Honey I shrunk our business! Or: How you gave 60% of your traffic to someone you don’t even know

By August 30, 2016Publisher

You’re a tech savvy, forward-thinking, dynamic media player. You’ve just boosted your management with its very own CDO and CRO (Chief Data Officer and Chief Revenue Officer) to cope with that digital future your industry has been on about. All good – right?

Perhaps not.

Perhaps it’s time to consider creating a position that will be mission critical in that future. Perhaps without this person you will soon find yourself with no data, no revenue, or for that matter no job. Enter: the Chief Audience Officer.

In the past 20 years the direct traffic to your website has shrunk from 100% to 40%, and that is if you are one of the lucky ones (Parsely report). It doesn’t mean you have lost traffic (unique visitors, sessions, page views) or revenue, but you have lost control of how visitors come by your properties in order to read your great articles, revealing analyses or watch that entertaining video. The user makes up his mind on other places than yours.

The reason is quite simple; others are doing a better job than you in finding, sorting and presenting your content for the audience. Google indexes your site to help people search for that exact article they were looking for, it might be on your site, or somewhere else. Twitter lets a person immediately react to something you have written and make that piece of content appear for the selected audience, Facebook lets your visitors share what you publish and suggests it to users with similar profiles, and Flipboard/ Omni/other news aggregators extract your content, tag it and present it for an audience on a separate platform without you being there to have a saying.

Acceptable? No, because at the same time this reduces you to someone who’s just producing content, without the possibility to place it in a context, curate or moderate the debate. You dilute your brand value and the efforts you have put in creating it. But if the reach stays the same and the revenue stays the same, why bother? Well, if you don’t, the algorithms at the ”other platforms” will decide who reads what and you will be at the mercy of their good faith and intention. They will push the content they make the most money from and you can do nothing about it.

The reason I suggest you start looking for a Chief Audience Officer now is that you need to understand how audience shifts and how they move about. You need to acknowledge that you need to pay to get audience. Even on the Internet, reach isn’t free, it just took it 20 years to come to the point where distribution started costing.

Oh, by the way, please also put in the job description that the audience manager should primarily work to get visitors, ANY visitors, to stay in the publisher universe. A visitor lost to another platform is one visitor less in the Publisher ecosystem. Also ask the person to get Strossle Visitor Accelerator up and running at your site as soon as possible. It won’t get you back to 100% direct traffic, but it will keep the audience where you want it, with you.

Magnus Hultman, CEO