It’s Not About Capturing Eyeballs, But Spreading Influence

Is Your Web Audience Only Mildly Engaged?As more and more blogs and websites create more and more content to capture more and more eyeballs, one has to wonder:

  • What are the limits to human attention span?
  • How does one weed through it all to find quality content?
  • How on earth can all this be monetized through display advertising?

That last one is a real sticking point as content creators and their audience become more sophisticated. In other words: exactly who is clicking on all those ads?

Everyone talks about the power of the niche audience online, yet everyone seems to be looking for a mass audience of mildly engaged readers. Is there value in capturing a finite group of people – who are exactly the right people – and have that be valuable to advertisers?

Page views, as a metric, only tells the most basic story about an audience. We need measures for success that go beyond just page views.

There was an interesting article in The New York Times this week that indicates that blogs on the Gawker Media network are solely focused on driving massive page views, at the expense of quality reporting, and sometimes, good taste. One reader notes:

“The more skeevy stuff they post, the less respectable the site becomes and the less people consider it a place for useful stuff. I don’t get the impression it’s a media insider must-read the way it used to be.”

Perhaps Gawker Media itself is trying to become the Britney Spears of web publishing? You may not respect it as much anymore, but you can’t turn away either.

Building an audience, building a community, and providing value to advertisers should be about becoming highly valued to just the right people. But audiences are becoming disaggregated. They are communicating and receiving information through a variety of channels – from their phones, social networks, texting, widgets, Twitter, RSS feeds… the concept of a single place as an information source is dwindling.

In a situation like this, the goal may be less about capturing eyeballs, and more about spreading your influence.