Bigger Is Not Always Better
Why the Web traffic chase is a race to the bottom.
Digital media companies have kicked off 2015 with a bang. From Business Insider and Mashable raising new rounds, to the acquisition of Elite Daily by Daily Mail to Gawker’s debt financing, the sector seems hot. Obviously, as a CEO of a digital media company, this trend pleases me immensely and kudos to all for filling your coffers and maybe even taking a little off the table for your hard work to date.
That being said, it seems that everyone is gearing up for an epic traffic driving arms race. This is a race that Breaking Media wants to sit out. In recent years, we have seen the land rush for traffic accelerate. First came content farms with their SEO tricks, then social media farms with their viral tricks, then add in a dash of purchased traffic and voila, you have tripled your reach. But wait, CPMs came down more than you had planned so you look for new tricks. I can’t wait to see what is next.
Now, I am not so cynical as to believe that no value is being created for marketers with the mass reach attained by these practices, but in my opinion, this is a race to the bottom. Coming from vertical media, I have always struggled with the pure reach model, and even more so now that paid audience acquisition has become a big part of the equation. Anyone can buy traffic, but what value does the marketer get from that? And what is unique about that audience?
In the world of B2B vertical media, your audience is finite, and when they are professionals (as is the case with Breaking Media’s market) their time is finite and costly. That’s why Breaking Media strives for market penetration rather than reach. According to the American Bar Association, there were 1,268,011 lawyers licensed to practice law in the U.S. in 2012, and another 146,288 students enrolled in law school. For Above the Law, our legal website, that is the market we are going after. Since we reach 1.1 million unique monthly visitors on average, that’s a 71.5-percent market penetration. Obviously, we need to and want to grow traffic (by 314,299 UVs to be exact), so we must continue to create an editorial product and build a community that serves our specific audience.
I recently investigated targeting lawyers and law students on social media platforms. I was shocked to discover that I could reach 5.7 million lawyers on one specific platform. Perhaps the social media gods know about another 4,285,701 that the American Bar Association does not know about. It is more likely, however, that this arms race is creating massive marketing waste as sites strive for mass reach. As I like to say, just because you watch The Good Wife does not mean that you are a lawyer, but many mass reach sites are making that assumption for their advertisers. At Breaking Media, when our advertisers pay a premium to reach our legal audience, we make sure they get what they pay for.
To do our job properly at Breaking Media, we must build vertical communities for each business audience we serve. In most cases, that means our editorial products are not for people outside of those industries: finance, law, healthcare, defense, energy, fashion and government. This may not seem as glamorous as reaching 100 million people per month, but our job is to develop vertical communities with the goal of 100-percent market penetration. In doing so and delivering that reach to our marketing partners, we are doing our job, which is glamorous enough for me.