i disagree with everything you just said.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

i hear what you're saying, but you're wrong.

of the many offhand comments ana marie cox made during her sprawling keynote presentation @ sxsw, the one that most struck me concerned gawker media's required update frequency. "it's in my contract. nick will fire me if i post fewer than 12 times a day," followed by something about how this was a result of advertiser demand.

sure, nick's apparently the only guy making real wallet off weblog advertising (often to the reader's detriment), but between ana's comment and my own skewed take on the weblog universe, i'm pretty sure this approach is long-term wrong.

in most cases, posting 12 times a day is site suicide. when i look at the reasons that i abandon reading sites — primarily via rss, the ones that i've subscribed to but learn to ignore as their bloglines count quickly rises to 200 and chokes [1] — over-frequency of posting is number one for why i stop checking in. all the gawker sites suffer from this. doc searls (sadly, because i like what he has to say.) talking points memo. boing boing, the worst culpit of all. each confined to the rsscrap heap, because they move too quickly for me to see them.

now, i'm not wonkette's target audience, living here as i do on the other side of the country, and maybe 12 works for them in a quantity over quality kind of way. it's possible, but who can say for certain? who knows what the right number of posts is? not me, and not gawker media, but that's not stopping them from drawing lines and making demands that alienate at least some part of their potential audience.

demand outside of proof on the part of advertisers reminds me of the tv and magazine world, where they toss the big bills at ad space and time, cross their fingers, and hope it works out. no real evaluation in place; not tracked against anything of note. but then there's the web, where we can actually do just that, at least theoretically: measure.

true, the tools aren't quite up to the task yet, as anyone who has fumbled with the joke that is webtrends well knows, but they'll get there. and then, questions: how many times a day should ana be posting to maximize advertiser value to gawker's subscribers? value — not pageviews, not impressions, not click-throughs, but value. how do you measure value to advertisers via weblogs, anyway? or value of a weblog in general? i'm not certain just yet, but the answer (or answers) is out there, and it ain't 12.

jeff has a lot of stories about the tensions he experienced back at hotwired, constantly fending for his sites against the rapacious demands of advertisers; the war between what they wanted and what he felt was best for his site's visitors. something similar tanked dejanews/deja.com [2]. if ever there was a false dichotomy: making your customers choose between what they want (your content) and what you want them to want (your ads). then google started moving off in the right direction, towards ads that were contextually relevant, tying what you want and what your advertisers want ever closer together. but now there's a whole new set of challenges, around quality, frequency, regularity, appropriateness, individuality, categorization, the long tail and whatnot. and there's definitely more work to be done in this arena, if gawker media is anything to go by.

[1] why oh why have none of the rss aggregator sites/apps yet done the thing which is most obvious, which is to order and/or categorize your feeds based on your actual usage patterns? i vote for my favorites sites every time i use bloglines, and i'd be overjoyed if bloglines would start listing feeds from most-read to least-read, top to bottom. instead, i'm forced to dump everything into meaningless buckets and spend a lot of time scrolling. i put sites into my rss list in order to try them out, not to buy them, and when they don't work out having to check a bunch of boxes to delete them is a huge pain in the ass.

[2] also, bad management, horrible ideas, and a collapsing economy.


Blogger The First Citizen said...

I wanted to read what you said in this post, linked as it was from OK/Cancel, but then I realized it was painful. Why? Because sentences start with CAPS for a reason. That's why.

5/13/2005 7:13 AM


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home