Edit ’08: Content or Traffic? Bigger Budgets or Outsourcing?
Nick Denton presents polarizing choice.
News-media gossip site Gawker caused a stir at the beginning of 2008 when owner Nick Denton sent an internal memo saying that bloggers will be compensated for traffic generated, rather than for the number of posts they make. That set off a firestorm in the blogosphere, with pundits ranging from Valleywag (which published the memo) to Publishing 2.0’s Scott Karp debating whether this is part of a trend in which editorial is being valued less for legitimate content and more for flashy, gossipy pieces that drive hits. The debate also focuses on whether a lot of "hits" are necessarily preferable to the "right" kind of traffic.
Still, this isn’t a phenomenon limited to new media companies like Gawker. Ziff Davis Enterprise has focused on traffic-driving for a while. "From a journalism perspective, there was a new imperative to rationalize: Grow traffic," Mike Vizard, senior vice president and editorial director of Ziff Davis Enterprise told FOLIO: last year. "Our editors are always keeping an eye on the site traffic and if a story is hot, they’ll understand and have five follow-ups." For ZDE, that includes sitting down every month to develop big-idea stories that are going to drive traffic-such as The Top 100 People In IT.
Meanwhile, facing a revenue fall and a cost crunch, publishers are splitting on the value of edit. Many are re-investing in editorial, especially as they try to build up a fledgling online business. Business-to-business publisher Hoyt Publishing is starting to pay editorial sales-type money. "The equation overall has shifted," says president Peter Hoyt. "Instead of paying the salespeople big money, now we’re paying the editors and have kids on the phone selling." Consumer enthusiast publisher Gearhead Communications has doubled its edit budget for the last six months and plans to keep doubling it for the foreseeable future.
However, b-to-b media consultant Paul Conley thinks U.S. editorial jobs will increasingly be farmed out overseas, and he’s backed up comments made for FOLIO:’s 2008 industry predictions by Peter Goldstone, president of Hanley Wood Business Media. "I predict at least one major b-to-b publisher will outsource some or all of its editorial overseas," Goldstone says. "The most likely scenario is that one of the dozens of magazines that have launched overseas editions in Vietnam, China, India and elsewhere will ask their overseas staff to take over U.S.-focused beats. Once a publisher comes to understand that the work being done overseas is as good as what’s done in the home office, it’s inevitable that he’ll move more work offshore."