June 18, 2016

Tl;dr Make Better Stuff

I went to get a pedicure today—the Marine Spa Pedicure at Rehoboth Spa Lounge is my favorite, ask for Maya or Katie—and while I was sitting in the massage chair (massage chair!) I found myself deep in a Yahoo-Tumblr-Marissa-Meyer longread, probably 2,000 words in. At that point I got distracted by a noise or something, looked up, picked up my Starbucks iced tea, and was looking around the nail salon when it occurred to me (yes, I have a short attention span) that even though I'd read thousands of words of a good deep-dive feature, I had no idea what site I was reading it on, had no idea who the byline belonged to, and had no idea how I got there.

This surprised me because, well, I work in digital media, specifically content, and everywhere I've worked over the last six-ish years, we've all spent a whole lot of time, energy, and money trying to figure out how to bring readers to sites through side doors (the vast majority of readers of any site I've worked at don't come through the homepage—they come from search, social media, newsletters, etc.). Usually I pay attention to what I'm reading—I'm fairly selective about what sites I click on, I like to scan lists and stories, and I'm always looking for new writers, so I almost always pay attention to bylines. But that one conscious moment in the salon where I realized I was reading something just because it was good and the universe and muscle memory had colluded to bring me to that page without a second thought—it kind of threw me for a loop.

What does this mean to me in my day job besides continuing to do what most digital publishers are all already doing: putting as many clever/touching/informative/teasing/best practice social posts and links out there as possible, optimize the heck out of newsletters, and hope readers at large share compelling content on their own social platforms, of their own volition (the most powerful endorsement)? I guess the most reductionist takeaway from this is that to get new eyeballs on your site and to keep people on your site for more than six seconds, you have to make better stuff: write better stories, produce better videos, create better editorial. (I know that seems like a master-of-the-obvious statement and super-unprofound, but if we look around the internet, it seems that "making better stuff" is something lots of publishers aren't really prioritizing these days.)

Aaaaand this post is pretty much 100 percent tl;dr.

Epilogue: I backtracked. This is the Tumblr-Yahoo-Marissa Meyer story I was reading. It lives on Mashable and the byline is Seth Flegerman. I got to it via the Digg daily newsletter, which is the email newsletter I open most. Second is the Medium email newsletter.