How Denton and Hearst Chief Are Alike

The standard wisdom in publishing is to hold onto the existing crowd while gaining new audience. But Gawker mogul (NY Mag this week says he is one) Nick Denton (that's @nicknotned to you) says he doesn't give the blog network's well-publicized bonuses to writers for just any old traffic. He is "encouraging writers to produce stories, entertainment, video, that will bring in new people." Going for new visitors is a curious strategy, but perhaps valid one.

Because if you concentrate on new visitors:
* You'll be going for more traffic spikes (and scoops like the iPhone prototype imbroglio -- which Denton said is 10 or 10,000 times more valuable than any old blog post)
* You can presume a certain number of the new visitors will stick around and become regulars (or retained or "loyal" as we say in industry parlance)
* You're getting some repeats, anyway -- a number of people log on from different computers or browsers or clear their "cookies" and so show up in analytics as new visitors.

It could be the spikes that he gets is just what he wants, and he figures that the spikes are the way to build the big traffic over time -- from the 1 million a month they used to have, he said Monday at the IAB MIXX conference, to the 20 million or so monthly Gawkers nine blogs get today.

In other words, do what works and don't worry about common wisdom. (A point he also made when he talked about Gawker Media not having the luxury of pursuing "important" journalism over what people are interested in.)

That's also, in a nutshell, what much older and more traditional media-experienced Hearst CEO Frank Benack Jr. said in an interview with IAB President and CEO Randall Rothenberg (that's @r2rothenberg to you) about an hour earlier. Asked what he recommended to a young executive he answered they should "be open minded." Do what works. "Don’t fall in love with any particular approach to delivery of content and media." Don't be wedded to any one idea. Someone in their early 30s looking to be a leader needs to be flexible in their thinking, know that the answer that works today may not be the one tomorrow -- and presumably, the one that works on one publication won't be the one that works on another.

I also believe that's just the right attitude. So many in digital media stalwarts come in with an answer, and it's often based on polemics or the desire to sell one particular product or idea or ideology, or at least what I'd call a "thought brand". Be open. Be closed. Be ad supported. Charge for subscription.

Bennack said Hearst would be looking for dual revenue streams (or, I would prefer, multiple -- even if they're incremental), along the lines of the cable TV model, which gets money from the cable operators and from ads.

Denton also said 75 percent of the company's ad buys include sponsored posts, that its nine sites now get about 20 million visitors per month, and his readers now are much more interested in Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg than in Paris Hilton. The stars they're interested in today tend to be from reality TV, he said, citing the cast of Jersey Shore as a popular subject.

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