numbers don’t have to be perfect; they just need to be in the ballpark. They also need to be simple enough for a local merchant to understand without a 30-minute eye-glazing technical explanation. Having such a localized analytical tool also raises a couple of other potentials:
The first is that it gives local merchants a means to budget for an ad spend on a regular basis. Local content is also probably going to have fewer traffic spikes with the exception of the rare man-bites-dog story, for example.
Yet another potential is that although there are proponents of the idea that citizen journalism is the future of news content, the reality is that it has never really gotten much traction. And one reason is because writers need to be paid.
In a story which ran in Forbes, late last month, tech entrepreneur Neil Senturia said he is launching U.S. Local News Network which would attempt to bring yet another national-based model into the local sphere.
“Our business model is Starbucks, not Pizza Hut,” Senturia is quoted as saying.
What was also interesting was that Senturia said he would be eliminating a previous “goofball” writer payment model in which “reporters were paid with stipends plus an 80 percent cut of the ad revenue generated by the pages on which their stories appear.”
Forbes never asked Senturia why it was a goofball idea, and you’re left to wonder if there was something fundamentally flawed about the payment model or if something simpler such as the rate being too high was the problem.
That’s all well said, Perry, thank you for it.
And glad you appreciated the followup. Took a while to come together because I was in deep water mathematically, but I hope it added something to the larger discussion.
[…] loyal users who want the kind of journalism in which Slate specializes. That took me back to my recent discussion with Greg Harmon about traffic numbers and how newspaper audiences may be a lot smaller than […]
[…] Jason Fry does a great job breaking down the numbers with Greg Harmon in this piece on Reinventing the Newsroom. Harmon’s analysis examines just how unique those visitors truly are and how a relatively small portion of users who delete their browser cookies can wreak havoc on the accuracy of the number. […]
[…] few over the empty many. (See also Slate’s David Plotz on core readers vs. drive-bys, and my own conversation about traffic stats with Greg […]
[…] Jason Fry does a great job breaking down the numbers with Greg Harmon in this piece at Reinventing the Newsroom. Harmon’s analysis examines just how unique those visitors truly are and how a relatively small portion of users who delete their browser cookies can wreak havoc on the accuracy of the number. […]
[…] goes right back to my conversation in the fall with Belden Interactive’s Greg Harmon. The first place Harmon tried to make sense […]
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Web veteran Jason Fry explores the challenges faced by newspapers in the digital world.