A few thoughts sparked by an article ‘Guardian part 2: What are engaged users REALLY worth?’ by the Wannabe Hacks:
Speaking from the point of view of a local daily newspaper website… All visitors have value, but they visit for different reasons. and they have become a disparate bunch, Twitter followers, Facebook likers, registered commenting site visitors etc. Different strategies are needed for each group.
Big reasons for staying/returning to the site: quality and relevance of content to visitor’s interests – as it always has been. Good quality journalism has long term value, celebrity stories have high short-term value.
Many people visit but never comment or interact on news websites, should we force these people to register? If they are a large but loyal number then I think the potential loss of audience is too great. If your publications voice is only being heard by a small minority how can consensus or influence be maintained?
Clamoring for the largest audience must be tempered with not overlooking delivering what your target audience want, be that subject or geographically based. If you’re not doing that then you’ll have little chance of moneting the audience.
The data on registered users though has huge long-term value, knowing what they look at, where they came from, their journey through your site, enables tailoring related content and commercial offers to them and justifying changes to your site structure.
There’s nothing wrong with commercial elements alongside quality content, but if it has relevance to the user, then there’s clearly more revenue potential and everybody wins!
In short, a very difficult area, a fine-line to be trodden through making enough money to pay for quality of content and product whilst keeping a strong, loyal audience and not driving them away with over-bearing commercial strategies.
In terms of skills, SEO and understanding how content works in a digital environment is vital to all editorial staff. Being able to judge how and when to add keywords and phrases into headlines/intros, compacting a story into a Tweet and other web-based copywriting and sub-editing is a hugely valuable skill-set.