Tag Archives: Websites

web traffic

Harnessing online traffic

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Marketers and journalists may have more in common than they think. Both groups are trying to best utilize web metrics to maximize their reach. Some are just doing it voluntarily, while others are having it forced on them.

Writing for the New York Times, David Carr penned a fascinating column about the move to pay journalists for clicks and other online metrics:

The availability of ready metrics on content is not only changing the way news organizations compensate their employees, but will have a significant effect on the news itself.

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At the beginning of the month, TheStreet.com, a site that covers the stock market, announced it was expanding its platform to include new voices, and that contributors would be paid by the click. A contributor who receives 60,000 page views in a week, for example, would be paid $50. (A lot of mischief can occur when stock prices are being written about, but we’ll get back to that later.)

At the end of February, The Daily Caller, a conservative political site run by Tucker Carlson, said it would begin a hybrid arrangement in which staff writers were paid a base salary plus a traffic incentive. The Daily Caller’s publisher told The Washington Post that the new plan would lead to more traffic and higher overall compensation for writers.

Joel Johnson, the editorial director of Gawker Media, announced a program in February called “Recruits” that creates subsidiary sites for new contributors, attached to existing editorial sites like Gawker or Jezebel. The recruits receive a stipend of $1,500 a month, and pay back that amount at a rate of $5 for every 1,000 unique visitors they attract. They then get to keep anything above the amount of the stipend, up to $6,000.

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It’s not just digital upstarts that are starting to manage reporters by the numbers. The Portland, Ore., newspaper The Oregonian, the much heralded home of many Pulitzer Prize-winning projects, is in the midst of a reorganization driven by the desire for more web traffic, according to internal documents obtained by Willamette Week, a weekly newspaper in Portland. A year after big layoffs and a reduction in home delivery to four times a week, The Oregonian, owned by Newhouse’s Advance Publications, is focusing on digital journalism — and the people who produce it — with a great deal of specificity.

On the other side of the spectrum are marketers, who are trying to determine true reach at a time when more than a third of Web traffic is fake, writes Suzanne Vranica for the Wall Street Journal:

Billions of dollars are flowing into online advertising. But marketers also are confronting an uncomfortable reality: rampant fraud.

About 36% of all Web traffic is considered fake, the product of computers hijacked by viruses and programmed to visit sites, according to estimates cited recently by the Interactive Advertising Bureau trade group.

So-called bot traffic cheats advertisers because marketers typically pay for ads whenever they are loaded in response to users visiting Web pages—regardless of whether the users are actual people.

The fraudsters erect sites with phony traffic and collect payments from advertisers through the middlemen who aggregate space across many sites and resell the space for most Web publishers. The identities of the fraudsters are murky, and they often operate from far-flung places such as Eastern Europe, security experts say.

The widespread fraud isn’t discouraging most marketers from increasing the portion of their ad budgets spent online. But it is prompting some to become more aggressive in monitoring how their money is spent. The Internet has become so central to consumers, that advertisers can’t afford to stay away.

Carr points out in his column that the potential for news sites to try and manipulate readers into clicking on their articles increases as it become tied to pay, something brands are already discovering.

And journalism’s status as a profession is up for grabs. A viral hit is no longer defined by the credentials of an individual or organization. The media ecosystem is increasingly a pro-am affair, where the wisdom — or prurient interest — of the crowd decides what is important and worthy of sharing.

Gawker Media now hosts Kinja, a platform where anybody can publish a blog post. The leader board on Kinja is a mix of people who write for a living, and people who wrote something about living that connected with other people.

It’s bracingly meritocratic, but there are hazards. Quizzes are everywhere right now because readers can’t resist clicking on them, but on an informational level, they are mostly empty calories. There are any number of gambits to induce clicks, from LOL cats to slide shows to bait-and-switch headlines.

But more than just traffic can be manipulated once you open up the gates, as Fortune recently pointed out. Authors promoting specific stocks posted to sites — including Forbes.com, Seeking Alpha, and Wall St. Cheat Sheet — without disclosing that they were paid to promote the companies they were writing about. The stocks were pumped and sometimes dumped without the reader being any the wiser.

As more sides of the business move to decisions based on metrics, it will likely create a situation where there is more equality, but also increases the chances that online clicks will be manipulated. The tech industry should determine if there’s a better way – metrics 2.0 – that will help both sides. It looks like the future of journalism may depend on it.

Dawn Chmielewski

Chmielewski joins Re/code as second mobile reporter

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Kara Swisher of Re/code writes about the tech news site’s new reporter, Dawn Chmielewski.

Swisher writes, “Now, we are adding to the beat with the addition of Dawn Chmielewski to cover mobile, devices and digital media computing for Re/code from the Los Angeles area.

“She is a veteran journalist, most recently at the Los Angeles Times, where she worked for eight years as an entertainment writer responsible for covering two of the world’s largest media conglomerates, Disney and News Corp. (now 21st Century Fox). More recently, she has turned her attention to digital media — profiling new players shaking up the Hollywood status quo.

“Prior to the Times, she worked as a technology reporter and personal technology columnist for the San Jose Mercury News, where she chronicled Apple’s renaissance and the rise of file-sharing networks. Chmielewski also previously worked at the Orange County Register, the Patriot Ledger and the Watertown Daily Times. She graduated from Utica College of Syracuse University.

“We are thrilled to add her expertise to Re/code, joining the best group of tech reporters and editors around (IMHO).”

Read more here.

TheWrap website

TheWrap.com sees large increase in readers

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Brooks Barnes of The New York Times writes about TheWrap.com, which covers the entertainment industry.

Barnes writes, “For the months of December through February, the heart of the all-important Oscars advertising season, TheWrap attracted an average of 2.8 million unique visitors from United States desktop computers, according to comScore. In the period a year earlier, TheWrap had an average of 755,000 unique visitors.

“TheWrap’s most direct competitor, the similarly online-only Deadline Hollywood, averaged 2.6 million visitors, up from 2.1 million in the year-ago period. After removing its paywall, Variety had 2.72 million visitors for the recent period, up from 533,000; The Hollywood Reporter averaged 5.6 million, up from 4.9 million.

“Ms. Waxman said that internal numbers, which include traffic from mobile devices, indicate that TheWrap is on track to reach 10 million unique visitors by year’s end. ‘Guess what?’ she said. ‘We moved the needle.’”

Read more here.

Quartz tablet

Quartz seeks a business reporter

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Quartz seeks a reporter to help us commit acts of journalism with code.

You would be part of the growing Quartz Things team, which is chiefly responsible for our data-driven and visual journalism, from charts to interactive graphics to news apps. “Thing” is simply our catchall term for stories that break free of the traditional article format to convey information in ways that work better on the web. Developing those new storytelling methods—and empowering others to use them, as well—is the challenge of this job.

We are looking for someone with a background in one or more of these fields: frontend web development, systems administration, statistics, data science, design, writing, and information architecture. Don’t worry—no one covers all of that ground. We’re building a well-rounded team with a range of experience. Tell us what you would add, including skills that aren’t mentioned here.

To apply, please submit a cover letter, resume, and five links to relevant work. The links matter most.

Quartz is a business news venture of Atlantic Media at qz.com.

To apply, go here.

stock_market_scam

Seeking Alpha says most-read posts determine stock movement

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Eli Hoffmann, senior vice president of content and editor in chief of SeekingAlpha.com, writes that recent research has shown that the more a post on its site is read, the more likely the stock mentioned in the post will move.

Hoffmann writes, “The researchers looked at pageviews and reads-to-end (how many readers finished reading an article) for articles that were destined to be predictive of future returns, and for articles that were destined to be counter-predictive of future returns. They also measured the acrimoniousness of those articles’ comments. They found, astonishingly, that during the first 48 hours after publication, articles that were destined to be predictive of future returns had above average page-views, above average reads-to-end, and unacrimonious comment streams, while articles that were destined to be counter-predictive had below average page-views, below average reads-to-end, and acrimonious comment streams. In other words, crowd behavior was a leading indicator of which predictions would be right, and which would be wrong.

“Other points from the study that weren’t obvious from the Journal article:

  • Researchers discounted stock performance during the first 48 hours after publication in order to remove from performance data immediate reactions to articles being published.
  • The researchers looked at the ability of Seeking Alpha articles to predict not only future stock returns, but also future earnings surprises. This was in order to discount for the possibility that the phenomenon was simply a case of a large platform influencing future stock prices rather than predicting them. Future prices could in theory be influenced by crowd behavior, but investors have no ability to influence future earnings surprises.
  • SA articles and comments predicted stock returns over every time-frame examined: three months, six months, one year and three years. This was not true of previous studies of the predictive value of Twitter and Internet message boards, which demonstrated no predictive value. Previous studies of sell-side research demonstrated some predictive value over short time frames that disappeared over longer time frames.
  • Further demonstrating the value of crowd-sourced research, they found that in cases of broad-based disagreement between authors and the community, community sentiment was more accurate in predicting future stock prices and earnings surprises.”

Read more here.

 

Quartz tablet

Quartz formally announces India launch

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Quartz, Atlantic Media’s business news website, announced Thursday that it will launch Quartz India this June with region-specific content and targeted native ads.

More than 40 percent of Quartz’s readers are outside the U.S., a level that has been consistent since its launch in September 2012.

India remains a top source of Quartz’s international traffic, it is a growing region for business news, and readers in the region are trending towards news consumption via digital and mobile channels. Given the small number of digitally native publications in the region, Quartz sees a strong opportunity for growth in readership.

“We saw an opportunity to serve our readers in the region even better with both our journalists around the world and an increased focus in India,” says Kevin J. Delaney, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Quartz, in a statement. “It’s a mobile-first region at a critical moment in its economic history—and we’re excited to deepen the coverage available to readers on their smartphones and tablets especially.”

Quartz will collaborate with Scroll.in’s team of reporters and editors in India to produce region-specific content for Quartz India. It will feature business, markets, and technology news and analysis, along with access to the full content produced by Quartz’s journalists globally. Readers in India will be able to access the region-specific version of Quartz via qz.com. Quartz India content will also be available to readers outside the region through the Quartz India view.

Quartz, launched in 2012, covers global business topics. Quartz has more than 25 journalists around the world. Quartz surpassed 5 million unique visitors in January and is tracking to be up more than 400 percent over the first quarter of 2012 in terms of advertising revenue.

Frank Tantillo

Tantillo named ME for Reuters.com

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Dan Colarusso, the executive editor for digital at Reuters, sent out the following staff announcement on Thursday:

I am pleased to announce that Frank Tantillo is being named Managing Editor, Product, Reuters.com.

Frank is a veteran Reuters journalist and trusted voice in the newsroom. He joined the company as a news assistant in 1994 and quickly became the kid in the newsroom who knew how to both find things on the then-new Internet and how to explain to the old-timers how it worked. He’s been intimately involved with the training and implementation of major editorial systems and moved over to Reuters.com in 2005 as one of its first hires.

He has been our go-to guy since.

In his new position, he will be among the key editorial voices in product development and technology changes on Reuters.com, working closely with Brian Tracey. He will be responsible for developing ideas around new sections, user experience features and multimedia/data innovation and troubleshooting technology issues relating to editorial workflows.

Please join me in congratulating Frank.

Money

Stock promoters making inroads on financial news sites

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Stephen Gandel of Fortune writes about how the writing of stock promoters is increasingly being found on financial news sites.

Gandel writes, “In the past year or so, several finance websites — including Forbes.com, Seeking Alpha, Wall St. Cheat Sheet, and others — have published articles by authors who were allegedly paid to promote the stocks they were writing about. These articles were not labeled as advertisements and carried no disclosures that the authors had been compensated by their subjects. In fact, on at least one of the websites — stock blog Seeking Alpha — the articles carried a disclosure stating the author had not received any compensation from anyone outside of Seeking Alpha to write the article. Seeking Alpha now admits that some of those disclosures were inaccurate.

“The articles in question were published through the websites’ contributor networks and were allegedly paid for by an investor relations firm called The DreamTeam Group. Most of these pieces focused on so-called penny stocks — companies with shares that trade for less than a dollar and not very often, a favored terrain of stock promotion schemes.

“While not all of the facts are clear, the websites admit that they were duped. In the past few weeks, more than 100 articles have been pulled from Seeking Alpha, Wall St. Cheat Sheet, and other websites that have been caught up in the stock promotion scheme.

“In some cases, the stock promoters were successful. In late December, Forbes.com published an article by Tom Meyer called ‘The race to develop a brain cancer treatment takes an interesting turn.’ The article said a small biotech company called CytRx had ‘remarkable results’ in a recent drug trial and ‘appears poised for a significant run in the months and years ahead as the company’s platform continues to be validated by science.’

“Within days of the article’s publication, CytRx’s stock rose nearly 50% to $6.90. Last week, a class action suit was filed against CytRx, its CEO Steven Kriegsman, and an investor relations firm The DreamTeam Group. The suit says that CytRx (CYTR), through DreamTeam, hired Meyer and another author named John Mylant to place positive articles about the company and its shares on Forbes.com and other websites.”

Read more here.

Wall Street Journal

WSJ accused of violating video privacy law

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Dow Jones & Co. has been hit with a potential class-action lawsuit accusing it of violating federal video privacy laws with the Wall Street Journal‘s Roku app.

Wendy Davis of MediaPost.com writes, “Georgia resident Terry Locklear alleges in her complaint that the news company’s app automatically transmits information about the Wall Street Journal Live clips that users view — along with the serial number of their Roku devices — to the analytics and video ad company mDialog. Locklear argues that this activity violates the Video Privacy Protection Act, which prohibits video providers from revealing consumers’ personally identifiable information without their written consent.

“‘Unbeknownst to its users … each time they view video clips or news reports, the WSJ Channel sends a record of such activities to an unrelated third-party data analytics and video advertising company called mDialog,’ she alleges in her lawsuit, filed last week in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. ‘The complete record is sent each time that a user views a video clip or news report, along with the serial number associated with the user’s Roku device.’

“Locklear asserts in the complaint that a Roku’s serial number is a ‘persistent identifier’ that can be matched with users’ identities to reveal ‘a wealth of extremely precise information’ about them. ‘Software applications that transmit a Roku’s serial number along with the user’s activity provide an intimate look into how the user interacts with their channels, which can reveal information such as the user’s political or religious affiliation, employment information, articles and videos viewed, and even detail about the sequence of events in which the user interacts with their Roku,’ she alleges.

“Dow Jones did not respond to a request for comment.”

Read more here.

frankieflack

Frankie Flack: Lies, damn lies, statistics and business journalism

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If you’re a business reporter and don’t love numbers, I don’t want anything to do with you.

I love selling stories with facts and figures a lot more than I like selling sizzle. Show me market share or same-store sales or margins data, and I’ll go to town. In contrast, today’s great profile of a brash young CEO might be tomorrow’s cautionary tale. But the numbers, they don’t lie.

(This isn’t, technically, true. Number lie all the time. They also mislead. But — and this is what I love about numbers — they can be fact checked, vetted, fisked, taken apart, put back together. You want to question my assumptions? Bring it on.)

That said, “data-driven journalism” has now officially jumped the shark. Election-predicting Nate Silver has re-launched fivethirtyeight.com for ESPN, but he’s not content to just crunch baseball stats or election polls. Nope. His site is going to bring a data-driven approach to everything, no matter how silly.

I mean, the site has been up for only a few days, and two things have already happened. First, reporters are now claiming that statistics can solve any problem. That missing airliner? If only the nerd-kings were in charge! They’d apply Bayesian statistics and — voila — have a much better idea of where the plane went down. Never mind that Bayesian statistics don’t work well in an information vacuum. Just wave that magic wand!

Second, reporters are now violating most of the primary rules of working with numbers, such as the general principle that the bigger the dataset, the better the results. Yet 24 hours after the site launched, the “lead writer for news” used this phrase: “My experiment had a sample size of one.” That is not a sentence that inspires confidence.

And it’s not just fivethirtyeight. The New York Times is launching “The Upshot” to do essentially the same thing. Ezra Klein has a similar belief in the edifying effect of charts and data. Some of this stuff will be really good. But a ton of it will be horseshit, dressed up as science.

This is going to boomerang back to haunt you business reporters. You heard it here first: It’s going to take about six weeks for the PR brain trust to decide that we need less pitches with infographics (thank God) and more datasets that we can dump on unsuspecting reporters.

You all will have to start double-checking my numbers because no one wants to let a juicy data story slip away. And we’ll all be worse off, spending our days hunched over Excel spreadsheets, looking for trickery.

So here’s my offer, and we need to agree on this quickly before things spin even more out of control: on behalf of all flacks, we will not pivot to sending you crappy “data” stories if you all agree not to hop on the bandwagon of dressing up garbage numbers as some sort of absolute truth.

That doesn’t mean I’m abandoning numbers. Far from it.

I’m still going to push for GAAP earnings reports and sensible information on marketing trends or whatever to send you.

But I won’t claim that Bayesian statistics are the key to understanding the frozen concentrated orange-juice futures if you don’t publish “experiments with a sample size of one.”

Deal?