9 reasons why numbering the reasons for your assertion drives more web traffic to your site

This first paragraph is a snappy little emcee, breezily providing the briefest of background on the problem of all those people out there on the internet not clicking through to your little backwater of a blog, or to your huge content farm with ads flashing like carnival barkers, but you already think you know what I’ve written here anyway and have skipped right over this text to skim the neat list of 9 reasons below.

Numerals stop the eye. Eyetracking studies done in the early days of the internet showed that numbers “attract fixations, even when they’re embedded within a mass of words that users otherwise ignore”, such as search results or their Twitter timeline.

Numbering establishes you as an expert. You must have done your research, or at least sat around brainstorming and repeatedly ticking off the list on your fingers, in order to come up with enough reasons to justify numbering them.

Numbering creates a list. Lists are easily scanned for highlights. An old but surprisingly still-cited study found that users don’t read on the web – they scan. No one has time to actually read your content; help them pretend that they did.

Numbers = bullet points. Bullet points = succinct. Succinct = good.

Numbering promises easy answers. Answers to the burning question that your numerically Pavlovian readers didn’t even realize Continue reading

Content farms, news aggregators creating Walmart model of media content & shrinking the journalistic middle class

It is no doubt meant to be a breezy New Yorker article (yet with a few hard reportorial straw-man questions) on the development of Bustle.com, a new website for women. It is written by Lizzie Widdicombe in an insider-guide-to-trendy-new-restaurant tone suggesting that the owner, Bryan Goldberg, has insightfully blazed a game-changing trail in the brave new young world of digital media. But the story of Bustle.com is actually a stark example that highlights the financial pressures that are shaping a Walmart model of media content delivery, with the result of dangerously shrinking the journalistic middle class.

Goldberg, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, previously started the sports website bleacherreport.com and sold it to Turner Broadcasting in 2012 for over two hundred million dollars. Widdicombe admiringly notes that its success “was a striking example of the new economics of media: when it began, its articles were written by a network of two thousand unpaid sports fans”. Goldberg is using a similar content farm model – non-experts generating search-engine-optimized opinion-oriented content – to create the “female equivalent of ESPN.com, an advertiser-friendly Web site that appeals to just about all members of one sex”.

The staff consists of four female editors in their mid-twenties, who have been given equity in the company, and “a gaggle of interns—college students or recent graduates, all women”. (Editorial note to writer: “all women” is redundant because at no time in the history of humankind has any group of people that included men been referred to as a gaggle.) Most importantly,

“Goldberg plans to use writers from the group of young women that is Bustle’s intended readership, those aged eighteen to thirty-four. … Writers are paid, but only part-time rates. (Interns get fifty dollars a day, while more established freelancers receive a hundred.)”

That is the first similarity to the Walmart model: employ only Continue reading

Is cable dead? The problems with providers, competition, and access seem familiar.

Is cable dead? Respected technology writer Doc Searls thinks so. In his blogpost today he talks about the recent example of Al Jazeera restricting its online Al Jazeera English stream in the US when it began broadcasting its cable channel, Al Jazeera America, on August 20. Searls’ take is that Al Jazeera’s move to cable is a backwards one; he sees it as sacrificing the future for the past.

Cable may not be dead – yet. I think that Al Jazeera’s sacrificing a bit in the short term and playing the long game in order to have access to the American market. But what is interesting is Al Jazeera’s explanation for the move: “Due to copyright and distribution restrictions, not all viewers will be able to access all of our streaming video services.” It highlights the distinction between cable channel (content) and cable provider (access), and the power that providers currently have over what viewers can see.

Time Warner Cable, which owns CNN, immediately dropped Al Jazeera America from its lineup. (In other news, they have also blacked out CBS in several major markets during their fee negotiations but will undoubtedly reach an agreement before football season starts.) AT&T’s U-verse pay-TV service said it wouldn’t carry Al Jazeera America because of a contract dispute.

The customers served by these providers have no choice in the matter. They can’t see Al Jazeera America – yet.

In almost all US markets there is a monopoly on the provision of cable services. Susan Crawford, a communications policy expert and a professor at the Cardozo School of Law, warns in her recent book “Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age” that a handful of cable companies have become monopolies that stifle competition and innovation. Crawford compares the cable company structure to that of the 19th century railroad and steel monopolies, which faced minimal competition Continue reading