Newspapers and 'Frequency'

There’s been a discussion on a Poynter Institute journalism discussion group about how to increase pageviews, bring in new traffic to newspaper websites, to increase ad impressions. My friend and mentor Vin Crosbie points out how numbers from the Newspaper Association of America show that even for the best of the best newspaper, users are coming only an average of once per week, and spending only five minutes per session on the site.

Meanwhile, another colleague (and a recent client), Amy Gahran, has asked why newspaper execs are limiting their vision to commoditized pageviews on websites. Shouldn’t they be thinking more about how to add ad revenues to feeds, mobile distribution, RSS, widgets and the like? She’s right: destination is dead.

And I’ll add a third thought: Newspapers aren’t really a single general-interest publication, but rather -- in a digital age -- an amalgam of targeted niches. Sure, in print, it’s one branded publication that you hold in your hands. But on the Web, it’s a local sports “vertical,” a local business “vertical” and so on. While the general interest local news areas of the site will probably remain commoditized, the more targeted areas with a high interest and usership should be sold separately and at a higher CPM. If the frequency is as low as Vin says, that can be made a strength, by asking advertisers to understand they’re buying engaged readership. David Verklin, the CEO of Aegis Americas, a major ad buying firm, argued to me recently (for a research report being released soon by JackMyers Media Business Report that someone who spends time with an ad, say, clicks through to a website or plays with an application, is “engaged,” and that means they’re worth a lot more than a the old measures of reach and frequency.

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