Quality vs quantity in online publishing

woman napping at work

If you’re an online publisher without a huge staff, trying to keep up with the big boys can be exhausting.

This article explains how publications like Huffington Post and even old, traditional publishers like Forbes are playing the page view game, trying to generate as much content for the lowest possible cost. Too many companies are trying to play this game.

On the other side of the spectrum, publications like Salon have abandoned this losing game and instead focused on quality and long-form articles that will have an impact. Fortunately it’s working for them.


Google’s flaws lead to Huffington’s huge payday and Demand Media’s IPO

The Huffington Post sold for $315 to AOL this week, and Demand Media recently completed an IPO. In many ways, these events validate the strategy of gaming the system. Google is a beast that can be gamed, and both these operations did it very well.

HuffPo is notorious for hysterical headlines and their lefty slant, but they were also very well organized and filled a void in the marketplace. In many ways they deserve their success. But, a big part of their success has to do with gaming Google’s search results. Their editors find interesting stories, do a post on it with a link back, but HuffPo usually gets all the search traffic. The other sites usually don’t complain, because links from HuffPo provide really good traffic as well.

Demand Media also fills a void, as they use their own algorithm to find potential search results that need to be filled with content. Then they pay know-nothing writers (well, I guess some of them know what they are writing about) to create a short article covering the topic. AOL is even trying to copy the strategy. Many now refer to sites like Demand Media as content mills, and Google might be addressing the issue, but Demand Media has already scored their IPO and Google’s search results are littered with lame content at the top.

Gaming the system pays.


Has Drudge jumped the shark?

No, we didn’t write this headline to please liberals. The Drudge Report is still a powerhouse with huge traffic. Yet things have changed, and the political landscape online is much more crowded, so Gillean Reagan recently asked whether the days of Drudge are over in a recent piece in The New York Observer.

For some, including the White House, the Drudge Report is still an online media powerhouse. The Drudge Report is No. 115 in Quantcast’s list of most popular sites, ranking higher than washingtonpost.com, nypost.com and politico.com. That’s 1.1 million visitors every day, each of whom refresh the page about 15 times in a 24-hour period, according to Quantcast.

But, contrary to what some might think, fewer and fewer of those visitors seem to be the journalists that were once so captivated by Matt Drudge—not to mention his vaguely terror-inducing headlines, taste for the obscure and occasionally spinning siren light. Is it because of increased competition online? Fewer scoops? Or simple Drudge fatigue?

Has Matt Drudge lost his edge?

“Obviously, when Drudge started in the ’90s, he was a kind of phenomenon,” said Peter Baker, who was the Washington Post’s White House correspondent during the Clinton years. “He invented this whole new way of getting information out there, and he changed the landscape of what the mainstream media did. Everyone was on Drudge, checking him every day.”

Even when the Drudge Report’s stories were sensationalized or unfounded, the urge to keep clicking was irresistible. “There was something very titillating about it because he didn’t have the same kind of limitations or standards that the old-style, I guess, media did,” he said.

New sites like the Huffington Post have certainly had some impact. Reagan notes the HuffPo passed Drudge in unique visitors for the first time in February 2008. Just having a liberal alternative for breaking news has probably had the greatest impact.

Reagan brings up the stale design as another factor, but I’m not buying that one. We’ve seen from Craigslist that a simple design can actually be an advantage.

Drudge is and will remain a powerhouse, it’s just not the only big boy in town any more.


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