On the Web, smaller may be better

On the Web, smaller may be better
Any media company that runs a news Website should pay attention to this article in the online Editor&Publisher. Using a new measurement method from Belden Associates, Lee Enterprises has boosted its online retail sales significantly this year by identifying and marketing to a small but loyal group of Website users.

Belden, based on tests at nine Lee sites and ongoing tests at two other newspaper chains, estimates online papers reach a small but loyal core of users — between 5% to 20% of the papers’ entire adult market. Those findings are similar to recent data from Reston, Va.-based online audience measurement company comScore Media Metrix.

(Greg) Harmon (director of interactive services at Belden) admits Belden’s numbers are likely to disappoint some online managers who are used to seeing visitor numbers, although suspect, in the hundreds of thousands. But the smaller audiences have quality, he said. “These Web sites have fabulous local audiences and [newspapers] are not selling them,” he said.

A spokesperson for Lee Enterprises notes that being able to tell advertisers their sites reach a small but loyal audience is better than saying the audience is huge but doesn’t deliver sales for advertisers. Amen to that! The Internet is not a top-down, mass audience delivery system, and businesses who counted on that during the bubble days of the late 20th century wound up in bankruptcy when the illusion crashed and burned. The Web is about relationships, which is what this story is really saying. Delivering results to advertisers is still our mission. It just requires a different mindset.

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