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By Thomas Baekdal - March 2018

Newsletter: What is the step up from low-intent mediocrity?

This is an archived version of a Baekdal/Basic newsletter (it's free). It is sent out about once per week and features the latest articles as well as news and trends about the media industry. If you want to get the next one, don't hesitate to add your email to the list.

In this edition:

The Refreshed Edition of Baekdal Plus

You might have noticed that February was a bit on the quiet side for Baekdal Plus, but the reason was that the entire site has been rebuilt from the ground up. I have written a much longer article about what has changed, but in short, this is what's new:

First of all, the general purpose of Baekdal Plus is still the same. Every year I write ~25 Plus Reports about the future of media from both strategy and trend perspectives, and this is a format that people seem to like. As such, this will obviously continue.

What has changed is the focus. Going forward, the focus of Baekdal Plus is divided up into four key areas.

All of these topics are areas that I have also covered in the past, but now it has an even sharper focus and usefulness.

Mostly though, the new site is all about preparing for the future. Everything has been redesigned, the coding, the look, the database system, the payment system, the member system, the CMS system... everything. There are still a few things missing, but those will be fixed within a week or so.

But I hope you like it. And if you want to read a slightly longer article about it, read this:

A Deep Dive into the Future of Subscriber Analytics

Subscriber analytics is rapidly becoming a crucial new focus for publishers, as they have to adjust to a future where advertising is no longer the key. But, subscriber analytics is also a very different form of analytics, because instead of measuring views and clicks, you are measuring patterns and behaviors.

In this 32 page Plus article, we are going to take a deep dive into what this means for publishers and how you should approach it.

The problem with algorithms

Here is a wonderful tweet I came across the other day from Vicki Turk.

The personalised Spotify playlists based on my listening history would be a lot better if I actually listened to good music (Senior Editor of Wired UK - Vicki Turk - @VickiTurk)

The reason I love this is that it illustrates a very common problem that we see with the platforms that we use. As people, we tend to spend a lot of our time on things that aren't necessarily what we want in return.

For instance, yesterday I was just having a break, and I spent some time watching some random low-end videos. These videos were fun, but it's not exactly the kind of content that I would like my YouTube feed to be full of. Instead, the next time I visit YouTube, I would prefer to watch something more inspiring and fascinating.

In other words, instead of optimizing for more of the content I have already watched. YouTube should always try to show me something better. They should assume that my default video viewing isn't as good as it could be.

As Vicki Turk wrote, her Spotify playlists would be better if it wasn't based on her default music choices.

But the problem is not unique to social channels. We see precisely the same problem on publishers' sites. If you just look at what content people look at the most, you end up giving people the type of content that they often don't want to spend all their time on if they thought about it.

The challenge that we all have is to find a way to change this. To stop people from spending all their time on content that isn't that useful to them, and instead focus on metrics that discover the content that is.

But the challenge is not just about the metrics. It's more so about the moments that we have. If you have a high-intent moment, you are making a deliberate choice as to what to spend your time on. And here, obviously, you need to give people the best content that you have.

The problem, however, is with the low-intent moments. These are the moments where you have come home from work. You are completely worn out, and you are just looking for 'something,' but you don't want to make any decisions or have to think about it.

In these situations, it is tempting just to show people what other people in similar low-intent moments are engaging with, but think about how bad that is. For instance, this is what we see on YouTube Trending. I have said this before; YouTube Trending is the place to find all the videos that you never want to look at.

And the reason it's terrible is that they are specifically looking at what content people happen to be looking at when they have the least amount of interest in making informed choices. It's the lowest of the low-intent videos.

And this is what we must change. Instead of focusing on what is popular, we should use that signal to ask: What is the next step up from that. For instance, if people watch 'funny videos about people doing stupid things with food,' what is then the next step up from that? What would be better than those videos? And the answer is to surface 'inspiring videos about people doing amazing things with food'.

This works at every level, and it is also not just about social channels. If you readers are just spending their time being outraged by stupid political stories, what is the step up from that? If people are reading low-end articles about exercise, what is the step up from that?

I'm reminded here by one of my favorite quotes by Alan Alda, the actor most people know from M*A*S*H.

When things go wrong on television, we get snow. When the signal can't reach us, when mountains interfere, we get a fuzzy, chaotic blizzard of electronic noise. When the signal does reach us, of course, then the real challenge begins: to put something on the screen that's better than snow. (Alan Alda)

This is an archived version of a Baekdal/Basic newsletter (it's free). It is sent out about once per week and features the latest articles as well as news and trends about the media industry. If you want to get the next one, don't hesitate to add your email to the list.


The Baekdal/Basic Newsletter is the best way to be notified about the latest media reports, but it also comes with extra insights.

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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


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