Why fanboys rule your traffic



Chris Morrison over at Small Change, which is part of the Business 2.0 blog network, has an excellent analysis of the new economics of big, ongoing media stories like the iPhone (note to self: write about the relative merits of the various MSM blog networks that are lately proliferating like cane toads).

yesterday evening Google News returned some 10,000 articles written over a 24 hour period that were about the iPhone. It’s become very apparent to anyone watching that iPhone-related pageviews are a nearly bottomless well. No matter how many articles are written, someone will want to read them.

He also hints at the fact that the New York Times completely flubbed what could have been a major traffic-garnering opportunity by not accompanying David Pogue’s review of the iPhone with dozens of other prelude and postlude articles–in other words, on at least one channel (a purpose-built blog? their tech section?) completely flooding the zone with iPhone coverage. Pogue was one of only 4 reviewers who got an early look at the iPhone–that access alone is potentially worth tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in potential ad revenue on whatever coverage the Times could have packed around that one review.

For reference, just imagine what Engadget would have done with a pre-release iPhone: There would have been the unboxing video. And the features video. And commentary. And endless posts–excruciating detail–of every nuance of the phone. In fact I’ve no doubt that starting at 6:30 pm today, when the boys and girls of Engadget finally get their hands on one, there will be a flood of iPhone posts that won’t abate for the next week–and their traffic will reflect this.

This was a missed opportunity for the Times, but not the only one–you’ll notice in my lede that I said that it’s all about big, ongoing media (and not just tech) stories. As countless others have observed, sites like TMZ.com and Perez Hilton have built their empires on fans’ fascination with just a handful of current obsessions, be they Paris Hilton or Brangelina.

What this suggests is a whole new model of news—it turns out that as much as our audience likes variety, humans are equally capable of monomaniacal fixation on particular subjects of interest. The way to make this game work for you is to answer the siren call and drill down as far as you can into the subjects that lie at the intersection of your organization’s forte and the interests of your audience. Too often big stories get one-off coverage, or sizable features: this is entirely the wrong way to go about covering them.

One of the things web consumers want that they don’t get from the MSM (and this is a niche blogs have rushed to fill) is incremental coverage of new details; they want the same content that would normally appear in a 6000 word feature or a 1200 word review to be chunked into bite-size pieces–which can always be rounded up later on in posts that aggregate all of your (and others’) coverage on a particular subject.

For more specifics, check out Flemming Madsen’s coverage at Netly News, in which he attempts to guesstimate the windfall that has gone to bloggers as a result of their obsessive coverage of the iPhone.

Pete Blackshaw, chief marketing officer at Nielsen BuzzMetrics, told me today that the traffic generated by the phone is “higher than any product launch we’ve monitored.” … an astounding 1.5% of ALL blog posts made in the week following Steve Jobs’ unveiling of the product, at Macworld in January, mentioned the phone.

Estimates range from hundreds of millions to a billion pageviews. Assuming an average $20 cpm at the bigger sites (many get more than that), it’s easy to see how revenues to all blogs can top $2 million thus far.

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