Tuesday, February 17, 2009

How to get 6MM views without really trying

Sports Illustrated's website had an amazing 5.7 million video views in just two days after launching the 2009 swimsuit issue.* That's got to amount to a significant chunk of advertising change.

There's a lesson in here for news sites. Granted, it's not a particularly high-minded one. But it's an important one nonetheless: Post information (would it be better if I put that in quotes: "information"?) on your site that people want, and get traffic that pays for the other stuff--the stuff that, yes, is important, but that, let's face it, is a little like oat bran: necessary for the smooth functioning of a system, but not always the stuff you're chomping at the bit to get at.

If you aspire to higher things, like uncovering secret CIA prisons or even simply holding your local officials accountable, the idea that your news organization might have to devote resources to such, um, lowbrow activities as stories about (or better yet, photos and video of) sexy women rolling around in the sand might make you recoil. "But surely," you might argue, "if we're a news organization, why should we have to lower ourselves to stunts like this?"

Because that's where the money comes from to pay for your investigative reporting, or even just your daily beat reporting. Cold, hard truth.

After all, why do you think Sports Illustrated even has a swimsuit edition? Why do newspapers have movie listings, or recipes, or, for goodness sake, that thick auto section that's almost nothing but ads?

There is a way to make news pay online. You just have to think in terms of the 80 / 20 rule: What's the 20% of content that's going to pay for the other 80%?

In fact, if I were to screw my evil marketing director hat on good, I might even propose that news organizations set up a dedicated Department of Juicy Content That Draws Clicks, instead of requiring editors from the traditional world of journalism to have to think this stuff up. After all, if you're going to do it, you might as well hand it over to folks (ex-Maxim staffers perhaps?) who are going to give it everything they've got.

. . .
What's that? Oh, you want the link to the SI swimsuit videos? You sure? OK, here you go. :)

1 comment:

Kim said...

True, true. This is the business model being followed by The Huffington Post, with mind-boggling success. Political news and blogs make up the site's meat, while stories on pop culture attract a whole new demographic that a political site wouldn't normally get.