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Distribution Methods

Distribution Methods

Another area where these journalists have yet to embrace the most cutting-edge thinking is in their management of Web content. These members of ONA are mostly still tied to the model of bringing audiences to their own websites, rather than on pushing their content out.

Research for PEJ’s State of the News Media report finds that one of the trends in 2008 was putting more resources toward finding new ways to distribute content rather than solely drawing audiences in. Whether through posts on social media sites like YouTube and Twitter, e-mail updates or mobile delivery methods, news organizations sought ways to get their content into the online stream of information. It was no longer deemed enough to focus on bringing people in; organizations recognized the need to spend as much if not more time actively pushing their content out. Home pages were still a great place to get audiences to land, but innovators in 2008 were looking for more.

Among the ONA respondents, though, website home pages still dominate. Three-quarters of them said their site’s home page is “essential to getting their content to users.” This is nearly three times the number that named e-mail alerts (26%) and RSS (26%), both of which are also considered passé forms by many inside the technology industry. Just 9% considered posting to social media sites essential. Postings on the increasingly popular YouTube were named essential by a mere 4%. And four times as many (18%) said YouTube postings were not at all important.

Platforms “Essential” to Content Delivery
Design Your Own Chart

Source: PEJ/ONA 2008 Survey of ONA Members

But that certainly wasn’t the sentiment of all. “Help! We’re stuck in a dead-tree world and we can’t get out!” wrote one member who directs a team of reporters and multimedia producers.

Still, when asked about devoting staff time to various forms of distribution, only the oldest, most accepted forms have become a norm. Clear majorities say their staff spends time blogging (80%) and sending individual e-mails (73%). Fewer, though still majorities, spend time creating RSS feeds (59%) and using social networking tools (59%). Only half (52%) use Twitter or other micro-blogs. And less than half devote staff time to YouTube postings (41%), widgets (38%) or user-based news networks like Digg (29%).

And in the broadest form of this question, which asked whether the journalist’s Web site focused more on bringing people into their website or pushing content out, these members described their news outlets as more tied to the website model. On a scale of 1-5, with ‘one’ being a full focus on distribution and ‘five’ being a focus on the website, more than half (57%) described their news outlet as a four or a five—with 21% a full five. That is more than twice the percent that describe their approach as fully about distribution (9%).

The State of Web Content

Question: On a scale of 1 – 5, does your site expend more staff time pushing content out (distributed model) vs. producing a site for users to browse (website model)?

If not on the cutting edge, these practices do seem to fit pretty well with where respondents say their traffic comes from. Most respondents (56%) say less than half of their content comes from outside sources like search or e-mail links versus a third (32%) that get more than half of their audience from these outlets. A good number, 13%, seemed uncertain and chose not to answer.