Some Newspapers Get It, And Some Still Don’t

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Burning Newspaper
(image from desperate-bid)

In the middle of August, I wrote a post about the AP’s new SEO strategy. Although they were very optimistic and excited about their plan, because it involved creating automatically generated pages, the plan attracted plenty of critics from around the web.

Now, several weeks later, the topic of SEO and newspapers has made its way back into the media. There were two articles related to this topic that caught my eye, and while one of the articles shows that there are newspapers that get it, the other shows that some are still clueless.

The first article that caught my eye was titled “How Tribune Co. plans to rid itself of SEO-killing duplicate content.” This post was published on the same blog that published the post about the AP’s new SEO strategy. After recapping their first post, this post went on to discuss how Tribune Co. plans on getting rid of their duplicate content issues.

The effort to take care of their duplicate content issues is being lead by Brent Payne, who is the director of search engine optimization at Tribune Co. According to Brent and the post:

“The goal will be to always have only a single URL for a piece of content across all of our sites,” he told me in an email. For example, when The Los Angeles Times writes a story, it exists, of course, at latimes.com. But when The Chicago Tribune picks up the piece, the current system creates a duplicate of the article with a chicagotribune.com URL.

This means that “under Payne’s plan, Tribune readers would instead visit the Times domain. Meanwhile, a cookie or URL parameter would make the page look like the Tribune’s site and serve the Tribune’s ads.”

In addition to implementing this duplicate content strategy, Payne is also implementing a policy that will require editors and reporters to include a keyword rich phrase in the stories they file.

While Payne and Tribute Co. seem to be moving in the right direction, I can’t say the same for the newspapers featured in the post, “Taking The Plunge: How Newspaper Sites That Charge Are Faring.”

As the title implies, this post takes a look at newspapers who have decided to hide all of their content behind a pay wall instead of focusing on increasing traffic and experimenting with different forms of advertising. Here’s a look at what has happened to some of the newspapers featured in this post:

Daily Gazette: “Website traffic has plummeted by 40 percent in the three weeks since the Gazette started charging for most of its online content.” “There are 670 online-only subscribers.”

Newport Daily News: “Website traffic is down by about 30 percent since the paper began to charge.”

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
: Pay wall introduced in 2002, “revenue from online subscription sales amounts to only about $200,000 a year.”

As you can see (and anyone who reads this blog would have guessed), traffic is tanking as a result of these pay walls. Even worse, none of the newspapers are earning significant revenue through their online subscriptions. And what they don’t realize is that when they decide in a few years that this model isn’t sustainable, they are going to have a hard time regaining traffic that is being taken by other newspapers who kept their content open this entire time and built up a strong backlink profile!

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