Thursday, July 19, 2007

Lessons from the new metrics

My recent post on the new metrics from Nielsen prompted a few emails from readers. Folks asked what, if any, changes in content might be prompted by the new measurements. And one reader in particular asked if I thought "trades should continue to invest time and resources to delivering email newsletters?"

I'm not a fan of email newsletters. As I've mentioned before, I think RSS is a superior product for users. So I think it's inevitable that as consumers become more familiar with news readers and related products, newsletters will come to be seen as too annoying to deal with.
It's also worth noting that e-mail newsletters are, as strange as it may seem, already quite old-fashioned. Young people don't like e-mail. And as just as print has begun to seem quaint even to folks in their 30s and 40s, e-mail looks like semaphore signals to the Facebook generation.

Yet as much as I have grown to dislike email newsletters, I think it's way too early for publishers to walk away from them. There's still money to be made there. In some cases there is a lot of money to made there. Advertisers like them. They are a fairly easy and inexpensive way to launch a new product. And most importantly, they are tied to a metric -- a list of email subscribers -- that won't be hurt by Nielsen's change.
So I advise publishers to:
a) begin offering RSS now, and
b) make improvements to your existing email newsletters, which are often the least professional product in any B2B line-up.
For more on this subject, take a look at this post from early last year.

There is, however, one more thing worth thinking about here.
Nielsen's new measurements -- which emphasize time, rather than page views -- decrease the value of products that don't have original content. In other words, a page (or e-mail newsletter) of outside links is worth less than a page of compelling and time-consuming content. In this model, a five-minute video clip is worth more than five clickable headlines to someone else's content. Content aggregation, which has been the easiest way for publishers to make money online, may not be so easy anymore.

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  1. AnonymousJuly 21, 2007

    You are correct that advertisers love emails. Unlike an RSS feed or web page, emails are a terrific form of lead generation. The metrics that can be tracked with an email are amazing. You can collect detailed demographic information during the sign-up process and then track an email to an inbox and monitor the actions a specific person takes on that message.

    Given the push among advertisers for more ROI based ad vehicles, I wouldn't expect to see emails disappear anytime soon.

  2. AnonymousJuly 27, 2007

    Good job explaining the new metrics and what they might mean for email newsletters. I agree with you that the content aggregation game is over, especially given the tools available online.

    At the trade where I work, I was once the lone voice speaking out against email newsletters, especially when they were simple collections the news we published that week. But in the last few months, my lone voice has been joined by quite an outcry. It's surprising and encouraging to see how attitudes have changed. I hope Nielsen's new metrics add fuel to this movement.