Chip Shots by Chip Griffin

When Media Focuses on Advertisers, the Audience Loses

As media outlets scramble to find workable revenue models, they often focus on advertisers and lose sight of the consumers. Ultimately, a strong audience helps generate income, so that’s a mistake

An old friend of mine wrote on Facebook this morning about a minor New England snow event overnight:

That wasn’t so much of a storm as a little snow. Why must we hype every little snowfall into a named storm???

My response was simple: “media ad revenue.” Sure, the Weather Channel dresses it up as a public service. Here’s some of their official logic:

  • Naming a storm raises awareness.
  • Attaching a name makes it much easier to follow a weather system’s progress.
  • A storm with a name takes on a personality all its own, which adds to awareness.
  • In today’s social media world, a name makes it much easier to reference in communication.
  • A named storm is easier to remember and refer to in the future.

But ultimately it allows the Weather Channel to increase readership and viewership since they “own” the name (it isn’t generated by a government agency, as is the case with hurricanes).

In fact, they admit that it’s not all about public service at the tail end of their justification:

Finally, it might even be fun and entertaining and that in itself should breed interest from our viewing public and our digital users.

Ultimately, that’s a mistake. Unfortunately, this is the same media outlet that took a perfectly usable one page digest of the day’s weather and broke it up into multiple pages, presumably to increase page views (and thus the theoretical revenue potential).

The Weather Channel does not stand alone. More and more media outlets have gone to the practice of breaking up news stories over multiple pages. This isn’t convenient for the reader, but it does allow more ads to be displayed. Other websites have become fond of “slide shows” where simple lists get turned into multi-page image galleries. Often the images add next to no value, but again they spike page views and the perception of a site’s traffic.

Successful media outlets will come to understand that the relationship to the audience must come first and revenue will follow. I’m a huge believer in the notion that content does not want to be free, but it’s important to deliver real value to attract a sticky and happy audience that will pay subscription fees, support sponsors, click on ads, or otherwise “pay” for the information provided.

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