Thursday, February 25, 2010

Online Drive-Time: Catering to the Content Commuters

I attended the Platts 6th Annual Nuclear Energy Conference last week. While I was there, I had a conversation with a reporter friend of mine from the New York Times. We were talking about how and where different versions of his stories get published – print and online. He pointed out something that caught my attention. The Times has determined that their Web site has “four rush hours.”

Looking at web traffic patterns, they’ve apparently identified peak times during the day that large groups of users check their site:

• In the morning, when they arrive at the office
• Before heading out to lunch
• When they return from lunch
• Before they head home for the evening

As a result, the paper has developed (or evolved) an online editorial calendar of sorts that is radically different than the print model. The idea, of course, is to ensure that people see something new each time they check in. For the newsroom, this can raise questions about which versions of which stories go through which channels and when. About as confusing as rush hour here in D.C.!

We have gotten used to seeing more content online than in print. Many I talk to seem to think it’s because it’s so much quicker and easier – particularly for breaking news – to post news to the Web and to reporters’ blogs. But there could be other forces at work.

In times when newspaper payrolls are shrinking, this could mean that posting and updating stories online is less a function of the timeliness of the Web than an attempt to get maximum value out of the content newsrooms work to produce.

- Potomac Communications Group

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