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News Site Strategy Leads to Big Benefits, Big Challenges

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News media sites have a business model that gives some advantages in the short term and disadvantages in the long term.

News media sites have a business model that requires them to post a lot of in-depth content every day.

Because search engines favor fresh, original and frequent content, they respond with great enthusiasm and send plenty of visitors to those sites.

They also overwhelmingly appear in top ranking search results for certain content categories. “Chicago news” or “Los Angeles sports” will surely see media outlets dominating the results.

For decades, local newspapers dominated the print classified categories. For years after the arrival of online content, they also dominated the digital classified categories, although that dominance has faded with the arrival of hordes of competitors.

Still, there is plenty of evidence that news media sites have a strong local online presence and a deep reach into their respective audiences.

The advantages don’t stop with frequent postings of fresh content, sometimes multiple times a day.

They also have a social media advantage, especially with Facebook. News media sites that post entries on their Facebook pages as often as they post on their own sites end up with tremendous reach within that audience, which often clicks on the links to go back to the parent site.

In fact, a page with 10,000 likes can easily have a reach that is three to four times higher because of shares, comments and likes.

News becomes an addiction for media sites because of these reasons, which lead to large audiences, which in turn leads to more revenue.

But that emphasis on news has a couple of major downsides as well.

The Disadvantages of News

News by its nature has short-term value and therefore short-term readership.

Analytic reports show quite clearly that a news story published a month ago may get only a handful of visits today compared to the day it was published.

Many are lucky to get any visits at all. In many cases they are accidental visits from search engines, meaning that someone stumbled across the post and probably left again.

It leads to a serious problem.

News staff can produce only a limited number of stories during the course of a day or week.

When a story quickly runs its course, it must be replaced by a new one to keep up the audience level.

As a result, the staff hits a plateau on productivity. Eventually, the site audience and advertising revenue hit a plateau too.

In contrast, a story about a travel destination may get only modest views when it is published. But because it is evergreen content, it continues to produce views over a period of years.

A staff that produces nothing but evergreen content ends up with a growing database of always-readable articles that can grow the site audience long into the future.

So the answer for news media sites is difficult but clear: They must avoid becoming addicted to news and only news. Instead, they must break free of that cycle that becomes a trap and produce a growing amount of content with long-term value to readers.

That means exploring new content topics almost as aggressively as they do with news and sports.

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