Plenty going on in my head after yesterday’s excellent News Rewired, and full coverage of the event is available on the event site. I’m going to be posting fragments over the next few days – a series of thoughts, conclusions and questions. That’s intended to add to the conversation that flows out of the event, and might inform a more considered post after more, er, consideration.
Joanna Geary‘s intro has been a bit of a slow burner. I’m always interested in what she has to say, but when her keynote had finished I was left a little unfulfilled. But what she said about audience keeps coming back to me, and it’s linked to a few other themes that are emerging as the ones that made most impression. She talked about “reader loyalty not just as a business strategy but as a journalistic code”. The thrust was that where once the online media was obsessed with numbers of eyeballs, there’s a growing realisation that it’s quality of eyeballs that counts.
Say you get 10,000 hits a day. And 10,000 more tomorrow. How many of those are single looks? What’s the retention rate? If 100 of those hits stay, subscribe, return, become loyal in some way, aren’t they more valuable than the others? And if they are, is the best strategy to target another 10,000 new eyeballs who might take one look, or to give more to the 100 who stay?
OK, the answer is both. You need to cast the net wide and get the volume in in order to turn it into quality. But what I took Joanna to be saying was that we need to adjust the balance a little. Not least because we can, to a greater degree than ever before, interact with, acknowledge and get to know our audience. Her view that: “There are more ways of knowing about our readers than ever” seems to be very much along the lines of what Rebekah Wade was getting at when the Times’s first paywall figures were released. She said: “each of our digital subscribers is more engaged and more valuable to us than very many unique users of the previous model”.
Hardly groundbreaking stuff, you might think. But what interested me was the emphasis placed on the point by making it the subject of the conference keynote. The nature of media people is such that everyone will probably respond to this post by saying ‘Of course, we’ve already realised this’ – that’s because media folk rarely like to concede anything. But it seems to me there’s a shift in progress.