Matt Kelly: How Can Mainstream Media Compete Online?

The Media Strawman Argument: SEO is Bogus

Lots of people in desperate positions like to create a common enemy and rally against them, even if/when their position is utter non-sense.

Watching the big co. media vs Google interaction has been entertaining, largely because they claim search is an either/or game.

Matt Kelly, from the Daily Mirror, exclaimed how SEO was a dead end and how they were only able to grow by not worrying about SEO:

three months ago, we launched two new websites - and actually stripped out from two of our core drivers of traffic; showbiz and football. Creating two new niche websites, built on very different platforms designed especially to show each off in their best light. And the hell with SEO. We we're chasing passion, here, not page impressions.

In the case of MirrorFootball, it is the ideal platform to combine our brilliant coverage of the British football with a unique collection of photographs and pages stretching back to 1903 - definitively the greatest British football archive in the world. With 3am, it is taking a unique brand and attitude of showbiz gossip and giving it the best possible platform online.

With these two new websites, I believe we have taken a very important first step - a very difficult first step - to put that sense of brand and value and character back.

How? By putting SEO in its rightful place as a tool to be used when appropriate

Brands Should Align With Interests, Not a Secret!

He claims the reason for the growth was not worrying about SEO, but nearly *any* smart & sophisticated SEO will tell you that if you have a couple sections of your site that are root drivers of traffic & repeat visits it might make sense to leverage your brand strength to create niche brands built around that passion.

Passion = readers + links + loyalty.

This is not some sort of new secret is why there are PROFITABLE magazines on water and running, and this is why passionate niche sites have done way better than many mainstream media sites IN SPITE OF Google preferring to promote the broad media oligarchy via promotion in Google News and the Google onebox. in it's original form was a blog in the bowels of another site. After our blog started gaining just a bit of traction I realized that it was worth turning into a separate brand and running with. I got on the web (commercially) in 2003, and making that shift was something I figured out...back in 2003.

Niche is the Easiest Way to Win Online

And anyone who cares and is passionate can own a niche. Maybe a small one to start, but over time it can grow. And even people with limited social skills can pull in quite a following if they can sell the illusion of success to others. On the announcement of his Open Angle Forum I told Jason Calacanas (which he didn't publish)

Nice strategy. I don't always agree with your public relations tactics, but (outside of being hypocritical) they are effective, and this launch is a good way to really start stamping a big footprint into the start up market. :)

If you own (or have interest in) the surrounding media ecosystem you can pump your own interests after investing in them. A sure way to ensure they get the right types of exposure & adequate public relations + PageRank.

You pick the market you want to play in, work at it for a few years, and you can do well enough to make a living. There are literally a million markets waiting for you (and more being built every day). And software keeps getting cheaper and more powerful. :D

Sharing Free Content Provides Social Proof of Value

I might sometimes complain about noise from freetards, but the truth is that in many verticals there is too much competition for attention for publishers to offer nothing of value and still expect people to chose you over the competition.

Any doubt or uncertainty is a tax on profits. Nobody wants to do something stupid, and sites that have a public portion show social proof of value which lowers perceived risk. And if attention follows what is publicly accessible, then it is typically better to be the person commoditizing competing business models by giving something away, than to be the one getting commoditized. ;)

Paywall + General Purpose = Fail

When general purpose / unfocused media companies put up paywalls they will just commoditize their position on the link graph. Even if you are a paying subscriber AND you chose to link to content behind a paywall, most people reading your website would rather read your accounts and link at your accounts. On a large viral network content behind paywalls doesn't typically go viral.

In addition to the glut of competition for the "news" topic, the other reasons the media suck at making a business from SEO tend to be a lack of canonical topical sections (which focus domain weight and authority against core keywords), a slow & bloated business structure, and them treating business as though it is deserved (rather than earned).

Many Media Companies *ARE* SEO Savvy

This is not to say all media companies are stupid. Much of the anti-seo talk is just a combination of misdirection & posturing for self promotion. Deep down inside Rupert Murdock understands this, which is why he invested in leading media brands like the Wall Street Journal.

It looks like Matt Kelly, who wrote the above nonsense about putting SEO in its place, just got promoted. Also not a coincidence that his company (which claims not to care about SEO) actually employs outdated SEO techniques (like keyword stuffing) on the sites which are allegedly not concerned with SEO!

Some of these companies that claim SEO is somehow bad are not only doing SEO, but are also using spammy hyped up headlines which promise steak but deliver dog food. Headlines are the new bubble. How is that any better than pulling in traffic through the use of a relevant page title?

Back to SEO & the media ;)

As big & slow moving as the BBC is, they are already employing something many SEOs do not do - a dual title strategy. Wordtracker has an article about the AMAZING things Brent Payne is doing at the Tribune company.

Google Loves Public Relations

"The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about." - Oscar Wilde

Google also understands the importance of being in the news and the importance of blocking news coverage of competing business interests. You can see their fondness for public relations in how...

Google's 2 solutions for fading media always seem to revolve around...

The first of those is a non-starter for any serious business enterprise. If you don't host it then it is much harder to control the business built around it (especially while leaking your intellectual property to a direct competitor).

Exploiting User Flaws for Maximum Profit Potential

Eric Schmidt is hopeful on the second:

Even better, the device knows who I am, what I like, and what I have already read. ...

Some of these stories are part of a monthly subscription package. Some, where the free preview sucks me in, cost a few pennies billed to my account. Others are available at no charge, paid for by advertising. But these ads are not static pitches for products I'd never use. Like the news I am reading, the ads are tailored just for me. Advertisers are willing to shell out a lot of money for this targeting.

But a bet for ads that learn you and profile your faults and weaknesses is not one that Tim Berners-Lee would make. The creator of the WWW is firmly against it:

In a world where democracy is getting more participatory, it's very important that people are informed over a neutral medium so they can connect to whoever they want. Another issue that is very important is snooping. I don't want any snooping on my Internet traffic.

You can do things to ensure that my Internet runs smoothly, but when I am doing something which is perhaps very intimate: when someone looks up something to see if they have cancer, or a teenager wonders if they are homosexual or not and wants to go online to find answers, this should be private. So systems that monitor every click and build a profile of me are very damaging.

The things we do on the Internet are so intimate that they are much more valuable to others and damaging to me than having a permanent TV camera in my living room. I don't want my health premiums to go up if I look up health information; I don't want to be a suspected terrorist if I do research on chemicals, I don't want to get leaflets from gay rights groups if I look up something on sexuality.

At least we know why Eric Schmidt says "Advertisers are willing to shell out a lot of money for this targeting."

And look at those innovative new way to run advertising campaigns! Check out Health Insurers Caught Paying Facebook Gamers Virtual Currency To Oppose Reform Bill. Awesome!

Published: December 10, 2009 by Aaron Wall in publishing & media


December 10, 2009 - 5:31am

Everyone wants a piece of us these days.Can't blame that media guy. He is only doing what has proved to be successful in the past. He doesn't know any better.

You even shouldn't blame Calacanis for being an attention whore because he is only doing what works on the web. As all search marketers do in this form or another. If that made him look a little hypocritical, so be it. That is only a part of his appeal.

As far as Google goes, they will have to do something about their non-search revenue which is marginal or they might get eradicated as fast as they took over. It would be a shame....


December 10, 2009 - 6:21am

If you have some success on this crazy web, enjoy it, don't out other methods or practices that you don't understand or care for.

It's a selfish/dick move.

December 10, 2009 - 6:28am

Could it not be argued somewhat that using brand was an SEO tactic to get all of those "page impressions"?

He never clarified how he got impressions.

December 10, 2009 - 8:28am


I just wanted to thank you Aaron Wall for the great overall article - or however you want to clarify it = blogging LOL.

Thank you for the general overall explanation and updates of details regarding - traffic and reliable updates etc! People are so much aware of the "hype up" home business and marketing concepts/internet business - that some experts has got 1 program - but change it name and structure/concepts to create 100 different programs -while only using the only 1 initial or exisiting programs!

* Get PEOPLE to pay, come in and affiliate, create dowlines, matrix .. etc .... " get people in - pay for subcription" etc ....

* And, if the information is unreliable - people will just quit within the next 1 or 2 months anyway! If business is base on lets market, more brands and brands - with only one tool box in the shed - it's not gonna work

* MARKETER'S - thinks people are DUMB? well people are not are more nowadays - reliability and accountablity including the below discription is the way to go.

If future it will definately be base on:

Passion = readers + links + loyalty = "indefinately"

* And, yes it takes a couple of years to build a strong business and yes; you can still make millions - if that niche markets concentrate themself on the above criteria and not; I will show you how to make money now - in 1 hr 24hrs - get into this program - and what they tell you? clickbank and affil .... geezzz - I think people are just too aware of 1,000,000 programs - selling the one 1 thing!!

* anyway Aaron Wall - great informative & professional sort article :))

December 10, 2009 - 8:45am

Funnily enough Mr. Kelly seems to have a different opinion on SEO to the ad salespeople from his company who are offering paid links specifically to boost search rankings.

December 10, 2009 - 9:49am

i've been doing this for a while now locally. it's working slowly but surely.

I don't really fear them reading this, though. Even if they did stumble on this gem of knowledge (this post), they would have to run it through committee and workshop it until there was nothing left.

Some big media are getting it right, but many are just complaining their 30% profit margin cash cows now have competition online. Long live the revolution says me. Dan Gillmor was right - We the Media.

December 10, 2009 - 10:36am

"Funnily enough Mr. Kelly seems to have a different opinion on SEO to the ad salespeople from his company who are offering paid links specifically to boost search rankings."

That would explain this then: (although they've removed them now.)

December 10, 2009 - 11:56am

They're selling slightly different positioning now Malcom. The Telegraph seem to have changed their paid links program since I mentioned it on DaveN's blog earlier in the year too.

I'm not big on outing but when A)Editorial integrity of the press is at stake and B) the "old" news media industry is trying it's best to paint SEOs as scumbags, well, have at them I say.

December 11, 2009 - 3:44pm

Aaron, can you expound on this?

"sites that have a public portion show social proof of value
which lowers perceived risk."

Is this specifically referring to unmoderated comment sections?

December 11, 2009 - 8:03pm

If a site is entirely behind a paywall then there is more perceived risk in paying them...they won't have as many citations and recommendations and bits of social proof of value as they would if they shared some content by making it publicly accessible.

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