To compete with the web’s giants, news organisations need to become better at sending people away

Hardly a week goes by without a major article scrutinising the dominant role Facebook plays in defining how people consume journalism (the latest came from the NYT). It’s an important issue, but the focus shouldn’t so much be on Facebook’s algorithm. This should be about something bigger. Facebook’s dominance is the result of news organisations’ failure to be entry points to the web.

News sites are optimised for traffic to them. What they should optimise for is traffic they send away, into the web.

For over a decade now, news organisations have optimised themselves into dependence of the big players on the web. News sites have made sure to get as much search traffic as possible. Now they try to get the most out of social platforms by making their pieces as shareable as possible. In short: They have optimised for traffic to their sites. What they haven’t optimised for is traffic from their sites, into the web.

Show your users the best stories from the whole web, not the best from your newsroom.

This is not to say a news site needs to be a mere aggregator to be an entry point. But the decision to point a user to a story of their own rather than one by someone else should be a conscious one every single time, based on editorial judgement, not an invisible wall. Show your users the best stories from the whole web, not the best from your newsroom (but of course make sure to have a newsroom that is capable and driven by the will to create as much overlap between the two as possible).

Journalist, curious generalist. Subscribe to my newsletter: 📨✨