With all the talk about whether the content of newspapers is of a quality the public will be willing to pay for online, it took a search of our paper’s archives recently to remind me that … it is. It’s not necessarily the quality of the individual story (although that’s obviously there), but of the narrative – the archive – that presents an ongoing and valuable commodity.
A mistake of mainstream media has been to ignore and devalue that content.
So if there’s going to be a paywall, maybe it should be for archived content. Not just archived material that you can do a text search on, but a powerful database of related, interwoven “smart” content. At the moment that’s largely unavailable. Allow users to follow the background story, or stories, that give context to the current revision, whether that history is contained in text, image, audio or video content.
As such, it equally applies to any media, or content creator, but this particular post approaches it from the mindset of print.
I had reason to search NewsText, a database of newspaper archives, for the entire history of the Queensland Government’s lobbyist issue, where former government ministers were representing lobbying firms on development projects. During the search I saw clearly the linear progression and connectedness of these articles across months, even years, all presented chronologically. It’s there without tags or related story linking, just a regular text search. Where the authors were different, and in some cases even the publication, the full story still unfolded.
But that linear value is completely lost, both in the newspaper because it isn’t possible, and online when it isn’t utilised. In the newspaper it’s only possible to read each article as a standalone piece, without reference or even knowledge of the wealth of background to the story, or the ongoing work a publication or journalist has devoted to covering that story.
There is the capability to do it online but, in most cases, it’s not being done. People can currently pay for this archival content, with access to historical textual news searches through services like NewsText or Lexis Nexis, but the ability to do that should be provided online from the originating news source.
And why not monetise it?
It’s not like it’s a service offered now and, like academic articles, it could provide a story précis or the context in which the search terms are contained. Some kind of context would help the consumer decide if they want to pay for the entire article, or a sequence of related articles and/or other media content.
If it’s done it shouldn’t be prohibitive to pay for articles. Ease of access is the barrier to overcome, and anything over just a few cents per article would quickly become prohibitively expensive.
You only pay $1.69 AU ($0.99 US) for a song on iTunes, and the whole point of that purchase is to have a product you can use (listen to) again and again. Most people who purchase an article don’t intend to use it over and over again. It’s a one time, single use purchase – generally for reference only and a cheap price should reflect that.
It’s wrong that newspapers and other content creators didn’t start doing this much earlier, or adopt the best practices of somebody who has figured it out. It’s not just another “related articles” plugin, although it includes that, but a seriously robust system that makes the archive useful. Content on news media sites is archived online but, if it wasn’t for Google, it would be nigh on impossible to actually find it.
Everyone has failed at converting content to the web and leveraging the value of their archives. Not just mainstream media. Everybody.
The MediaShift Idea Lab have linked to a great list of examples of mainstream media using location-based technology in news delivery.
Personally, I like the idea of geo-tagging content so that readers can get a map view of their news across the city, state or country, and then be able to pick out what news to follow in feeds based on particular regions.
I’ve been experimenting with Yahoo!Pipes in trying to do that with news content that hasn’t specifically been prepared to be ‘locative’. It’s certainly time-intensive experimentation while I teach myself, and is yet to yield the results I’d like.
The list linked to by Paul Lamb is by LoJo connnect, who are also conducting a survey of news outlets and their offerings/experiments in locative media.
Social Media Optimisation, or SMO, is gaining momentum as the new content distribution buzzword. Content is increasingly shared, and news content particularly is delivered through social networking sites. Will SMO replace SEO, search engine optimisation, as the way news organisations get their content seen by a wider audience?
A New York Times article last week tried to explain the future of news distribution by describing how ‘the young’ share news online via social networks.
SMO, or Social Media Optimisation, is one of the most important stories of the new media campaign – for several reasons.
- MSM (main stream media) are beginning to understand that social content distribution is a serious threat to their current distribution methods
- MSM in the main were disrespectfully late in adopting SEO, and
- It’s only now, well into the Facebook boom, that people are starting to take notice of the value of SMO.
While SEO, Search Engine Optimisation, will remain very important to news gathering and searching methods, it could soon be superceded by a much more important player in news distribution channels and strategies – Social Media Optimisation, or SMO.
How do people share information online? How do they find it? How does social media facilitate this?
What the New York Times article shows is the acceptance, if only partial, of the concept of SMO – that news is no longer force-fed, it is now shared, social, viral, and word of mouth.
Young people expect to see video with campaign stories
New York Times
â€œAnd they’ll find it elsewhere if you don’t give it to them, and then that’s the link that’s going to be passed around over e-mail and instant message,â€œ says Huffington Post’s Danny Shea. Brian Stelter writes: â€œYounger voters tend to be not just consumers of news and current events but conduits as well — sending out e-mailed links and videos to friends and their social networks. And in turn, they rely on friends and online connections for news to come to them. In essence, they are replacing the professional filter — reading the Washington Post, clicking on CNN.com — with a social one.â€œ
Like it or not, for traditional news media the news is a commodity that must sell. For it to sell and make money, it must be traded, clicked, monetised, and advertised. When content went online, MSM (mainstream media) very slowly caught up to the idea of SEO – making content user and search engine friendly.
Arguments from MSM – and let me be brutally honest here – dinosaurs, have been that using SEO techniques in news media is simply bowing to a digital master. Many in MSM have for too long bucked at what they call ‘writing headlines for a machine’.
That argument represents a fundamental lack of knowledge about how the future of information distribution will be shaped, and does not bode well for the necessary rapid uptake of SMO – integration with Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, Pownce, Tumblr, Stumbleupon, and numerous other variety of social networking startups.
People use the internet to search for information. When doing so, people looking for a story about the conclusion of the divorce trial between Heather Mills and Paul McCartney would most likely use the search terms, heather mills divorce, or paul mccartney divorce, or heather mills paul mccartney divorce, or even add the word settlement to any of those searches. They will not search using a print headline like â€œDamnation of Her Ladyshipâ€œ or â€œLady Liarâ€œ, from the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror respectively, both on March 19.
People use a search engine to find what they are looking for, so writing page or article titles that assists them to do that is by no means writing headlines for a machine – it is writing headlines that will help real people find information using a machine.
But as MSM has only recently grasped the importance of doing this, and just as they catch up and start optimising content for search, the rules of the game gradually begin to change again.
MSM need to not be left behind this time. News in the new world of digital media is shared. Social media is word of mouth advertising. Social media is recommending a product to a friend, and whether that be viral video or a news story, it is a link to content of mutual interest, shared among a community of friends, a seperate community of family, another community of professional contacts, and innumerable other communities that gather around hobbies.
That MySpace, or Facebook, may be the flavour of the social networking month and gone tomorrow as another new social networking site enters the friend-swapping fray, is no good reason to neglect to stay in the game. If you’re only just starting to embrace MySpace as the skyrocketing Facebook begins to face new competition from bebo, you’re two full lengths behind the leaders.
The only saving grace for MSM in the past is that they have generally formed a pack that lag behind the innovators. Be warned though, as soon as your competition gets a clue and embraces the reality of online content sharing and community building in their news distribution strategy – you’ll find out just how lazy you’ve been when you lose community respect and relevance.
When the editors and owners hit the panic button and ask, â€œWhat the hell have you been doing? We’ve been left behind!â€œ – What will you say?
Integration is not just newsrooms. Integration is leading innovation, or at the very least keeping up with it.
Traditional media no longer control the news distribution channels.
Seed your content. Link out. Allow your video to be embedded, linked to, displayed elsewhere.
Apologies for the infrequency of posts. The site has been undergoing a protracted redesign, and in the process has seen a dramatic decline in its most important aspect – content.
In the meantime, please take a look at one of the new additions, my Reading List, which has been added to the right sidebar.
It’s my selection of the best and most useful content from a wide array of new media blogs and industry sites that I regularly read.
Updated in real time as I hand-select the most valuable content, you can read the best of new media and online news industry content that I would be blogging about if I had the time.
Alternatively, I have also added related post links to the bottom of each individual post page, through which you can delve deeper into this site’s content.
An interesting timeline of how the Digg’s built up. A single-author niche blog pulls 50,000, then 80,000 page views on consecutive days, up from an average of 1,000/day since being launched only 10 days beforehand. But do the general online newsreading population use Digg, or is it just the geek’s domain?
I haven’t got the time to go into the specifics, but search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the most important aspects of web production and driving traffic to your site. The following seven articles will give you more than enough information to get started with.
- How to Write Magnetic Headlines
- SEO Copywriting 2.0
- Copywriting 101: An Introduction to Copywriting
- Blog Architecture: The reason Iâ€™m ignoring your blog
- SEO with WordPress for beginners
- How to Attract Links and Increase Web Traffic â€“ The Ultimate Guide
- The Definitive Guide to Semantic Web Markup for Blogs
In truth these aren’t necessarily the top seven SEO articles ever written.
What is true is that they are all excellent guides to what everyone in web production should be looking out for.