Loyal users will pay for watchdog journalism

Kinsey Wilson. Photo by Mary Kang/Knight Center
AUSTIN, Texas -- One of the dirty little secrets in digital media is that the big numbers of page views and unique users touted by publishers are misleading at best. They overstate a publication's audience size and impact.

Most visitors to a publisher's content are fly-bys: They stay for only a few seconds. And even if they stay longer than that, the vast majority come to a publisher's website only once or twice a month. These are not loyal users devoted to a brand.

What is more interesting and meaningful, especially for publishers of serious news and information, is that the smaller number of loyal users -- who come frequently, linger, and read many pages -- is willing to pay for the content and other products. They identify strongly with the brand.

Kinsey Wilson, editor of innovation and strategy at the New York Times, brought the point home last week at the International Symposium on Online Journalism when he mentioned that 90 percent of  his publication's digital revenue comes from 10 percent of its users.
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