I need to create a new TextExpander macro that simply says Martin Langeveld has a great post…” God knows I type that enough.
He gets off to a very good start:
1. Lead with the DotCom brand. Publishers: take out your wallet and check your business card. And have a look at the cards your salespeople hand out. What’s more prominent: the name of your newspaper, or the name of your web site (if it’s even listed on there)? If the biggest element on the card is not your online brand, confiscate all the cards and replace them. Do the same thing with all other printed or online sales materials, rate cards, media kits, whatever. In other words, make sure your graphic message is: we are first and foremost an online news and marketing organization.
This got me thinking about an idea I’d been pitching at my old company earlier this year: A variation on the network model.
For 10-12 years, most local news markets have grown audience and revenue the same way. Flagship news brands benefitted from the rising tide of internet adoption in all markets, the growth of available and cheap broadband, and, somewhat, by a growing focus of newspapers’ former print-only newsrooms on digital media.
In recent years, some markets have embarked on audience diversifcation and growth efforts through the launch of niche sites. These sites are adding to audience and revenue, but are growing slowly and all are based on the traditional strategy of building comprehensive content-focused sites with a newspaper’s own staff and freelancers.
But consider, at least, the network model.
The network model recognizes that the internet is an interconnected space where, in any given audience niche, there exists already rich content, widely dispersed, yet very little smart aggregation and monetization of that content. In my city, Baltimore, for instance, there are more than 270 individual community organizations, most with web sites that are rich in the kind of hyper-local content newspapers wish they we could create and gather. Under the old model, we’d try to replicate that content. Under the new network model, we’d recognize those individual sites – each with a small but passionate audience – as part of a larger potential advertising and content network.
Now imagine that niche – neighborhoods – combined with local moms, and soccer dads, and music fans and book nuts and weight watchers and job seekers and shoppers and church-goers and pet owners and barflies. Imagine all of the little slices of interest in our local markets reassembled into one audience pie.
That’s a business.
Because if we can tag their sites with our ad code, we can help them sell their audience. Newspaper companies – still the dominant local online brand in most markets (though not for long if they’re not careful) can raise their effective reach in their local markets without creating one piece of content or one line of code. And the individual sites? Each month they get a check in the mail. Everybody wins.
This is not untested. Glam Media serves as an example of what you can do when you stop trying to build all your content and “capture” the audience and instead work to leverage the audience that is already there. Last year, Glam overtook iVillage in audience and revenue by embracing the network and finding sites that were already producing content that women in their target wanted and encouraging those sites to join the Glam network.
The chart below (originally from Glam, via Jeff Jarvis) is instructive. The yellow/brown circles represent owned and operated web sites. The purple are independent blogs and web sites that neither iVillage or Glam own. Notice how few of the circles on the Glam side of the chart are yellow.
The Glam model is to spend a whole lot less time building O&O sites, and more time building the network. And it pays off. Last year, Glam earned as much as 70% of its revenue through the network, not through its O&O sites.
To me, that’s a smart way to build both audience and revenue – leverage the content and the efforts of independent sites through the power of the network. That’s one way newspapers can begin to grow their online revenue beyond the existing banners and clicks model.