In the arms race that is the social web, every publisher large or small is trying whatever weapons they can find to rise above the noise and increase their readership: some, like The Independent or the Daily Mail, have chosen to go the clickbait route and try to duplicate the success of ViralNova or BuzzFeed. But Jason Seiken, editor-in-chief of Telegraph Media Group, says the newspaper publisher has seen a significant increase in readership by doing two somewhat surprising things: paying less attention to Twitter, and posting fewer stories.
Seiken told The Guardian that the site saw a 20-percent increase in traffic in June, with daily unique browsers hitting almost 4 million, and he attributed this jump to some of the strategies the newspaper has been focusing on over the past few months — including developing the paper’s Facebook audience, which has almost tripled in size to 1.6 million, rather than focusing on Twitter.
The Telegraph executive said that in the past, the paper had not spent as much time on a Facebook strategy because of what he called an obsession among journalists with using Twitter. “Journalists are all on Twitter, and obsessed with it, so that is where the energy had gone,” he said. “An assumption had been made without looking at data” on where readers were actually coming from.
“We have found that for every minute put into promoting something on Facebook, we get a significantly larger traffic boost than we do from Twitter. We still put energy into Twitter, but since there is a bigger bang for effort we put more into Facebook.”
Post fewer stories, not more
Interestingly enough, Seiken said the Telegraph had also been deliberately reducing the number of stories it posted, and focusing instead on putting more resources into fewer pieces. “We actually created that huge traffic jump in June producing fewer stories, not more,” he told The Guardian, adding that the paper had changed the way the newsroom worked in order to become more efficient. “Seemingly mundane things make a huge difference – things such as better planning, more creative story conferences, and using audience data to decide what to stop doing.”
The editor-in-chief also noted that the Telegraph was encouraging its reporters and editors to become more web-focused, by “getting stories online quickly instead of waiting for the paper, and writing headlines that will do well in search.” And Seiken said the paper had had significant success with a venture called Project Babb, which was designed to be a departure from the Telegraph‘s usual style of writing about sports, and got a substantial amount of traction with younger audiences. But he said the paper had no intention of trying to copy BuzzFeed.
“If I were going the route of BuzzFeed – aiming purely for traffic growth – it would be fairly easy to double Telegraph traffic overnight by going down the click bait and sensationalism path. I’m not saying that in a derogatory way. But that’s not the Telegraph.”
Post and thumbnail images courtesy of Thinkstock / Darrin Klimek