Tuesday, August 1, 2006

"News Hounds" Feedback: Is it Just About the "Bigs"?

My News Analysis piece on newspapers integrating external news headlines from Inform into their Web pages drew a response from Paula Hane, News Bureau Chief for Information Today, Inc. Paula notes: "For the big guys this is ho hum. However, for smaller publishers and media orgs, the real gain would be to pull in related content from your own site and from affiliated sites and sister publications." Good point, Paula, it does all start with your own publications to make sure that there's good navigation to contextual content that will support more page views. But beyond that essential content brand reinforcement there's the need to build editorial strength in the eyes of one's audience. Smaller publishers as much as any other kind treasure each click that can be held to one's native content. But that instinct has limited the reach of all news publications as users crawl far and wide to get a comprehensive picture of what's happening in specific niches - hence our own daily search for headlines that takes us to dozens of Web sites and search engines.

To bring it back to the Pew Research data, look at the huge gap between "online newspapers" and "online news" - that's the gap between one's own publications and the interests of one's audiences. There's only so much content that any publication can hope to generate to fill that gap. With that in mind, there is at least in the abstract an argument for smaller publications being MORE aggressive than larger publications in seeking out links to external content using editorial resources. The big publications are more likely to opt for automation because of the breadth and scale of content that they span. But smaller niche publications can afford to be more aggressive about cherry-picking content from other sources to allow them to have a broader set of content that can appeal to readers while allowing editorial resources to focus on the most important items. This can take those resources away from repackaging press releases and other routine activities that could be better focused elsewhere.

There are no pat answers to how to adapt a mainstream publication to a readership that's used to looking elsewhere for a full set of content to meet their needs, but considering carefully how active selection of links can help that effort is an essential element of successfully expanding a publication's focus.
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