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By Thomas Baekdal - October 2017

Newsletter: 13 things Mary Hamilton learned from six years at the Guardian

This is an archived version of a Baekdal Plus newsletter (it's free). It is sent out about once per week and features the latest articles as well as unique insights written specifically for the newsletter. If you want to get the next one, don't hesitate to add your email to the list.

In this edition:

The Trend of Voice as the New UI for Publishers

More and more publishers are talking about the future of voice, so, let's take an updated look at what this trend is really all about, how publishers should think about it, and how to change the editorial product.

We are also going to take a look at some of the problems we see today, specifically with the studies we see around voice, as well as a look at some examples of how to do it right.

Publishers, You Need 'What Should Happen Next?' Analytics

One of the big things publishers is starting to realize is that we they need to rethink how they do analytics. The traditional way of looking at views, engagement and referrals don't really help us understand our audience.

But the biggest problem is that we tend to look at our metrics in the wrong way. We get obsessed with single metrics, and we look at them as absolute numbers. Neither of which is very helpful.

So in this article, I'm going to present you with a better way to think about this with something I call 'What should happen next?' analytics.

I Dream of a Newspaper Without Politics

As a media analyst, I'm torn between what is happening in the market today and the long term trends that I see coming in the future. For instance, right now we see how many newspapers are experiencing success with a far more political-first focus, especially for newspapers in the US. And I'm obviously happy to see that. It's wonderful that these newspapers are getting more successful and making more money.

But, at the same time, the newspaper industry is also losing their connection to the public by basically becoming very narrow political niche sites, where almost all the coverage is about the politicians alone. And I worry that, after the next election and US politics will stop being as mad as it is today, these newspapers will suddenly realize how specific they have defined their success.

So in this slightly controversial article, I make the case for a newspaper without politics.

13 things Mary Hamilton learned from six years at the Guardian

Mary Hamilton, former executive editor audience at The Guardian, recently posted a very good article about 13 things she learned at the Guardian, which is worth reading.

Here are 3 quotes that specifically stood out for me:

Worth your attention:

"You can get more of everything online except human attention. If you're lucky enough to work in a business that aims to attract people's attention for positive reasons - and good enough at what you do to succeed at it - then treat it with respect. The most important commodity most people have to spend online is their attention. If you want to gain their trust, don't screw about with it."

Yes, I'm looking at all those publishers who mislead people with their headlines, optimize for quick-fire articles, and have added Taboola to their sites. So many publishers have forgotten how to please their readers.

Video is a tool, not a strategy:

"Video isn't a strategy. 'More video' isn't a strategy. 'More video with more video ads on it': also not a strategy."

She is spot on about this. We see so many examples of publishers pivoting to video because they have no idea what else to do.

Own your future:

"Seriously. If someone else's algorithm change could kill your traffic and/or your business model, then you're already dead."

Again, spot on. Facebook can be a great marketing channel for publishers, but it's also incredibly limiting in terms of what type of media they support. They work great for something like BuzzFeed Tasty, but Facebook is also defined by turning media into snacks that people never truly connect with.

As I wrote on Twitter the other day:

"The biggest mistake publishers made online was to think that the internet is only about optimizing for one type of moment. Publishers got so blinded by Facebook's low-intent micro-moment that they never realized that this moment really isn't for them. Publishers optimized for an economic model that didn't fit what they were about, trying to get the maximum views instead of impact. This also resulted in an ad market that has lost all value, just look at the new 5-second ads that have almost zero recall-rate."

Facebook Explorer tab?

Speaking of Facebook, we hear some worrying things about the new Explorer tab. Filip Struhárik, wrote about how they are testing a non-media news feed in several countries.

"Facebook Explore Feed is rolling out globally this week. Most people around the world can see it in their bookmarks and they can discover new content here. But in Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Serbia, Bolivia, Guatemala and Cambodia it works differently: all posts by pages are moved from newsfeed to Explore Feed. In main newsfeed are now just friend and sponsored posts."

In Filip's initial post he found that this caused a dramatic drop in Facebook interactions, but he has since updated that with a much less damaging estimate. But it's still a big change.

I'm personally skeptical about this. Facebook has put so much work into pleasing publishers lately, including adding subscription options, that doing this sounds contrary to those efforts. So, I'm currently in a 'wait-and-see' mode.

On the other hand, doing this would solve a whole lot of problems for Facebook, and turn media consumption on Facebook into something much more similar to Snapchat's Discover tab ... so I would also not be surprised if they did this.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see how this one turns out.

This is an archived version of a Baekdal Plus newsletter (it's free). It is sent out about once per week and features the latest articles as well as unique insights written specifically for the newsletter. If you want to get the next one, don't hesitate to add your email to the list.


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Thomas Baekdal

Founder, media analyst, author, and publisher. Follow on Twitter

"Thomas Baekdal is one of Scandinavia's most sought-after experts in the digitization of media companies. He has made ​​himself known for his analysis of how digitization has changed the way we consume media."
Swedish business magazine, Resumé


—   newsletter   —


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