There’s traffic and there’s traffic and one is better than the other. Those casual visitors that land on your site via a search result or similar are not as valuable as the ones who come directly time and again.
As one Fairfax editor recently told the UQ’s JACtalk series: “Attracting lots of readers is great but it’s also about who they are and how valuable a reader they are”.
Conal Hanna, recently appointed Brisbane Times managing editor, said verticals, or communities of interest, were becoming increasingly important. This had been played out at Essiental Baby, which was one of Fairfax’s best performing site. The site for new parents had a loyal community and generated 10,000 blog posts a day, moderated by volunteers in the community.
This is not a new idea. For decades Times Topics has been archiving stories under topics and the Financial Times’ In Depth section has for some time created microsites around specific themes. The Telegraph, Guardian and News.com.au all have similar sections.
I managed the FT’s In Depth section for about two years and had success increasing traffic, which rose by about 150 per cent in a 12-month period. A lot of this was down to better editorial decision making and production processes ie: creating strong themes, making sure the right stories were added to the page and promoting then in relevant places on the site and in the newspaper.
The next step surely is to monetise such sections. I can see why Qantas might pay to advertise on WotNew’s Qantas page, or Madonna might try to sell CDs on the relevant Times Topic. But inventory on news topic pages might be trickier. Who would pay to advertise on the global financial crisis page, or a page about oil spills?