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Archive for January 5th, 2008

Midday media traffic spike?

Saturday, January 5th, 2008

The NYTimes has a story today about how media outlets are dealing with a new trend: People “video snacking” at their desks at lunch.

It’s an interesting phenomenon I haven’t heard of before. Though, apparently several newspapers and TV stations, as well as big online ventures like Yahoo/AOL, are responding to this increased noontime demand for fresh video.

The midday spike in Web traffic is not a new phenomenon, but media companies have started responding in a meaningful way over the last year. They are creating new shows, timing the posts to coincide with hunger pangs. And they are rejiggering the way they sell advertising online, recognizing that noontime programs can command a premium.

In 2007, a growing number of local television stations, including WNCN in Raleigh, N.C., and WCMH in Columbus, Ohio, began producing noon programming exclusively for the Web. Among newspapers, The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk, Va., and The Ventura County Star in California started posting videos at lunchtime that have young journalists as hosts and are meant to appeal to 18- to 34-year-old audiences.

The trend has swept across large as well as small independent sites. Yahoo’s daily best-of-the-Web segment, called The 9 and sponsored by Pepsi, is produced every morning in time for lunch. At MyDamnChannel.com, a showcase for offbeat videos, programmers have been instructed to promote new videos around noon, right when the two-hour traffic spike starts.

I was unaware of this jump. Granted, reporters/newsroom staff here are only sent the basic stats report e-mail for each day. So I don’t know the exact numbers for each hour. But our traffic very clearly seems to spike around 8/9 and then again at the end of the work day. I’ll have to look back through a few days when I’m at work again to see if this midday trend holds true here. If it does though, it begs the question of whether we should and how we should cater to that demand? And if it doesn’t, it still leaves open the question of whether we could compete for this attention, and of course, how.

The first reporter at my paper starts posting around 6 a.m. daily (8 a.m. weekends — but both shifts seem ungodly early when you’re the one on them), and throughout the day local and state, and sometimes big national, stories are posted. On bigger news, the No. 1 slot or the No. 5 slot (that is the top slot w/a photo or the top slot sans photo) will get swapped out or updated and timestamped breaking news. Often, those stories are among the most read. After the 4 o’clock meeting each night, they post a PM Update with four or five teasers for the top stories in tomorrow’s paper. That is also usually well read.

But if there’s a group of people or even a growing appetite for a noontime video/news bite, it’s worth considering what type of demand that is (seems from the NYTimes story that lighter fare is popular) and then how to cater to it. (Wow, so many food cliches.) Here’s some very preliminary ideas I have off the top of my head, or as Carl (former prof/Stater adviser) used to say: I’m thinking out loud here…

  • A noontime round up of odd news off the wire. These are generally short, and pulling out three or so each day would probably be a cinch. People like weird stories. If you want this to be video, grab one of your more camera friendly staffers and get him or her to quickly tell the stories. Throw in a few stock photos/screen grabs/whatever for effect if you want.

  • A midday news synopsis with very brief (think news tickerish) bits about the stories we’re working on or even the biggest national stories — with links to more details for any stories that are already posted, of course, even if it’s a link to CNN. This could easily be paired with a noon-time 2-minute newscast. I don’t think you need glitzy here, down and dirty headlines could suffice.
  • Maybe like our PM Update a Midday Update. Promote the top stories, video, galleries, forums, whatever on your site to let other people know what their peers are reading. Kind of, “Here’s what’s generating the biggest buzz on (your site).”
  • Get an employee who’s always finding cool stuff online (there has to be at least one) to do a round-up of stories, videos, Web sites, whatever people are talking about online today. Maybe it’s just a quick round-up of the top stories on other sites, like YouTube’s most popular item or whatever is out there on Digg or just whatever cool or crazy news/fun item he or she stumbles on that day. This would probably work best as a blog that you promote or cross-post at noon each day. I’m thinking kind of an “in case you missed it” blog. Something along the lines of Clicked over at MSNBC, with a dash of USA Today’s On Deadline or a more focused version of Pop URLs. I could spend hours following all those links. The benefit of doing this locally (instead of Clicked, etc.) would be it would focus the local audience on the same items. Fostering that communal experience, “Did you see…?”, and community conversation on the comments.

I’m sure there are plenty of other more innovative and effective ways to capture that noontime media consumer. Those are just some initial thoughts. I’ll have to look around to see if anyone out there has come up with some cool ideas. If you know of one, pass it my way.