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The value of website traffic?

A couple of weeks ago I hosted a SIPA seminar about search (both search engine marketing and using search to create media products). It was really good.

One of the speakers was Julian Sambles, Head of Audience Development at the Telegraph Media Group. Julian gave an overview of what was happening at the Telegraph since the introduction of the audience development team – a team which focused on pushing content out to readers via search engine marketing and interaction with social media. He claimed that since the introduction of this strategy in the summer of 2007 global unique users of the Telegraph’s websites had risen by over 300% in a 14 month period. You may have seen some of the resulting fallout after claims that the Telegraph had overtaken the Guardian in ABC results.

Now, whether the Guardian, Telegraph or Times has the highest online readership is neither here nor there. Sure, it confers some bragging rights for the leader but what commercial advantage does it give? Anyone with experience of search & social media knows techniques for generating traffic – especially if you work for an authority site like the Daily Telegraph. Just take a look at Google Trends information for news, write loads of ‘linkbait’ top 10 list type stories for social media sites or even pay for a wide range of keywords & you can see your traffic soar. But what use are all these extra eyeballs? They mean nothing unless you can monetise this traffic – and hopefully at the sort of premium rates you were able to justify in print.

The reality, however is that CPM rates continue to fall & newspaper groups continue to lay off staff. So where’s the payback? 

I would argue that the newspaper groups need to learn some lessons from their B2B cousins. And quickly. They need to capture information about these extra readers and make sure they embrace a multi-platform media environment where advertising becomes a smaller part of their revenue mix.

Where, for example are the Telegraph’s conferences and training courses, shops, sponsored sections, affiliate programmes, books and paid reports, exhibitions etc. etc.? They may be there somewhere on the site but as a newly attracted reader I can’t see them. 

Traffic and customers are all well and good but until you have some way of making money from them it means nothing.



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