I was lucky enough to be among a small group of online journalism students who yesterday had the chance to the pick the brains of Kate Day, recently appointed the Community Editor at the Daily Telegraph. Kate gave us a fascinating insight into life in the famous broadsheet’s online arm.
I asked Kate about her role and she explained that much of her time is taken up looking after the MyTelegraph site, where readers are invited to blog on a range of subjects, from politics to gardening. She points out in this video of our conversation that this part of the site and the Telegraph’s other blogs are among its most successful online ventures, generating considerable traffic and proving more ‘sticky’ than traditional news.
While Kate and the online team have a clear picture about some of their visitors (or readers, if you like), what particularly sticks out is that they can make fewer generalisations about them than you would make with the print Telegraph’s traditional readership. That, as Kate admitted, presents a challenge to the Telegraph and other news organisations wishing to ‘monetise’ their websites. Traditionally, one of the great attractions for advertisers of a newspaper was the relatively fixed, assured profile of the readers they attracted. The Daily Telegraph, for example, is often derisorily referred to as the Torygraph, but its readership – relatively old, high income, Conservative-voting and usually conservative in their tastes – represents a large portion of the British population and one that advertisers want to communicate with.
While Kate points out that blog visitors often impart considerable information about themselves – and it might be possible to use this information commercially, (I should stress that this is not something that is happening) – these are younger, rather different visitors. And, by virtue of the way that blogs work, they are likely to be a less homogeneous group as a whole than the readership in print. That is to say, they don’t necessarily represent a single easily identifiable group. A reasonable proportion, it seems, hail from outside the UK, for example. So you might be able to channel very specific advertising to a small group, but you won’t necessarily be able to sell your products across a nice, neat range of people.
I’m fascinated by this added complexity to advertising for newspapers. As if it wasn’t hard enough already to persuade advertisers to spend big on online advertising, now it’s clear the whole game has changed. Is it possible to find a way to foster a similar identity/profile of readers online as it is in print? And would that be something that would be attractive anyway? Whatever the answer is, it presents a real challenge to the news industry. One, of course, that it is already engaged in, but that seems to grow more complicated by the day.