Lots of traffic, but show us the money
Traditional media companies have spent the better part of two years trying to cope with the double whammy of recessionary forces washing away advertising revenue and the changing habits of consumers. So how do a bunch of young buck Internet companies see themselves ? As media companies!
Well sort of. Not, you know, old school media companies. Rather, “technology enabled media companies,” as James Pitaro, vice president, media at Yahoo phrased it when pressed on Tuesday during a panel discussion about the future of media hosted by I Want Media.
Pitaro was on hand with a bunch of other big names like Arianna Huffington of The Huffington Post; David Eun, AOL Media president; and Josh Cohen, senior business project manager at Google News. (Go here for the complete lineup).
AOL and Yahoo are trying to one-up each other in becoming the largest producers of content by taking a high/low approach, or to use the media wonk term “pro-am.” These companies are hiring “high quality” journalists (pros) mixing it with a group of anybodies who churn out copy on various topics for little to no money (the amateurs). See: Yahoo’s recent acquisition of Associated Content and AOL’s Patch and Seed.
There was a lot of talk about traffic on this panel and how these sites are dominating traditional media outlets on the Web. AOL, Yahoo, Google News and now Huffington Post are usually in the top 10, if not the top five most visited news and current events Web sites, according to Nielsen Online. Moderator Patrick Phillips, founder and editor of I Want Media, pointed out that Huff Post was only five years old and there is already talk it will surpass the New York Times in traffic — a point that Phillips found “astonishing.”
It is. Yet traffic is one of many metrics to judge success. A better one is revenue and profit. That was hardly touched on this panel — only the last 10, 15 minutes of the discussion was devoted to advertising revenue, which all these sites depend upon heavily. One exception on the panel is Google, which is hauling in tons of advertising revenue and is in no rush to become a content producer. A site can have all the traffic in the world but if it can’t monetize it, what good are all of those uniques?
On another note, Huffington denied that her site was for sale after TechCrunch’s Erick Schonfeld wrote that Yahoo is looking to acquire the Huffington Post. Pitaro said Yahoo doesn’t comment on rumor and speculation and that Yahoo has “a fantastic relationship with the Huffington Post.” Huffington goes into some detail with Andy Plesser of Beet.TV.