Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Day The Newspaper Died, Pt. 2


I wrote at length earlier about the challenge of writing in a post-print era, and for an internet audience.

Here's one webmaster reflecting on that challenge (this post is a reflection on's long form piece style):

I can't pretend to know where every other webmaster stands, but I know where I stand with my own site. I'm lucky if I bring in revenue of $1 per 1000 hits a piece attracts. From talking to others, that's the situation of nearly every niche site or new site that hasn't found some golden relationships with advertisers or a sponsorship (I have neither). I hear that some sites make $5 to $8 per 1000 hits, but that is currently the exception rather than the trend that it apparently was in the 90s.

What that means is that if I pay someone for a review (which is all that my primary site currently runs), with my current ad revenue options I have to hope for between 200K and 300K hits to justify the amount I paid that skilled writer. I've been fortunate enough to post some incredible content at a considerable monetary loss because it was personally worth it to me and because it earned incoming links that can impact a site's long-term health, but for a variety of reasons even that content has struggled to earn more than 10K hits.

I don't pay writers by the word (which I've found prevents me from working with most UK game critics), but I'm still not likely to post a lot of long content because it requires more of my time for any necessary editing and--most importantly--because readers are less likely to read through a whole piece. If someone clicks through to an unfamiliar site, a lot of readers will scan to see how long a piece is before they do anything else. Some readers, upon finding that the piece is long, will immediately click away (without reading so much as a word to see if that content is written particularly well) and that impacts that site's bounce rate, which prevents Google from sending the site as much traffic and limits its revenue. If a visitor sees the whole article in that first window, he's more likely to stick around and read it. If a site that occasionally publishes long pieces can't turn that immediately into a selling point, then it may have permanently lost a reader.

Those are a few of the main reasons that you won't see a lot of sites focusing on longer pieces, in case you wondered. Other reasons are typically related to those already mentioned. Such harsh realities are not going to stop me from publishing long pieces that I like--because I'm a dork--but it will stop me and a lot of other great sites from building a budget that allows for regular posting of that quality content. I hope that Grantland defies the odds, because the Internet can always use another site with great writing. Having separate "blogs" and "features" sections seems like a step in the right direction.


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