The Value of a Story

A few months ago, Ken Doctor wrote about the cost of a story, highlighting that financial pressures in media require new formulas to lower content costs.  But my takeaway was different: that the greater leverage point for media success is not in reducing cost, but in increasing value.

And the hard truth is that each and every story has to pull its own weight on the new social Web these days.  Demand for media now comes for the item, not for a bundle.

That said, social networks – led primarily by Facebook and Twitter – provide publishers with increased transparency about what readers consume, interact with, and share; all in real-time.

This makes publishing easier and less expensive, hence more profitable, because editors know exactly what their readers want to consume, and they don’t have to waste time, effort and resources creating content that simply won’t resonate.

To put it a different way: imagine that you have a magazine, and it’s blank. The first page, the home page, might serve as a table of contents. Then, as you click and read along, each page gets filled in – based on what you read on the previous page; the depth to which you read the previous page; and the amount of real-time sharing that you participated in on the previous page. The next page becomes an instant predictive reflection of the prior set of interest signals. This “Magic Magazine” is assembled just for you, and its content is based on your implicit explicit preferences.

I believe that we’re headed in this direction, and we’ll get there, sooner than you might think.

In fact, it’s already beginning. AOL’s Editions product invites each user to thumbs-up and thumbs-down the various topics and sources it shows, resulting in a Pandora-like experience that self-tunes, so that today’s magazine is even more personally relevant to each user than yesterday’s.

And that has the potential to make a more efficient content economy, to the extent publishers can invest in the right content and get it to all the right people.

To do that, publishers must collect all those valuable signals from the audience – which naturally means connecting on the social Web.  The social Web provides robust real-time signals about exactly who the audience is, and what they want.  That’s why, at Wetpaint, we’re maniacally focused on writing our playbook to master this best. Right now, we derive more than 12% of our visits from Facebook and Twitter, which ranks us #4 when compared to the 50 largest Web publishers.  And we expect that figure to double or more over the next 12 months.  (In fact, we’ve been increasing our Facebook traffic by 11% per month.)  We’re benefiting from more than traffic:  the value of each visitor is going up as well, with social visitors coming more frequently and staying longer.

It’s because our social focus lets us serve customers better.  Looking ahead, we’re moving in the direction of hyper-personalization, with customized experiences that seamlessly make themselves felt.

You can see this, to some degree, on the Huffington Post today. They pioneered social channels based on what’s hot, and what’s being shared, and then they reorganized their own pages and published in real-time in order to flow into this.

Old-line media players must adapt here, and in a hurry. From my perspective, Forbes, under Lewis D’Vorkin, is way out front and doing an excellent job showing the way.

With all that programming, what about serendipity? It will still be there. But if a publisher can provide 90% of what a consumer needs and wants, that’s a big value add – especially if the remaining 10% is all the stuff the customer doesn’t know they want yet.

Over the next two years, as social media is continuously refined in new and previously unimaginable ways, I believe that the value of individual stories will keep rising.

And, if we focus on the economics of it, the value of a story online can be thought of as an equation: Page Views x RPM.

But the mathematical symbols in this case are directly representative of two really basic things – how much audience the story attracts, and how desirable the publisher’s full offering is to advertisers.

The roots of both of those are in the content; great content increases both dramatically – albeit over time (The truth is: it takes years of repeat!). And, when we peer out across the long-term horizon, it’s clear that great content that increases audience increases overall reach; and this, in turn, has the compound effect of increasing the desirability to advertisers even more.

My strong sense is that publishers of both old and new media can definitely take advantage of this all-important dynamic by closely watching and assessing the way their consumers interact with content on a real-time basis. In the end, the process should be interesting – and profitable.

Introducing the Social Leaderboard

As I have shared previously, our goal at Wetpaint is to be the leader in building media properties on the social Web.  That’s because I am seeing the web’s nature fundamentally change to become fully social. The Web Is Shrinking - Elowitz/Wetpaint

It’s not just theory – it’s data.

As I shared recently at AllThingsD.com, the social Web is capturing a dramatically increasing share of users’ attention – with internet users collectively increasing the amount of time they spend per month on Facebook by 69% over a one-year period – while usage for the entire rest of the Web, excluding Facebook, shrank by 9% over the same period.

Social is the most strategic medium for our industry.  And yet we haven’t established how to track our collective progress.

So, I’d like to introduce to you the first industry effort to do so.  I’ve released it this week, so that we can all compare ourselves with other top publishers and see our individual and collective progress.

Below you’ll find the “Media Industry Social Leaderboard”, a scoreboard and chart that was developed by tabulating the top 50 media publishers, based on monthly unique visitors, and then determining which were best at generating traffic from Facebook and Twitter.  Of course, I’ve included Wetpaint Entertainment on the list because we are so committed to social that we are going to make our progress public.  (And it doesn’t hurt that we are already significantly better at reaching audiences on these two key social platforms than many major media brands such as The New York Times, The Huffington Post, CNN, Fox News, TMZ and others.  My mother should finally be proud!)

This Month’s Findings

This month, we found that MTV’s website leads the pack with 14.3% of its traffic from Facebook and Twitter, indicating the shareability of their content (especially video, which is inherently more viral), and the heavily socialized audience they serve – not to mention their great execution.  In fact, MTV beat average performance by a factor of two, and were one of only four out of the top 50 that were in the double digits.  Sadly, over half of the Web’s top 50 had less than 4% of their traffic from social, making them menial performers on the medium.

 

Social Success Could Triple Your Audience’s Value

Lest you think that MTV’s 14.3% is anything to sneeze at, we dug a bit deeper to look at the true value of social.  Beyond the boost to audience attraction, we also looked at audience retention.  Measuring the visit frequency to each of the publishers (excluding the portals), we found a striking correlation to their sociability.  The performers above median in social saw an average of more than five times as many “addicts” (visitors who come 30+ times per month) as a proportion of their audience, according to data from Quantcast, compared to those below the median; and they saw a corresponding reduction in their “passers-by” (visitors who come only once) by 16 percentage points.  These patterns map overall into more than three times the visit frequency per audience member overall for these top performers.  That’s three times the value per unique.

A Leading Indicator of Long-Term Success

One thing is clear from the growth trends of the social web:  Those publishers that figure out how to capture and maintain a leadership position in social will win over the next decade.  For Wetpaint, it’s a critical strategy for us to be a leader among the media industry.  Which would make my mother very proud.

Speaking of which, in this debut month, my company Wetpaint came in #4, bested only by MTV, People, and ESPN.  Not bad for a debut… we’ll be #1 within six months.

For those interested, detailed rankings of all Top 50 are included below.

Rank Name of Publisher (Owner) URL Monthly Uniques % from Social
1 MTV mtv.com 17,101,841 14.3%
2 ESPN espn.com 33,242,207 13.7%
3 People people.com 12,671,101 13.2%
4 Wetpaint Entertainment wetpaint.com 2,532,044 12.4%
5 TMZ tmz.com 14,575,713 8.8%
6 Yahoo yahoo.com 172,269,418 8.6%
7 Patch (Aol) patch.com 10,610,327 8.6%
8 Major League Baseball mlb.com 15,552,415 7.9%
9 Aol aol.com 51,659,415 7.7%
10 Discovery Channel discovery.com 11,170,738 6.7%
11 Break Media break.com 9,166,220 6.3%
12 IGN (News Corp) ign.com 10,112,530 6.1%
13 Us Weekly usmagazine.com 10,970,162 5.9%
14 CNN cnn.com 56,595,377 5.3%
15 FOX News (News Corp) foxnews.com 26,900,038 5.0%
16 BBC News bbc.co.uk 14,863,384 4.8%
17 MSN msn.com 115,933,138 4.6%
18 Nickelodeon (MTV Networks) nick.com 10,716,354 4.6%
19 The New York Times nytimes.com 33,034,269 4.4%
20 MailOnline dailymail.co.uk 15,747,179 4.4%
21 IMDB (Amazon.com) imdb.com 39,778,499 4.4%
22 CBS Local cbslocal.com 11,039,512 4.4%
23 TIME time.com 10,024,132 4.2%
24 Cartoon Network (Turner) cartoonnetwork.com 10,794,764 4.2%
25 The Washington Post washingtonpost.com 17,818,260 4.1%
26 New York Daily News nydailynews.com 9,931,052 3.9%
27 The Guardian guardian.co.uk 10,283,648 3.8%
28 CBS News cbsnews.com 12,144,917 3.7%
29 Food Networks (Scripps) foodnetwork.com 14,324,933 3.5%
30 Allrecipes (Readers Digest) allrecipes.com 17,986,031 3.4%
31 The Huffington Post huffingtonpost.com 36,701,275 3.3%
32 TODAY / MSN (NBC/Microsoft) today.com 23,323,684 3.3%
33 Los Angeles Times (Tribune) latimes.com 18,618,265 3.2%
34 WebMD webmd.com 12,048,444 2.6%
35 The Wall Street Journal wsj.com 16,643,499 2.5%
36 Forbes forbes.com 12,356,124 2.4%
37 FOX Sports foxsports.com 18,346,185 2.2%
38 USA Today / Gannett usatoday.com 16,979,964 2.2%
39 Reuters reuters.com 12,726,776 2.2%
40 ABC News abcnews.com 19,876,129 2.1%
41 CNET (CBS Interactive) cnet.com 27,602,379 2.1%
42 Sports Illustrated (Time Inc.) si.com 9,304,012 2.1%
43 LIVESTRONG / (Demand Media) livestrong.com 9,650,128 2.0%
44 MSNBC Digital Network msnbc.com 44,198,985 1.9%
45 About.com / NY Times about.com 36,978,618 1.4%
46 Bloomberg bloomberg.com 10,592,480 1.4%
47 Mayo Clinic mayoclinic.com 10,944,436 1.1%
48 eHow (Demand Media) ehow.com 48,624,976 1.0%
49 ThePostGame thepostgame.com 12,017,913 0.9%
50 CNN Money cnnmoney.com 16,643,785 N/A

Source: Wetpaint.com analysis, comScore, Compete.com.

SOS – The Social Operating System

Facebook F8 has made clear that the digital world is now powered by social operating systems.  It’s all changed.  The below post was previously published at paidContent, and is republished here for DigitalQuarters readers.

SOS – The Social Operating System

How the Social Web Has Rewired the Digital World From the Ground Up

In the wake of Facebook’s F8 mega-event, with its parade of product, feature, and platform announcements, I’m struck by the recent major inflection that has social networking penetrating more and more completely into our digital lives.

Indeed, social networking has moved from something that’s a destination activity, to something that is ever-present throughout every digital experience.  And, no doubt, Facebook will continue this rapid progression.

My awareness that social networks have seriously and profoundly journeyed into our lives began with the startling statistics that I published in June:  the searchable Web is shrinking (by 9% in consumers’ monthly time spent over a recent one year period); while the social Web is growing (with a matching 69% increase in time spent on Facebook specifically).

But the change has since intensified, as Facebook’s share of consumer attention has increased even further, and as Web sites the world over race to recruit Facebook “fans” and “likes.”

In addition, the trendline has also become increasingly clear and sharply etched in recent months with the LinkedIn IPO; and with the Google+ Project, as even mighty Google vies for relevance as a social fabric that helps weave our world together.

Putting it all together, I’m seeing a restructuring of the stack: a new layering of how media is created, distributed, and experienced, different from the first generation of the Internet.

It’s the rise of what I’ve come to view as the “social operating system (Social OS).”  And I think it changes everything for media and other companies online.

The New Way News Travels

Unlike the analog world, where content and distribution companies have largely fixed channels (licensed spectrum; contracted cable distribution; stable subscription bases; theater outlets; and other distribution power), digital content isn’t channelized.  It’s itemized.

That means digital content has to earn an audience – item by item.  The first generation of digital media publishers turned to search engine optimization to solve that, with an endless and constantly escalating set of editorial and technical tricks to bait search algorithms to rank them highly.  This became de rigeur for every digital publisher; even as it spawned an arms race to find an audience.

But now that social is ubiquitous, the nature of distribution changes for media companies.  And now, instead of having to reinvent the distribution wheel every day for every page, publishers can rely on a system far more powerful than the search engine to sort, select, and rank content.  That system is part human, and part technology – but it is 100% social.

The Social OS sits at the boundary between content and the people who consume it.  It provides a layer of functionality that lets Web companies focus on their unique content and the experiences that they offer – while earning distribution, not via channels, but via people.  And, in the process, they earn, not a mechanistic relationship with an algorithm, but a real relationship with their audience.

None of this was possible until very recently.

The Internet was too immature: both in terms of technology, and audience. Indeed, it’s only since this decade started that we’ve had the social network and mobile technology in combination with literally billions of users online; this mix lets people connect to each other, and allows content to flow effortlessly from one consumer to the next.

And it’s this combination of technology (networks like Facebook and Twitter); content (with providers like Apple, NetFlix, and YouTube, not to mention the hundreds of blogs and media companies); and, most significantly, real people online to spread all that goodness, which makes the Social OS work.

The New Common Medium For Transmission

That’s why each Social OS is defined, first and foremost, by who’s on it, and what the connections mean.  But beyond that, each social operating system can make identity, personal information and interests, relationships, and other data and actions available to applications.  And third, and most importantly, is the role of the Social OS as distributor.  Because Social OS’s have transformed the primary navigational coordinates of the Web from document-to-document links to person-to-person, the Social OS becomes the medium for propagation.

As recently as a few years ago, large media companies saw some parts of this wave coming, and they thought the answer was for each of them to build their own proprietary social network.  But relationships between people aren’t proprietary to media; rather, they are the conduits through which all media travels.

And that puts in perspective what Mark Zuckerberg recently said, about how media is the next big application for his Facebook Social OS:

“Some of the earliest examples we’ve seen are with games.  It just leads to massive disruption.  And I think, over the next 2, 3 years, we’re going to start to see that in more and more industries, and the next ones I would expect are going to be media-type industries.”

Or, as we say at my company, Wetpaint, we are becoming the Zynga of publishing, leveraging social operating systems like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to build a powerful media business on top of them.

Reinventing the Media Industry For a Social World

The rise of the social operating system has two implications for old (and even some new) media companies, who are mostly still trying to figure out what to do with all this.  If the idea isn’t to be a social network, then how do they use Social OS’s to make their business more successful?

Social maven Jonah Peretti, co-founder of Huffington Post and CEO of BuzzFeed, points out that different social networks specialize in different content:  Facebook users share “what you want your friends to think you like … content you can wear as a badge of honor,” while Twitter is a platform for topic curators and wholesalers in the information trade, and LinkedIn has a strictly professional domain.

For its part, YouTube has its own character: with most consumption anonymous, it’s largely an open public repository, and much of the networking that forwards YouTube videos from person to person happens via email, Facebook, and other networks.

And, as Google gets into the fray with its Google+ Project, presumably it is meant to specialize in closed groups, when full public exposure isn’t in order. If it works, it will likely find its best traction in topics like health & wellness, parenting, or certain hobbies.

For media companies, the key is knowing which Social OS’s to bet on; and then tuning content, packaging and distribution for them.

For celebrity entertainment and gossip at Wetpaint, we know Facebook is a natural match for mass consumer promotion.  On the other hand, for industry analysis, like my blog posts, I’m not surprised that Facebook is relatively unimportant:  for most of my readers, my posts wouldn’t fit in among family photos and Farmville accomplishments.  Twitter and LinkedIn do far better for heady topics like the future of media.

High Stakes:  The Future of an Industry

The last decade of audience fragmentation and content de-bundling on the Internet has ravaged media, particularly in a world characterized by fierce competition for the love of Google’s robots.

When Mark Zuckerberg recently spoke at a Facebook event in Seattle, he said:

“The last 5 years have been about connecting all these people. The next 5 years are going to be about all the crazy things you can do now that these people are connected, and I think it’s going to be cool.”

In a world powered by social operating systems, the prize is that, when we execute well, we get to be hooked into people’s lives.  Media companies can earn constant places in consumers’ newsfeeds, along with a button asking them to consider sharing their experience every time they see us. I think that’s going to be cool.

 

 

 

Let’s Get Real – Blogging Is About Fame, Not Fortune

I have a question for Jonathan Tasini, who is leading a $105 million lawsuit on behalf of thousands of uncompensated bloggers against The Huffington Post.

If you and your litigious colleagues are so good, so valuable, and so organized, why don’t you launch your own online media venture to out-compete HuffPo?

I’m sure you have your reasons – and, of course, initiating a lawsuit is so much easier than starting a digital publishing site from scratch.

But, let’s get real.

Blogging isn’t free-lancing, and it’s hard to imagine that any of the contributors who sent their material to HuffPo ever thought it was. As I wrote several weeks ago, every contributor knew the basis of the transaction: write what you have to say in exchange for being publicized. As always, the prime currency of blogging was fame – not fortune.

So who’s trying to cash in now?

On a broader, more global note: I feel sad for the desperate bloggers who are trying to shake down HuffPo; and I’m deeply sensitive to the fact that  the media world is under pressure and steadily shrinking. But Tasini and his fellow litigants look like starving dogs scrapping for a shred of meat. It’s unseemly and unproductive.

What’s next?

Will Tasini respresent a class action suit against Endemol on behalf of all American Idol contestants, who were totally exploited as they sought super-stardom?

Or will he represent the tens of millions of users in a suit against Facebook, for advertising against their status and Farmville activities?

Both legal moves would make for entertaining blog posts, and I look forward to the juicy reading!

What’s Really Behind The HuffPo Revolt (Hint: It’s Not About The Money)

I sent the following thoughts to Fred Allen at Forbes.com about how bloggers made The Huffington Post what it ultimately became, and profited all along the way.  For Fred Allen, Lewis DVorkin, and all of Forbes’ leaders, they are taking on the challenge of merging world-class editorial and brand reputation with the new reality that one can’t pretend to serve one’s customers best by writing all the good stuff onself.

Just realizing that the formula needs to change though is only the beginning.  It immediately leads straight to serious questions to conceptualize and implement:  now they have to figure out how to combine two different philosophies – one of proprietary branded editorial, and one of curation.

It’s a live laboratory as we get to see them take on the challenge, even as AOL and Huffington Post have a similar challenge of bringing their own two approaches together.

My comments to Fred are reprinted below; and Fred’s thoughts are here at Forbes.com.

There has been a backlash against Huffington Post in light of its acquisition last week by AOL.

People who were willing to contribute to HuffPo for free are suddenly irritated that the AOL deal creates a payoff for shareholders but not for them.  Since AOL is a publicly held corporate entity, these contributors’ expectations have changed, and now they want to get paid.

It’s a noisy revolt, but I think HuffPo’s dissident contributors are waving spatulas in the air, rather than guns.

Underlying these revisionist claims of exploitation, one thing has been clear from the get-go: The dominant motivation of the bloggers who have posted on Huffington Post has always been far more about narcissism than altruism.

The reason Arianna Huffington was able to attract such thoughtful and provocative bloggers in the first place was because her site is a promotion machine. With each new post and blogger added, Huffington’s creation became a more powerful destination. And that meant that the site was even more attractive to the next potential blogger. The choice for a new contributor was simple: Set up your own blog, and patiently hope you can build audience over a period of years, or join the club and get instant exposure. Like the AAA automobile club or AARP, the more members in the club, the greater the value became.

The benefits of joining Arianna’s legions were numerous: Posting at HuffPo offered instant reach, credentialing, and ego gratification. Make no mistake about it, these benefits were valued by contributors all along the way. (If they weren’t, then Huffington Post wouldn’t have any contributors in the first place.) In fact, these non-financial benefits have proved far more valuable to contributors than cash.

Looking back, then, it’s definitely been a win-win: Bloggers built their own value while creating value for HuffPo at the same time.  And in the AOL transaction, absolutely nothing changes that value equation retrospectively—except jealousy.

Now, on a prospective basis, the only question is whether the value received by contributors going forward will be just as great.

In terms of traffic, there’s no doubt that it will be. But the real issue is whether the HuffPo brand under AOL’s auspices will be as valuable when it comes to providing the most important of all of Huffington Post’s assets—the halo of its brand prestige. From my perspective, this remains to be seen.

And, finally, consider this: If The New York Times had acquired HuffPo, would there be a blogger revolt at all?  Absolutely not!

This highlights the greatest opportunity and the greatest risk for AOL and Arianna Huffington. If they can truly enhance the Huffington Post Media Group so that it’s an even stronger and more prestigious media destination, then their pipeline of great content will expand further, because the benefits of contributing will continue to grow. On the other hand, if the brand is diluted down to “old AOL” standards, then all will be lost.

Tim Armstrong was wise to put Arianna Huffington personally in charge of this, because the success of last week’s deal may very well hinge on her ability to promise, persuade, and deliver at a high bar. AOL will be relying on her strength of vision, her standards, and her personal brand to bolster not only the Huffington Post’s brand, but AOL’s as well.

So the real threat to Huffington Post’s contributors is not that they will be exploited; rather, it’s the potential loss of the media machine that has been promoting them for so long.

Why Huffington Post Is The Perfect Acquisition For Yahoo’s Media Strategy

Last month, I wrote a post titled “Associated Content is Yahoo’s First Big Media Move. Here’s What Should Come Next,” in which I pushed Yahoo to acquire premium content properties to overcome the commodity signal they sent by acquiring AC.  I said at the time that Huffington Post’s curation model “crowdsources content but applies a strong point of view and features premier branded names, lifting it above the commodity fold.”  For Yahoo, Huffington Post is the perfect combination of premium and economical.

Now, over this last weekend, Erick Schonfeld wrote at TechCrunch that deal discussions between these two publishers are underway for a content partnership or outright acquisition. Though Arianna Huffington denies it, other sources indicate that HuffPo has been on Yahoo’s short list, and I wouldn’t be surprised if conversations have been ongoing.

While  Yahoo had previously announced intentions to compete in news by hiring brand-name reporters, that direction is fraught for the big portal:  the news category is difficult to lead with a heavy demand on consistently breaking  news — and it would take years for Yahoo to build the credibility in original reporting to become a true audience magnet.   And the prize for winning even if they do?  It could be losses, not profits, as has been born out by the experience of myriad old media outlets who are now making over their businesses.

What Huffington Post represents is a far better road for Yahoo to go from portal to destination in a realistic way.  HuffPo can draw audiences not by competing with the news outlets on reporting but with great access and point of view – both of which are within Yahoo’s brand and execution reach.  It would serve as an anchor property with true destination draw.

Indeed, Huffington Post may be unique among the news-oriented sites of the portals, curators, and aggregators in having earned true premium positioning.  They did so by emphasizing a strong and reliable point of view along with affiliation with notable brands (such as regulars Arianna Huffington herself, Bill Maher, Harry Shearer, and Rosie O’Donnell, along with guest posts from a robust range of influentials).  Along the way, the site has also earned an outstanding brand and destination audience of 22 million (comScore), consistently garnering visits from both search engine referrals (14% of traffic from Google according to compete.com) and social networks (16% from Facebook).

This destination draw is critical for Yahoo.  At Yahoo’s home page, 73% of monthly viewers are there to get their mail – and that usage is shrinking at (2%) per year (comscore April 2010 vs. April 2009) vs. a US internet universe which grew at 10%.  As Yahoo commits to a media-company destiny, its strategy must be to create high-end destination titles that will draw premium advertising – not just keep mail users on-network longer.

For those in charge of Yahoo’s media properties, David Ko and Jimmy Pitaro, they would get two other benefits to leverage:  HuffPo gives Yahoo a premium curation model prototype for it to replicate; and a DNA transplant to bring in the talent and experience to scale that model.

As far as the first, Huffington Post has shown itself to be the best of the curators, establishing a strong point of view that draws a huge audience with near-zero cost for original content.  And the model – the fame and traffic of Huffington Post beget contribution from interesting people, which drives more fame and traffic for Huffington Post’s brand – is replicable in other categories, as HuffPo has shown with its entertainment category rumored to already reach an audience of 10 million monthly, according to internal measurements.  This is the sort of model that Yahoo should be banking on, as commodity content alone will never make Yahoo a premier media company.

Perhaps more importantly, there is nothing to catalyze the adoption of a new direction like bringing on a talented and effective crew.  An acquisition of Huffington Post brings not just a branded destination, but a whole crew of operators with a scarce and effective set of skill, approach, and attitudes.  Those genetic elements are exactly what Yahoo needs to quickly set a new approach to existing properties with large audiences, such as entertainment, shine, and omg!, as well as to each new title launched.

All in all, an acquisition of Huffington Post would form the perfect foundation for Yahoo’s new ambitions as a premier media destination – and would be well worth the several hundred million dollars it would surely cost to set a bold and profitable strategy for Yahoo to be a premier media company.

The New Rules For Judging ‘Quality’ In Published Content

This article by Ben Elowitz originally appeared as a guest post on paidContentEngaging Readers Online

Last week, I explained why the traditional ways of judging “quality” in published content are useless in the digital age. Judging by readers response to that piece, those dated values (which I labeled credential, correctness, objectivity and craftsmanship) are still sacred to many people. But here’s the problem: They simply aren’t enough to win audiences, drive financial success, or, for that matter, ensure viability. The demise of institutions like Newsweek proves that—and shows that publishers that don’t move beyond these anachronistic measures of success will perish.

So this week, I’m offering part two of my take on the changing definition of quality in published content. Here are the four new rules of quality that publishers must obey to flourish. The biggest difference between the old and new definitions of quality are who’s doing the judging. In the era of Publishing 1.0, when production costs were high, alternatives low and time ample, the editor deemed something quality or not. But today, content isn’t scarce at all—in fact, it is in oversupply. And it is the audience that judges quality directly, dozens of times per day.

So, according to the audience, what is quality?  It comes down to these four characteristics:

Relevance. Continue reading