Traffic or quality: which one should be prioritized?
Or can both go hand in hand?
These are questions a lot of media outlets must think about daily.
And the matter is significantly more important with online news circulation becoming too rampant.
Now, news companies’ competition isn’t just with other players formally competing in the industry.
They’re also up against independent content producers.
And with the blogosphere continuing to expand, this already-stiff competition will only get fiercer.
Here are some aspects of the issue that should provoke some thought.
Journalism has evolved big time
In the past, it was all print media out there in the world.
Sure there were numbers that journalists and their employers looked at back then.
They could track circulation and readership figures.
But how their audience experienced the news was a different matter.
Visibility on reader engagement and how it evolved was minimal.
But with the outburst of the digital news publication, the data available is neverending.
You can accurately visualize how many visitors are showing up at a newspaper’s website.
And you can see how much time they spend on a particular piece of news or a specific article.
You can break it down by geographies and demographics.
And we’re quickly shifting towards a truly real-time inflow of numbers and figures that inform decision-making.
What’s more, you can find out what people are looking for and adjust your content accordingly.
And while the luxury of having so much data available is good, it has its downsides
With reams of data out there, we should keep one thing in mind: we only have so many resources and time to go through all that data.
The numbers can quickly spiral out of control and cause information overload.
Or worse, analysis paralysis.
When you have too much to go on, sometimes things get as bad (or worse) as the lack of visibility print media had.
And then news outlets may end up having to test and experiment till they get to a sort of formula that sticks.
Even then, the formula might not work for long because of the quickly changing dynamics of online content consumption.
So, where does all this take us in the ratings vs high-quality discussion?
Media companies have to think about tradeoffs.
And they have to set their priorities straight.
A balance needs to improve engagement while attracting more unique users to news sites.
Either way, the long-established print character of giants such as The Guardian should not be compromised.
Just because people want to know spicy and scandalous stories (because that’s what they’re used to on the web) doesn’t mean that’s all big-name news firms should focus on.
With quality writing, you can still make people flock to you for principles that you stand for.
Balance is beautiful, so my advice to news companies is to make it their priority, and they’ll never go overboard while chasing ratings.