This morning, I commented on the Columbia Journalism Review in response to a post about the home page being dead. The author, Ann Friedman, said, “Yes and no.” Since she covered “yes,” I felt compelled to cover, “no.” I was verbose enough that I figured to save it here as well — and just in case it somehow gets lost or “unapproved”.
You seem to lean more heavily on the “yes” side of the dead-ness question, so I’ll put the “no” out there. Not because I say so, but because the data does.
Two years ago, my colleague, Dennis Mortensen, wrote a piece on Nieman Lab covering this same subject – the altered importance of front pages – and the potential for news organizations to make false assumptions from the changing landscape. The charts and data he showed then indicated the overwhelming importance of the home page to drive article views versus other sources, including search, the demon of the day.
He ran that same data last night and put it (and a new chart) into a Visual Revenue blog post this morning. It showed that the homepage continues to be the biggest traffic source for news media. Altered from 2011, but still dominant, by far, accounting for more than half the views, from a sum total of about 15 billion views per month. (This comes from a wide swath of our customer base that includes, ironically, Atlantic Media).
Niemen editors got it right by highlighting this quote from WSJ’s Raju Narisetti on their page:
“The trick is not to worry about where they’re coming from — the trick is what are they doing after they come.”
There’s also a quote from Bob Cohn at The Atlantic that,
“The old mantra that every page needs to be a homepage has never been more true.”
Both quotes sum up what I’ll call an aggregate view of the media property and its business – not just a one by one article view.
And this is where Denton and Gawker are pointing. He says, “Our strength as an aggregator remains editorial curation.” The distinctiveness of that editorial POV is critical to him and to any other media property that wants to survive in a world of almost limitless properties. How else can they stand out? And how else can they “offer a larger canvas for both our editors and advertisers”?
That, I would argue, is where the importance of the home page remains – for both the business model and the editorial project. And the data would appear to agree with me.
Would love to chat more about this, since it mirrors (to me) the evolution of online and social marketing vis-a-vis TV.