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WSJ.com’s audience jumps at records high. Newsroom integration works

The online version of the Wall street Journal is roaring. According to its editor, Alan Murray, quoted in the business monthly Portfolio , WSJ.com got 15 million unique visitors (UV) in March, a 175% jump over a year ago. In page views, figures for the same month came at 165m a 75% increase. Those figures have been compiled by internal traffic measurement tools (counting tags on each page). Nielsen measurement, is different : it gives 6m unique users for the WSJ.com versus 3.4 for March 2007. Nielsen is relying on panel — people are asked to tell what site they look. Why has this approximate, anachronic, measure become such a standard on the Internet? This remains a mystery – or a miracle of PR.

What is driving the WSJ.com audience ? Two things from a reader’s perspective : First, the site is good ; it is has depth, it is reactive, its interface is neat. Second, its content has been boosted for months by a stream of great stories ; the endless subprime saga, the debate about the scope of the recession, the difficulties and collapse of major institutions like Bear Stearns.

According to management, the creation of a unified, print and online WSJ newsroom, is a key element: “That had two really important effects,” says Alan Murray. “First, it got the entire news operation thinking on a more systematic basis about the online edition. Second, it really freed up my team to focus on making the product better, because we weren’t managing the daily news flow anymore.”

Others factors include the usual tools of the trade : better search engine optimization (SEO) ; clever approach of the “aggregator factor” with links from Google News giving access to one article even if it is part of a paid-for segment of the site. (Unlike many newspapers that ignore, or even reject any cooperation with Google — even if 40% of their traffic often come from search engines — , the WSJ.com is using the power of Google as promotional tool. This policy doesn’t affect his subscription policy. As the site is gradually opening to free users, its subscriber’s base of 1 million is growing 10% a year.

InterActive Corp backing the “Queen of Buzz” for a news site

Best editor money can buy. At least, that’s the pitch. Internet media mogul Barry Diller is teaming up with former Vanity Fair and New Yorker editor Tina Brown to launch an aggregator news site, reports Radar. In a conversation with the Monday Note last September in Monaco, Diller hinted that he was up to launch a news site, saying that, news media were far for having grasp all the potential of the internet.

Neil Budde: From Yahoo to the Daily Me

From Yahoo to the Daily Me In the Internet publishing world, Neil Budde is seen as both a pioneer and a reference. He created the Online Wall Street Journal that now enjoys one million subscribers. Then he left for Yahoo!, raising speculations that the search company will make a major move into publishing (it didn’t happen). Last week Budde announced that he was leaving Yahoo! for the customization-aggregator Daily Me. Is it simply a career move from a bureaucratic Silicon Valley giant to a more startupish venture? Or is it the expression of a vision ? Judge by yourself with Budde’s explanations.

Patience, blog 2.0 is coming

Schizophrenia at work. Many web publishers are working hard to increase all forms of interaction with readers they ignored during decades. They are adding comments to articles, opening blog platforms (getting sued and loosing sometimes). Sites are lining up legion of low paid bloggers ($10 a post), where productivity becomes the obsession at the expense of relevancy or quality. Some even literally die on the job as recount in this amazing story in the New York Times).

At the same time, everyone is struggling with an increasingly noisy background. Web editors are working on algorithms (good luck pals) to enhance the visibility on the most interesting contributions, others are spending a lot on moderation. Results varie as shown in this study made by Ball State University, which concludes that blogs have, in fact, done very little to increase the quality of dialogue with the public.

What could be next ?Probably a more decisive quest for better contribution. Not through software filters and algorithms but through human, professional, judgment. Interaction with readers should (and ultimately will) be seen as a tool to enrich the content of a website, rather than a trick to increase pageviews (a cheap one by the way since blogs and reader-generated comments are the lowest priced space — a fifth or a tenth of the average Cost Per Thousand).

Call it blog 2.0 or “relevant interaction”, it will inevitably come. And it will benefit on all parties: readers will be rewarded to think rather than shout ; journalist will be challenged; publishers will see their content improved, and CPT will increase.

Magazines — What works and what doesn’t

At a recent speech at Columbia University, Newsweek editor Jon Meacham asked which students read the magazine. None of them did. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, he delivered this stern response: “It’s an incredible frustration that I’ve got some of the most decent, hard-working, honest, passionate, straight-shooting, non-ideological people who just want to tell the damn truth, and how to get this past this image that we’re just middlebrow, you know, a magazine that your grandparents get, or something, that’s the challenge,” Mr. Meacham said. “And I just don’t know how to do it, so if you’ve got any ideas, tell me.”

You want ideas? See if there are some in The Economist’s success on the global market. The magazine’s top bosses have been awarded the Executive Team of the Year by AdWeek as much as the overall product as for the business performance. First, here are some figures of the trade :

circ USA…………..rev…………..rev…………..pages…………..pages2007 (m)………….. 2007——- 2006 —–chge 2007— 2006 chge ————————————————————————– ECONOMIST 0.73…………..31…………..24…………..+28%…………..693…………..613…………..+13%
NEWSWEEK 3.12 159 155 +2,4% 613 631 -2,8%
TIME 3.4 174 218 -20% 692 762 -9,2% ————————————————————————— Source : MPA- For The Economist the US circulation is half of the total. Even though the UK-based magazine is still five times smaller than Newsweek and Time, it is leaving the two others in the dust both in terms of volume and value growth. To prevent further erosion of its profitability, Newsweek has offered a buyout to 20% of its staff. What’s makes The Economist performing so well ? According to the editor John Micklethwait and publisher Paul Rossi, several factors are in play :

- The magazine’s global perspective. “It became more relevant when a Milwaukee factory worker can loose his job to somebody in India”, as Micklethwait puts it. Or even more since 9/11, “People have suddenly seen how their world can be turned upside down by a lunatic in a cave in Afghanistan”.

- Editorial positioning. The Economist is liberal on social issues and liberal on economic issues as well – that blurs traditional boundaries (and that is unthinkable in a country like France for instance where you must choose your side). – Depth, tone, pitch. The average readers spend 57 minutes a week. Writing is sharp, precise, informed, sometimes funny. Opinions are strong and argued. Angles are original (particularly in special surveys).

- Creativity to capture big ads. For example the interactive Energyville game made for Chevron by the Economist Group (supreme luxury : the magazine is trustable enough to avoid suspicion of coziness with such a big advertiser). - Even the website, that tends to be less and less paid-for by the way, is very thorough, with clever, often recursive, levels of reading.

- Its independence, protected by a board of trustees (and by its economic performance).

The Economist’s success is quite reassuring from a journalistic perspective. No one, not a single marketing egghead, would have a bet a cent on the success of such global positioning in the era of proximity obsession.

Google owns 69% of the internet advertising

Here is why Google was so eager to buy the ad-server company DoubleClick : their combined market share reaches 69% of unique visitors, according to Attributor, a start-up specialized in tracking monetization on the web (January numbers). The split gives 35% for Google itself and 34% for DoubleClick. And, if we measure by domains (instead of Unqiue Visitors), it’s even better — or worse, depending on your free market beliefs: Google contros 77% of the market and DoubleClick less than 6%. Basically, as Attributor puts it, DoubleClick owns the head of the market, Google owns the tail, as shows the table below : audience*……<100kUV…………..100-1m UV…………….>1m UV DCLK……………… 9.1 %……………… 29.9%………………48.0% Google ………….. 71.4% ………………41.6%………………15.9% …………………………………………………………………………………… * in Unique Visitors per month In comparison, on a global UV basis, Yahoo has a market share of 11.5%, MSN 10%, AOL 5%. To measure this, Attributor crawled 68 million domains and 25 billion pages instead of using the traditional panel. Attributor plans to release such data on a monthky basis.

The successful recipe of the Huffington Post

Three years after its launch by candidate-activist Arianna Huffington (bio here ), The Huffington Post is undoubtedly a success in the struggling editorial web world. With its 46 full-time staff and legion of bloggers, the site is poised to break even using only advertising revenue. In terms of audience, it is more popular than all but eight newspaper sites.
> the New Yorker explores the recipe of the Huffington Post, a mixture of strongly opinionated pieces and good basic journalism.

When Google reads your face

Let’s try a simple explanation: when you land on a web page, your attention is captured by a particular section of the page, a subject, a sub-story. Problem: the ad embedded in the page (on which you are extremely unlikely to click, let’s face it) is automatically served to you on the basis of the URL and of the general content. Google’s new patent refines this by adding a vast array of behavior components. Some sound realistic: cursor dwell time or volume up in an audio segment. Others are more futuristic: viewer eye direction, or even facial expression. But it gives an idea where Google is heading: very far.
> read the article by tech pundit Nicholas Carr
> and if you want to go to the bottom of it, you can always attack the original document filled on the US Patent Office