A recent post at Salon by Kerry Lauerman got me wondering if maybe the tide is turning, and social media is returning to what works: depth of content and an original perspective.
Lauerman is reporting from the front lines of online publications. Salon was one of the first into this new world of digital media with its fully online “magazine.” (We still have not found a good name for these kinds of publications.) Way back in, what, 1997 (?), Salon launched itself without the doppleganger of a paper version. Just as we look at modern steel-and-glass skyscrapers today and say, meh, what’s the big deal?, Salon might not seem like such a revelation, but at the time, it was. And now, bonus, it has a long history of experimentation to draw on.
Lauerman notes that Salon had most recently “followed the familiar script of other sites — we laid off terrific staffers to lower our costs…we revamped staff priorities so that writers could simply produce more; we experimented in a fair amount of low-calorie aggregation—short (a few hundred words) summaries or explainers about a major news event covered more in depth by somebody else.”
In other words, they were chasing what the “experts” –those myopic technocrats who come up with terms like “content creators” or “content strategists” when managing editor would do just fine— claimed would work.
But a funny thing happened. It fell flat.
So they returned to their roots. And one of the approaches they took was to s.l.o.w d.o.w.n. As he puts it, “We’ve also — completely against the trend — slowed down our process. We’ve tried to work longer on stories for greater impact, and publish fewer quick-takes that we know you can consume elsewhere.”
The result: the number of posts is down but traffic is up. They’re publishing 33 percent fewer posts, but have gained 40 percent more traffic
It reminds me of the dot.com boom, when everyone was walking around saying things like, there’s a new business model, you don’t need to show profit, it’s NEW/you’re OLD if you think otherwise. I was caught up in the craze and asked my broker to buy some tech stock, which probably had a p/e of 500 or something ridiculous. But he just shook his head and said, “the fundamentals haven’t changed. Profitability still matters, and always will.” Interesting, fresh content with some meat to it still matters, and always will.
What this means for research groups is that your content still matters. In fact, it’s what sets you apart from the herd. Original research is valuable. People are hungry for reliable, trusted research. Make it relevant by hooking it to a news headline, give it some context in relation to an issue of the day, and you’ll find people reading and sharing — and returning to your site for more.
And oh yeah, here’s another claim shattered: people still read.