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.