Earth to publishers: Stop trying to exert so much control

The headline alone on this AP story on NJ.com is enough to send me into orbit: News Web sites seek more search control

When, oh when, are publishers going to realize that the more we try to exert control over our content, the more likely we are to lose control.

By the way, losing control over the distribution of our content is not a bad thing, people. The easier we make it for readers to access our content -- regardless of platform -- the more likely it will be that we gain and retain readers via whatever channel our content was acquired.

Roadblocks are exactly that. Pretty hard to grow audience when we throw up a bunch of stop signs and detours.


UGC should not be ostracized

A must-read column from Steve Outing's monthly offering on Editor & Publisher: An Important Lesson About Grassroots Media

The really important paragraphs:

Take a look at some news organizations that are soliciting and trying to attract citizen content. Most of the time it's put in a separate website or webpage, off to the side and separated from the professionally produced content. That strategy alone, in my opinion, dooms the citizen content to obscurity. Some people will find it, but my bet is that it will never get significant traffic.

For example, it's common after a natural disaster for a news website to request that eyewitnesses share photos or blog about their experiences. Typically that content is aggregated in a page with all the other amateur submissions. Meanwhile, there's another, separate page for photos of the disaster taken by professional photojournalists. Flipping through the amateur photos is arduous to most of us; you have to scan a lot of crap to find the few great images.

That's the wrong approach, in my view. The best way to leverage those eyewitness photos is to have editors identify the best ones, then add those to a presentation of the best images of the disaster, period -- whether they're from the pros or the eyewitnesses.

That's really what this whole social/grassroots/citizen thing is all about, y'know! News organizations need to stop thinking of themselves as islands, and reach out and grab all the other relevant content that's being published around them. The news website that covers the local wildfires exclusively with staff content is hopelessly lost in the web 2.0 environment. The news site that gathers, identifies and filters all the wildfire coverage from local bloggers and other sources -- and adds that in with its own staff coverage -- understands where it should be going.


Check out: Is there good traffic reporting online?

Following on my Twitter-related post from yesterday, give a read to Yoni's ideas for online traffic reporting.

It really is all about leveraging the strengths of the available platforms, isn't it?


Twitter your br(e)aking news

Some may recall the idea I've floated in various conversations about how Twitter could be an effective tool for commuter traffic updates online?

Steve Outing expands on the idea in his latest E-Media Tidbits post: The Twitter Disaster

Amen, Steve. The end game, in my mind, is placing our content on the platforms where our current and potential audience prefer to consume us. This is something I've been advocating since 2005, by the way, but is all the more true in the social networking, Web 2.0 world in which we're operating as we head into 2008.

This will seem like sacrilege, coming from a person whose success is measured by the audience metrics of our Web sites, but when it comes to content distribution, driving traffic back to our core newspaper.com sites is a secondary benefit (not that there's anything wrong with that benefit, mind you). The more important result is that by pushing our content in ways that makes it easiest for many different audience segments to consume it, we've performed the ultimate "job-to-be-done."

If I put on my user hat for a second, I'll repeat my point from an earlier post that Twitter has become my primary means of following news updates from New York Times and ESPN, not to mention our own Pocono Record. I wish more sites were on the bandwagon.


Blogs can be sources, too

Boston Herald story about a smoky concert included quoting a blog as an eyewitness account. Not sure I've seen that before:

One witness recounted the events on his local blog, Mixtapes for Hookers (www.autonomyboy.silentpillow.com). (Note: I added the link here. The Herald version was hyperlink-free at this writing.)

“The room (filled up) with smoke and the cutey drummer started coughing,” wrote MFH. “The people from the club started running around. All the girls in the audience made a mad dash for the coat room and everybody else calmly walked out onto the sidewalk.”

Ads as widgets (or vice versa)

While reading a story on Wicked Local Bourne this evening, I encountered the following ad (RSS-based readers should click through to see the ad):

Of course, I clicked on "Get this widget!" first, because I have widgets on the brain lately. That made me wonder whether the ad was really that effective.

I quickly realized that it was more effective than a "standard" ad. Get some good creative in that widget, and you have enabled it to not only be clickable for more information on your brand, product or offer, but you've also turned the ad itself into a viral marketing mechanism.

Now how much would you pay!


Meta tag and alias reinforcement

Don't just take my, Yoni's and Ken's word for it: There's ample evidence out there in SEO-blog land regarding the importance of meta tags and aliases and how they contribute to keyword density of your pages and the call-to-action text that shows up in the search engine's themselves.

Witness today's post by Miles Price in Search Engine Journal: 12 Basic On-Site SEO Tactics for Optimized Results.

1. The Meta Keywords, Description and Robots tag — Google used description copy to market your site in its results, treat this as optimized sales copy. Make sure your sitemap.xml page is CONSTANTLY called up to the search engines

2. The Title Tag - The MOST important aspect of on-page SEO, just take our word for it...

5. The URL — The subdirectory folder and page of content should be SEO’d (i.e. http://domain.com/real-estate/real-estate-marketing-ideas.com would fetch a high ranking for a page dedicated to real estate marketing ideas - especially with many highly authoritative, relevant, deep in-bound links)