12 November 2009

News alerts: keeping audiences coming back for more

Newspapers maybe missing out if they don’t make full use of alerts and tools, especially when it comes to exclusive materials, argues Dorian Benkoil of Poynter Online.

He uses the example of the Times’ story of tennis player Andre Agassi’s autobiography - in which he admitted to the use of the drug crystal meth - of which they would then be publishing exclusive excerpts.

Because the Times did not have an alert system (using, say, Twitter or Facebook), which would have encouraged Benkoil to go back to the excerpts when they went live, he eventually started checking Google news and the Guardian, and didn’t return to the original source for some weeks.

This, he argues, is a missed opportunity that could lose newspapers valuable page views, advertising and other opportunities, stating that this is backed up by masses of Web analytics data.

Every little impediment, says Benkoil, is an opportunity for a visitor to leave, go somewhere else, forget they can get what they want from you.

Over time, he adds, that means the loss of real money and all the other metrics people like to use, such as "stickiness" and "engagement."

He continues by saying that if The Times had offered the chance to be alerted when the excerpts were published, not only would they have had his subsequent page views (and ad impressions), they would have had his contact info and valuable information about his interests.

Benkoil suggests that every site should have sharing apps, like the AddThis module at the bottom of the Agassi story that links to dozens of social networking and bookmarking options, amongst many other apps.

But, he concludes, publishers also need to tailor their links and offerings as much as possible.

Sometimes, he says, that will mean human intervention, such as a smart editor saying, "Hey, we've got the Agassi excerpts, they'll be big, so let's make it easy for everyone to find them and get alerted to them."

This will also increase the ability of new Semantic Web applications to place relevant alerts and adverts alongside them and it should be as easy as possible for someone to find what they are looking for on the publication’s site.

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