Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Forget about the big numbers; go for loyalty, trust

Anyone who has studied the metrics of the internet in any detail knows about the Big Lie: those big numbers of total users and page views that everyone relies on are practically meaningless.

Jon Slade of the Financial Times
In other words, millions of clicks or millions of users are not an indication of trust in a particular news brand or loyalty to that brand. We need new metrics, better metrics.

Versión en español

So it was heartening to see this reality affirmed by of one of the leading lights of digital media innovation, Jon Slade of the Financial Times, in an interview with Ian Burrell (thanks to NiemanLab for the lead):
“I've seen data recently that says that of all the pages on the internet less than 1% of them are from newspapers – the vast majority of time spent is with social channels and they are always going to be much bigger than you are – so if you’re trying to play a game of scale then you’re going to lose.”
There are only a few international brands that have even a slight chance of competing with the likes of Facebook and Google for the digital advertising dollars that are based on the number of eyeballs delivered to specific ads.

Those companies have much better information on individual users than news publishers do of their own subscribers, so they can promise advertisers a much more accurate targeting of their messages: For example, women age 30-55 who have expressed an interest in luxury automobiles.

And the rates for those targeted ads are falling steadily as supply of pages exceeds demand.

Trust in the news media, by country, from Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2016. Finland ranks highest at 65%. Germany, Belgium and the U.K. are near 50%, the U.S. is at 33%, Greece at 20%.
But the good news is . . .

 Despite all that, publishers can unlock value of their audience by focusing on loyal users. Kinsey Wilson, editor of innovation and strategy at Times, brought the point home at the International Symposium on Online Journalism when he mentioned that 90 percent of  his publication's digital revenue comes from 10 percent of its users.  

 While only 1.5% of the digital users of the New York Times are paying subscribers, they are generating more than half the revenue of the publication.

Another reason to go for loyalty rather than big numbers is to differentiate your brand from all the noise that is out there. Credibility and trustworthiness matter in the long run. Maybe not in the short term, but over the long haul, yes. The importance of credibility to a digital publication's business model was part of my message in an interview granted to the IJNet website.

Ed Williams, CEO of the Edelman communications and marketing firm for Great Britain and Ireland, wrote in the Reuters report that the company's own research on public trust of specific brands shows that "when people trust a company, they buy their products, they pay a higher price over comparable products, and they recommend them to friends."

In other words, trust still matters, brands still matter, despite all the noise on the internet. Or perhaps because of it.


Spain's most successful digital journalism startup goes for trust
14,000 friends lay out the cash for aggressive journalism

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