Nieman reports on a fascinating experiment in traffic-chasing content from Gawker which provides all sorts of insights into just how valuable that content is, and where it sits in the wider editorial mix. Here’s what they did:
“Each day for two weeks, a [different] single staff writer would be assigned “traffic-whoring duty.””
Then they measured the results. Surprisingly, perhaps, the traffic-chasing content (listed in full in my previous post here) racked up slightly smaller traffic numbers (around 55,000 per post, compared to 60,000 for the less attention-seeking content). But of course, being much quicker and cheaper to produce, that’s not so important – you can still do more of them with the same resources. What is important – in Gawker’s case at least – are the metrics. And here there was also a difference, with the ‘normal’ content attracting more regular readers (which are more attractive to advertisers) and the junky SEO material bringing in new ones. But this isn’t a lesson in quality over quantity, or substance trumping junk. It’s about how the two work together – and not just in a commercial way, but with regard to team management as well.
“The more substantive stories serve as tentpoles for the entire site; once in a while, they’ll blow up huge, and they’re probably more appealing to the kind of brand advertisers Gawker seeks. (A sampling of current advertisers: Virgin Mobile, Samsung, Corning, Bonobos, AMC, BlackBerry. Gawker sells itself to advertisers by promoting the fact that its readers are both younger and richer than The Huffington Post’s, People’s, Slate’s, or TMZ’s.) “It also at least has the potential to lead to happier writers who know when they need to chase pageviews and when they don’t. ““Traffic sex work is exhausting, but it’s fun, and on other days it’s nice to have extra time to put the extra effort into important and newsworthy stories about which fast-food restaurants use aborted fetuses in their meals,” said Max Read, who obviously writes for Gawker, based on that quote.”
Gawker have adopted the rota pattern as a permanent fixture for now. The Nieman post also has more, including how competition, consumption, and commercial demands surrounding online publishing continue to change.