Bad news for papers: the public sector wins

For eight years I plied my trade as an online journalist. My mission, should I have no choice but to accept it, was to attract readers to pages where adverts were served. For every 1,000 page impression a piece of content received we could expect something like £10 (plus any sponsorship for the relevant section).

That’s a lot of work to get a lot of traffic for not much cash. That’s a key problem for commercial publishers online. Another key problem is the way that online has moved in the past two years or so.

Thanks to the phenomenon known as Web 2.0, the focus has shifted to individual items of content not to where they are displayed. Blogs, RSS feeds, widgets, wikis, social network and umpteen other phenomena take content out of its context and share, manipulate and distribute it in more ways than seem possible. If the content is interesting enough, that is.

This presents a bijout problemette for commercial content producers. While it’s great to have lots of people reading their stories or watching their videos it’s hard to generate revenue unless you can drag those users under an advertising banner or beside a sponsor’s logo. This mission is not impossible but it is damn hard.

But this is all great news if your aim is not to make money from attracting people but simply getting a message to them. And this is where the public sector wins big, especially when it comes to delivering public service messages.

Online is now about distribution and content. If you can embed your message in interesting content then the natural flow of the web will take it to the people for you.

(Also posted on



Filed under Journalism, media, newmedia

6 responses to “Bad news for papers: the public sector wins

  1. acmilanda

    Agreed, absolutely. But …

    “embed your message in interesting content”.

    Forgive my lack of knowledge (seriously).

    But are we talking about clearly physically delineating an ad/message within the body of interesting, though unrelated, content (in broadly the same way as a newspaper ad sits, ruled off, on a newspaper page)?

    Or are we talking about something more akin to product placement, ie the ad/message hijacks the interesting content?

    Or delivering the message “honestly”, as it were, and, using SEO etc, ensuring it gets everywhere?

  2. Murray Cox

    G’day Stewart, I’ve been dipping in and out of your blog for a wee while and I really thought I should say hi from Sydney… it’s a long way from North Bridge and QMD, that’s for sure!

    Anyway, I’m loving your work… so keep it up.


  3. acmilanda: sorry for the delay in replying. I’ve been working at a clients’ office where I can’t access the blog.

    The idea is to create stories and videos that are interesting, have editorial integrity and lead the user to a clients’ message. It’s a bit like “This article brought to you by…” – a Web 2.0 version of the 1950s US TV model.

  4. Probably this blogs best blog post online!!

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