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Ask HN: What would you do with a newspaper-dot-com's built-in audience?
40 points by freejoe76 2685 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 31 comments
I work dev for a newspaper-dot-com that gets ~5M monthly uniques. If you were at a (local) newspaper-dot-com, and you had that built-in audience, I'm curious: What would you do with it?

Write an article system that allows for multivariate A/B testing, performs multivariate regression and "decides" upon the version of the article that converts best. Then use that data for subsequent articles to suggest changes that convert better.

eg. {Wall Street Lays an Egg|Stock Market Crash 1928}

Today, {Chief Economist|Fed Chief|Money Czar} decided...

The system would randomly pick changes to the article and as it had more data it would more often pick the options that convert better. So lets say it found that "Wall Street lays an egg" and "Money Czar" converts best, then in the future when it sees Chief Economist the software could suggest that using Money Czar converts better and automatically add it as an option.

eg. Chief Economist -> {Chief Economist|Money Czar}

If you can get demographic information, lets say from facebook, then you're really golden as you can offer a service that will tailor an article to a demographic, or conversion goal. eg. articles that convert for car ads, or articles that convert for teenagers. With 5 million uniques you would probably have enough facebook connect users to get decent demographic data. Heck, if you had the facebook data you could tailor the article to the demographic profile of the user, so the system would use the general profile for unknown users and once demographic info was available would re-tailor the content. Put an API on the service and then charge a cent per milli "tailorized" articles.

The Huffingpost a/b tests their titles: http://www.niemanlab.org/2009/10/how-the-huffington-post-use...

Would you mind defining conversion?

In general from a lower value activity to a higher value activity. eg. from a reader of the paper to someone who clicks on an ad

I'd assume clickthrough to the article.

Do you do this for a living?

Nope, but I'm building this system into a site I'm creating for PE investments to help users of the system improve their pitch.

Want to leverage it?

Would love to chat? Can you drop me a line? I'm Shafqat at NewsCred dot com. My startup is in this space so really intrigued!

Build a local deals engine a la groupon.

Yah this is obvious, but the reason that this works so well for newspapers:

a) Newspapers have a built in sales force to sell local merchants on the concept.

b) Newspapers attract a hyper-local audience and building a list of people interested in local deals is a money printing asset.

c) Newspaper execs, consumers, and merchants are familiar with the model so it's not a hard sell to anybody.

The Austin newspaper just announced that today: http://www.statesman.com/blogs/content/shared-gen/blogs/aust...

You beat me by a minute :)

I think the best thing about this is that it doesn't cannibalize their classified ads in the way that many of the obvious things to do with 5M local hits would. Also, a newspaper lends credibility that a pure web play wouldn't have with merchants.

Our local TV station has done this and has promoted it heavily via on air commercials. It looks like it has given a good boost to their floundering local craigslist knock-off.


Just FYI that local deals engine is supported by http://secondstreetmedia.com/ which does white label deals sites - very cheap and easy way to test.

There would probably be room for multiple start-ups in this field if they worked quickly. Likely one per country with a few in the US too.

See http://www.DailyPlatform.com. White label daily deal platform, expressly built for media companies.

Newspapers have a huge amount of unrealized value. They are probably one of the most trusted sources of relevant local content available, even today. But if newspapers maintain business as usual and don't fully leverage this advantage, this power will continue to slowly erode with ocassional landslides when revolutionary tech companies emerge.

But I'm not here to bash newspaper, we're here to talk about how to fix it.

One of the hardest things about getting any business up and running is getting early users and visibility. Newspapers by default have the distribution platform built in. My recommendation is that newspapers move away (not completely) from relying exclusively on classified to make others money. And use their INCREDIBLY VALUABLE distribution platform to promote locally relevant services which they have equity in.

Andrew Mason from Groupon stated that the only real competition he'd really have is from newspapers or local radio stations. And he's right. But I haven't seen newspaper really doing this. (I believe Boston Globe did a deal with BuyWithMe but I haven't been in boston in a while).

The failure to really innovate on approaches like this is partly a function of the expertise of people who work for newspapers. You've got reporters, who know their city inside out, ad managers that know the local businesses and sell ad space, web devs who do layout for stories and awesome infographics, but you don't really have a "product development" team. Folks who's responsibility it is to create marketable products FOR the newspaper. I guess this is where you come in, but from your post, it looks like this is a side project for you.

I've thought about this some, and really think this is the way forward for them. There needs to be a big structural change in how revenue is generated and how the business is run. Classified alone won't cut it.

I've got one largely developed project and several early stage plans that I think would work well with a newspaper partnership, so if you'd like to talk, drop me a note (email in profile).

Don't just sell ad-space, resell white-labeled products to your advertisers. Give them tools to improve the conversion from leads generated by your newspaper. I have ideas here. Sent you an email if you're interested in chatting.

There are three major benefits presented by the internet to traditional media. First, the ability to offer far greater depth and breadth of coverage than could reasonably be offered in print. Second, the ability for the media to be instantly interactive. While letters to the editor did allow some interactivity, they aren't nearly as interactive as what can be done online. Finally, along the lines of interactivity, digital display should allow the media the ability to offer content that doesn't necessarily have to appeal to everyone; it should be much more feasible to target niche markets and offer content tailored to them, while profiting from the greater ability to monetize a niche market.

Having said that, my company, Barhopolis (check out http://barsannapolis.com), is currently looking to partner with newspapers to more easily reach an audience. This gives you a great breadth and depth of information, in the form of hundreds of local events updated daily. Interactivity in the form of reviews, comments, and photos shared by visitors. And, most importantly, it gives you access to a niche market that is easy monetizable. We'd also be able to incorporate current and future editorial content, as well as customize the branding. I'd love to talk to you more about it, my email is justin@bulletprooftiger.com.

By any chance, did you found a tax software company that was acquired?

I feel like I've met you after seeing Barhopolis.

That actually may be us. One of my business partners was involved in a company that produced tax and accounting software for Wang Mainframes that was later acquired by ManTech International.

Enable your local audience to become part of your news-gathering operation, perhaps even hosting citizen journalism pieces (clearly marked) that help bring hyper-local news that the newspaper wouldn't carry/couldn't resource.

Depends on your Metro, but take San Francisco - I rely on local blogs to tell me what is really going on in SoMa because the San Francisco Chronicle does such a poor job. I'd love to see those blogs get some distribution on SFGate.com (SF Chron's website).

Engage them in one of the following ways 1 a. Urge them to become citizen journalists sending you video's etc on stuff which they observe or come across. 1 b. Run a column showcasing some of the work done by such citizen journalists. e.g. NDTV (Indian channel) runs a similar thing.

2. Call for people interested in helping local community building.

3. Ask for feedback on what can be done to improve the paper. for e.g. if Toronto Star would ask me this I would urge them to slim their Saturday paper from 200 pages to 10 pages so that I do not feel bad about not being able to read it even when its free

Improve the classified ad system.

Our local paper has _horrible_ system. Make sure you take all major credit cards and paypal.

Improve the rummage sale finder. My wife loves rummage (garage sales) and the system is not good.

Our local paper is owned by a large syndicate and I can see the content management system is used by several other local newspapers.

Generally bring your paper into the 21st century. And for Zeus's sake, don't do those stupid pop unders that make me want to ban you in my firewall. It takes more CPU power to view to the paper's website then running a game!

In all seriousness, if you've got a local-business section you think might benefit from statistics, we need to talk. (No, I'm not trying to sell you anything.) Email me: andrew@timetric.com.

Extend the content of the print version rather than duplicate it. Conceptually this is what NPR does with their website. The Daily Show website extends broadcast content similarly for their interviews.

Audio is an excellent medium for journalism and today is nearly as portable dead trees for many people. It's potentially salable and suitable for longer news stories.

Have an advertising policy which respects your readers as readers. The biggest asset of newspapers is trust. Highest bidder ads about my credit score destroy it.

leverage the userbase. build a social network around local news, and let your readers do most of your work for you. they'll bring you leads, distribution, etc.

host your own reddit? submitting all of the articles to it, and letting users crowdsource the headlines, as well as the comment curation. you can offer a more interactive experience and can engage readers beyond hit and run comments or avoid the youtubeish free for alls that sadly seem to dominate the discussions on most news articles. put the power in your reader's hands, because frankly you guys need all of the help you can get.

i really love the way comments sections works in the new york times, for example. it would be really interesting to try take that even further.

newspaper readers is a natural social network. please build tools to allow them to easily communicate and expressing their views with each other. For example, letters to editors should also be a topic that others can contribute also. Ads should be voted and/or comments upon. News items can be submitted and voted on. etc...Good luck, I'm cheering for you.

Get more embedded with adding value related to experiencing the local community. Let the barrier between online and offline fade.

Leave them alone?? Why would you want to DO something with them?

tl;dr a glorified affiliate merchandiser.

One tremendous asset papers have left is trust. They should leverage this trust to offer deals on high-quality products to their readers. If they vet the products to ensure they are high quality, they retain trust. If they retain reader trust, the goods producers benefit from association with the newspaper. Thus, they can offer good deals.

Papers already do this, inn a half-assed way. But leveraging their history of goodwill, built up over decades with readers, has to a great way forward for them.

I would start crowd-sourcing articles and pay the authors a small amount when they get published.

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