Are You Chasing Off Topic Traffic

When your blog or website becomes successful and starts to get traffic, if you don’t make direct sales yourself or commissions via affiliate traffic, you almost always look for other revenue streams. The most common revenue stream is CPM based advertising or something like adsense. However, once many publishers start down that path, they almost always end up chasing off topic traffic. Let’s look at two of the flagship websites of the technology space, Techcrunch and Mashable.

This week, Techcrunch posted a story about how so many valley entrepenuers in the Valley are now having babies. I’ll take a quote from the article which shows exactly how silly this type of posting is:

To anywhere else in the US, this may sound “So what? People have babies all the time.” But in the Valley, this is a staggering injection of work-life balance into the 24/7 Web space.

This is not tech news. In fact it barely qualifies as a “slice of life” piece about life in the Valley. ZOMG I mean you people in the valley finally realize that 99% of the rest of the population in the US struggles with work-life balance issues… I mean–WOW. Congratulations on peeping your head out of your narcissistic incestuous self centered bubble for nine months and, you know, actually getting  a life. This piece was written to be nothing more than a polarizing, emotionally-charged bit of linkbait designed to drive up page views.

Don’t worry, Mashable. You’re just as guilty as Techcrunch of chasing off topic subjects. Just look at how many Tiger Woods posts you have. And after victims of the recent earthquake tragedy in Chili posted pictures to twitpic, how long did it take your writers to create their articles?  Just because an issue arises doesn’t mean you should start writing about off topic subjects.

Let’s be honest here. You aren’t being responsible journalists. You’re becoming ambulance chasers, hoping to make some page views and few dollars off of a time sensitive spike in search terms. Don’t get me wrong: there’s nothing wrong with being a traffic whore. But you can’t act like a traffic whore then turn around and claim you’re a journalist. It just doesn’t work that way.

As a publisher, how do you decide what to cover and what not to cover? Ask yourself this question and answer honestly. Am I writing about this subject because it’s part of my industry or because it’s kinda connected and there is a lot of traffic? Every so often there comes a story that is too good to pass up. But remember that, every time you bite into that juicy little bit, you sell out just a little.

Nobody ever sells out all once. They do it slowly over time until, eventually, there’s nothing left…

Decide which side of the fence you want to be on. Every time you cross from one side to the other, you lose the respect of your peers and your readers.

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