Discover more from CTRL + ALT + REPEAT
What we learned from the Great Audience Experiment
This week's must-reads: the pain and pleasure of audience editing, when metrics attack, the future of Twitter, and the fall of Vice.
Welcome to the first edition of CTRL + ALT + REPEAT! This one is a round-up of must-reads. They won’t all be round-ups – I’ve planned a few deep dives and would also love to know what you want to see. More at the end…
I’m breaking a golden rule by publishing on a Saturday but future editions will drop into your inbox on Thursdays.
Subscribe for free!
ON DOING AUDIENCE WORK // Margaux Maxwell
I came across Margaux’s pick-me-up post on audience work earlier this week and it was one of a couple of things that prompted me to launch this newsletter. It’s great reading for anyone who needs some audience editor therapy, and this reminder is so pertinent:
‘Clickbait’ and ‘clickable’ are two different things. Being clickable is about delivering on a promise and demonstrating how a piece of information may affect a reader’s life from the outset.
The C-word gets lobbed around so lazily these days (often by journalists who should know better) that it’s lost all meaning. Every journalist should know the difference between a clickbait headline and one with a curiosity gap. We seem to have lost that distinction.
Alyssa Zeisler just published a paper on what audience data is doing to us, newsrooms and readers. This section jumped out:
Interestingly, the findings thus far are not particularly supportive of the benefits of audience analytics, instead finding that the use of data encourages tabloidisation or “the proliferation of pre-packaged material” and new angles to old news.
The tabloidisation effect is exactly what happens when audience data is used in a bad way – when we chase views and publish grubby stories to get them, like this especially dumb (and graphic) piece.
Data absolutely belongs in newsrooms, magazine offices and anywhere that creates content – but data is only useful if it’s paired with editorial experience and judgement. Data should inform our decisions, not dictate them.
HOW VICE MEDIA WENT BANKRUPT // Ad Week
This tick-tock* plots the rise and stunning decline of Vice Media which was once valued at $5.7bn and could now sell just for $225m.
The piece is based around analysis from Frank A. Pometti, Chief Restructuring Officer, and pinpoints 2017 as the moment Vice’s journey to bankruptcy began.
*I do a bit of journalism teaching on the side. Trying to explain the difference between a tick-tock and a TikTok to a room of early 20-somethings is a nightmare.
IT’S A METRIC-FREE SUMMER // Minor Genius
Creating something without metrics in tow scares me. I’d be lying if I said I don’t closely watch the subscriber count of this newsletter. But Elliot Aronow’s thoughts on throwing off the shackles of data have grown on me.
He argues that being unafraid to create and share something new regardless of the response is more beneficial than obsessing over things like reach and engagement.
He’s speaking as an artist but I do think there’s space for this approach in media, probably in inexpensive experiments. It’s a small space though because we’re hard pressed by targets for views, impressions and conversion that help keep the lights on.
FOR ELON MUSK, X EQUALS EVERYTHING // The Verge
Musk won’t be a regular feature here because, well, this newsletter is meant to be about smart stuff.
Jay Peters has a deep read on what Musk’s ambitions are for X. In short, it’s about “turning Twitter into something like WeChat, the near-ubiquitous app in China that offers a bunch of services on top of social media.” Cool.
THE POST’S SEO GUIDE // The Washington Post
I’m a big fan of publishers being open about how they work, so it’s nice to see WaPo has made its SEO playbook public.
If you’re into SEO, you probably already know a lot of what’s there – although I do love that the guidance for content optimisation is boiled down to three really smart bullet points that basically say “write good stuff”.
If you have a second, share your thoughts on what would be useful for future editions.
Subscribe for free!