Engagement is the key

Every day I’m more convinced that the key to the future of journalism online is engagement. The latest evidence is a piece by Columbia J-School’s Bill Grueskin taking issue with the “HuffPo’s stealing our lunch money!” case put forward by aggregator haters. Grueskin concludes:

“The value of advertising online ought to be measured more by engagement than by sheer numbers, that is, more by metrics like time spent or page views per user than by the sheer number of people coming to the site, many of whom may not assign any value to the journalists who generated the content.”

There’s a strong case to be made that the real problem facing online journalism is a lack of unique content, and a lack of focus about the content being served up. A surfeit of essentially commodified content leads to thinner, more ephemeral engagement, and thus lower CPM’s. Rich, distinctive content leads to deeper engagement, and higher CPM’s.

So stop bitching about aggregators, and focus on using the unbelievably powerful tools at at our disposal (public insight networks, search, visualization, etc.) to create journalism that surprises, delights and informs people so powerfully that they’ll spend an hour on your site with you.

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2 thoughts on “Engagement is the key

  1. I would distinguish between adhoc news (“ticker new”) and indepth articles (forget about all other journalistic formats for now).

    Adhoc news are ubiquous. You can change the stylesheets and still they are the same wherever you read them. The next level of the future of journalism which I call news3.0 will require us to find a way to deal with both: the adhoc news problem and the unique content issue.

    I like your request for more quality measures in (online) advertising. In fact advertisers already know the places where quality traffic can be found.

    • andrewhaeg says:

      Steffen: I’m curious to know where advertisers go to find quality traffic. This feels to me like the next phase of online development, driving more engaged users vs. drive-by traffic.

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