Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Internet News Evolution Continues Apace . . .

Mike Fourcher, writing at his blog Vouchification on Jan. 11, posts “21 Things [He] Learned Running Hyperlocal News Sites,” with some interesting bits of wisdom for anyone in the business of trying to attract and retain eyeballs on the Web. 

Full article is here. I’ll go over a few things I found interesting, from my few years’ experience working at Uncharted (and for whom I no longer work, due to time constraints). 

(Fourcher, by the way, runs some successful hyperlocal news sites in the Chicago area, and has had his share of hyperlocal bombs, also in the Chicago area. He knows from whence he speaks.) 

This one seems the most important to me:

Building an audience is getting harder. 

Competition, direct and indirect [is responsible for difficult audience-building]. Readers in 2013 have thousands of news sites to choose from, as well as social media, electronic books, and so much more. Launching a new brand and gaining mind share is getting logarithmically more difficult to do. 

Want to support yourself at least partly with ads? Get a big audience. Fast. 

20% of your consumers consume 80% of your product. Make sure that 20% is big enough.

Ultimately, there is a limited demand for the kind of news you provide. Only so many people live and work in the neighborhood. No matter how much reader development we did, those baseline numbers would not go up. 

Then, we knew that about 30% of your readers checked our site every day. Another 50% checked at least once a week. Even though we had some really dedicated readers, the pool wasn’t big enough to generate lots of ad click-throughs. 

And one more important one, but not really a mind-bending one, for anyone familiar with Clay Shirky and his work: 

The barriers to entry are virtually non-existant in news now. 

With a  free WordPress template and a sense of what’s interesting to readers, you can create a news site that attracts thousands of readers. It may not be any good, but it will attract readers. Regardless of whether they are making money – or even selling ads – these sites are competitors for local news eyeballs. They make it necessary for other local news sites to adopt their methods, because without readers there’s no advertising. 

That’s something that wouldn’t surprise any Clay Shirky fan – he was saying that years ago. 

Most interesting thing Fourcher said, however, is that he believes evolution of the news online into something resembling viability is going to be a slow process, and that what we see now will probably be what it’s like in that distant future, as he predicts no great innovations, but many iterations of the same old thing.

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