By admin | October 9, 2007
Originally presented at the Gay and Lesbian Market Symposium in New York City on 9-26-07
A tremendous shift has occurred in the online media landscape over the past two years that has affected all online publishers, from large corporate sites and media portals to personal and professional blogs to individual MySpace pages. The recent fall of the New York Times’ content wall, Times Select, is a key indicator that we are now officially in an Attention Based Economy. With over $10 million in annual revenue, Times Select was not an unsuccessful venture. Its fault was that it impeded the growth of attention or traffic to the site. Web 2.0 has ushered in a new set of rules for online success. Today’s successful online publishers are those attracting the most growth in traffic, and maintaining it, within their own niche markets. The application of the four key principles defined below forge a path to success in this new online media landscape.
I. PUTTING THE USER FIRST: CREATION OF A FEEDBACK
Currently many companies are still using a “top down” model in the creation of content and do not invite readers, or users, to be a part of the conversation as a general rule. Successful online publishers are not only forging two way relationships with their readers, but asking for their opinions and participation. This is the number one vital element in a Web 2.0 model.
By actively seeking reader interaction, an opportunity arises. Understand what current users are passionate about, and one can see beyond the data simple traffic statistics provide. Create a new content stream by allowing users to post their own comments, stories, pictures, audio and video (to varying degrees). This presents the opportunity to identify niche-focused content creators who can be tapped to become advisors, authors, and editors of very specific topics. Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post now recruits bloggers almost exclusively through the comments and content readers submit.
Though opening this door is frightening, it is now necessary and must be understood as key to any successful online strategy. Communities such as Craigslist have proven that the vast majority of readers/users will self police the few who take advantage of the community. Malicious comments or illegal UGC (User Generated Content) is quickly flagged and taken down by ardent fans.
II. MAKING FRIENDS IN THE MARKETPLACE: DEVELOP COOPERATIVE RELATIONSHIPS WITH COMPETITIVE MEDIA
If the number one rule of the new Web 2.0 world is to listen to the reader and ask for their participation, the number two rule would be to acknowledge the existing media landscape and participate in active “co-opertition” with media “frenemies.”
At one time the accepted online publishing goal was to create content that would attract readers while maintaining enough “sticky” features on ones portal to keep them at the site for as long as possible. Meanwhile, the publisher would foster continued readership by creating barriers that prevented users from leaving the property. Hyperlinks were used almost exclusively to bring readers to another site or site section owned or maintained by the publisher.
In the past few years, it has been realized by successful online publishers that this silo approach is no longer a successful strategy. Now that Google and other search engines give credit for links and relevancy in equal measure, many site owners have begun symbiotic relationships with other media outlets, giving credit for and commenting on breaking news from other sources.
Beyond increasing the traffic of both parties, this also fosters goodwill in the increasingly stratified online media marketplace. A blogger or author is much more likely to link back to exclusive content if they receive the same courtesy in return, fostering a perceived larger online community by the end user. Ultimately it is the reader who is the beneficiary of this co-opertition as new stories and events are built upon by the larger community allowing for a more full understanding by all.
The online universe of GLBT individuals, or any niche market, is increasingly finite. Beyond an incremental increase over time, the vast majority of potential readers, users, consumers, and partners are already online. No single outlet will retain exclusive relationships with them. By acknowledging and acting from this perspective, we provide a service to both ourselves and our fellow web citizens.
III. CREATING RELEVANT QUALITY CONTENT: CHOOSE FLAGSHIP TOPICS TO FOLLOW AND FULLY COVER
With the overwhelming number of media outlets now available, consumers are becoming savvier with the way they spend time with each outlet. Those outlets that are continually updated and provide the latest information on specifically chosen niche and micro-niche topics tend to be favored as reporters and aggregators. This reputation is earned over time by applying the principals above and by creating a name for oneself with one or more niche focused flagship topics.
Though this approach may seem anti-intuitive at first, many websites and web personalities, stemming back to the mid-nineties, have created successful lasting reputations by focusing on an issue to the point of near total association. From Matt Drudge and Monica Lewinsky, to Josh Marshall and the Federal Attorney scandal, to Chris Crocker and Britney, each used a combination of their own original content and the content of others to bring and maintain attention or traffic to their respective corners of the Web.
Though many have stumbled upon this strategy by accident, it is possible to take on and own micro-niche topics with forward planning. Looking ahead into the news cycle or media sphere, online publishers can stake out defined niche topics they believe will become relevant to their target users. This approach has the added advantage of paying off in search engine placement should those topics become suddenly popular, making your previous reporting or aggregating a nexus for traffic.
IV. DEVELOPING AN IDENTITY: THE NARRATOR’S VOICE AND PERSONALITY
“This odd admixture of reporter, columnist, tipster, and ombudsman—often wrapped into the same post—is central to TPM’s identity.
Each of the most successful high growth online publishers in the past year, from MySpace to Perez Hilton, has well utilized identity and personality to attract attention and thus traffic. As mentioned in the quote above, even if no original reporting was being done, readers would still go to TPM (Talking Points Memo) in order to visit with the defining character at its center, Josh Marshall. In the past few years, the trusted “voice” of established media brands, especially those with a basis in print, have been seriously challenged by the tremendous growth of the snarky, quirky, real personalities of the Web 2.0 world. Though there are many reasons for this, including those covered above, it is the development of a unique voice or voices that is arguably the element that makes today’s websites most sticky. People return again and again to see life through the filters of these “weblebrities.”
Successful niche-aggregators of news, pictures, videos, gossip and stories such as Queerty, Jossip, Towleroad, Perez Hilton, QueerSighted, HuffingtonPost, TruthDig, Gawker, Defamer, BoiFromTroy, AfterEllen, AfterElton, YouTube, and many more, have developed points of view for their sites with individual narrative voices or personalities to get across that point of view. Even though they occasionally inflame their readers, that only seems to add to the attention, and thus traffic, that these sites garner.
In conclusion, online publishers of all sizes and from every market have applied these principles to organically drive traffic to their properties. This traffic is made of users, readers, consumers, and partners that are engaged with these sites, their content, and their personalities. Moving forward, it is up to these publishers, agencies, marketers, and advertisers to work together to find the best way to monetize this traffic.
Links from this Post
One Response to “Second Coming: Four Defining Principles of Web 2.0”
You must be logged in to post a comment.