Sunday, September 16, 2007

Traffic incidents

I got Blaired on Friday.

Tim Blair linked to one of my posts and as a result this blog got more traffic in one day than it did in its first year.

As a matter of habit I regularly check the traffic logs, not because I get much traffic but because I'm curious about where people are coming from and what they are looking for. A fair percentage of the traffic is Australian, but about 50% is international. They find this site via Google and often they're looking for stuff on the Boxing Day Tsunami or Hunter S Thompson or a range of other, usually media related subjects.

For local readers the most popular posts in the last six months have been this one on Fairfax's view about charging for online access and this post on the old death-of-newspapers chestnut.

The average number of daily readers of this blog is around 20 - I write it for myself largely as an annotation tool so it's only an accidental publication. But on Friday Tim Blair sent me 1880 visitors. And then another 500 yesterday. Traffic, or audience, is a marker of success in publishing, and on that basis Blair is extremely successful. (The vital next step as a publisher, of course, is converting a loyal audience into dollars.)

In a Fairfax piece a couple of years back I looked at blog popularity with "influence" as a key indicator. Blair featured at the top of the list then, though I used technorati inbound links as a metric rather than actual traffic. Influence is a problematic concept because it is very difficult to measure, however there's no question that large audience numbers confer a level of influence. This recent New York Magazine profile on Matt Drudge makes the same conclusion going as far as to call Drudge America's most influential journalist.

Blair and Drudge are similar in many ways. Not least of which is that when you get "Drudged" your traffic spikes noticeably. Whenever Drudge links to another site he invariably sends it a large volume of readers. I started noticing this on around the time of the Iraq invasion in 2003. My colleagues at the noticed the same thing. Since then the art of securing a link on Drudge, or Fark, or Slashdot or wherever has become a standard try-on in every young digital marketing exec's tool kit. It's far too important to be left to pure chance or, worse, to editorial.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Embracing web 2.0 and the impact on news

In a recent wide ranging and typically well argued piece, Simon Waldman makes the obvious, but no less important, point that Web 2.0 and its elements, including blogs, are part of a fundamental change to publishing. According to Waldman, this change has four main foci:

  1. The change from publishing once a day, to publishing immediately and constantly.
  2. The change from being entirely UK focussed (In the case of The Guardian) to having a global outlook.
  3. The shift from text and pictures to audio and video
  4. The shift from audience to community.

It's that last point that I think contains the key to longevity and future success for news organisations. Blogging is an important part of that, and no doubt we'll be discussing it next Wednesday, but it's only one part.

The blogging v journalism debate has run its course and the verdict is in. As Waldman rightly says: "If we say the two key pillars of journalism are original reporting and informed comment - we have to accept that there are hundreds of blogs that fit the bill."

But community is something more. Sure, you can create a type of community around a blog. But at its heart a blog pretty much always has some sort of cult of personality. Community is richer, or more meaningful than that.

And therein lies the real challenge.

Waldman is optimistic, and he's right. There is a vital need for thoughtful optimism because the threats to newspaper revenues are very real.

A case in point is Google's recently announced intention to publish syndicated news wires. This will inevitably force many news organisations to cut deeper into their resources and come up with more unique content within their footprint.

In other words, newspapers will need to look to their own staff to provide more coverage of the stories the wires don't report in order to maintain their organic search rankings and keep their Google derived online audience.

Blogging panel next Wednesday in Sydney

The indomitable Rachel Slattery will host an ITDebate panel on blogging next week

When: Wednesday 12th September, 2007
Venue: Lecture Theatre, Museum of Sydney
Corner of Phillip & Bent Street, Sydney
Time: 6.00pm - 7.30pm
Cost: $50 (inc. GST)

Featuring Graeme Philipson, Founder, Connection Research; Chris Gilbey, CEO, Vquence Pty Ltd; Tony Walker, Manager, ABC Digital Radio; Pippa Leary GM Media, Fairfax Digital; and myself.
Moderator is Catherine Fox, Deputy Editor, BOSS Magazine.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

The truth according to Jack Marx

Now we get down to the question of blogs on newspapers. For me they're kind of mongoose and cobra. For a blog to be on a newspaper it has to be doing something the newspaper is not.
It's old news now, but I've just came across Cameron's interview with Jack Marx about his sacking from Fairfax. [Here's the MP3 file.] gleefully covered the story when it broke. And Evan's News blog, Splat, now seems to have be the beneficiary of some the former TDT audience. Nothing particularly surprising there.

So, was it that one post that caused Fairfax to pull the plug on Marx? Or was it - as the official line puts it - the straw that broke the camel's back? In which case, will Fairfax remove the archived blog? Given that Marx previously wrote the Radar blog for the Herald, there is rather a lot of his work floating around Fairfax servers.