Media Undecided About Which Sites People Are Actually Reading

The media traffic wars are heated folks. It started, it seems, a couple of weeks ago, when the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism released a study showing that The Drudge Report is a major traffic driver, trumping social networks. The Washington Post disputed this and The Huffington Post took a closer look at the reasons there may be some disparity in the numbers.

After a tumultuous redesign and resolving some SEO issues, Gawker chief Nick Denton is saying that traffic numbers are back to their previous highs. Last week, The New York Times’ CEO Janet Robinson said more people are paying the new digital subscription fee than they thought, good news for its audience and share numbers. And now today, Yahoo is saying, “Check us out because everyone else seems to be.” (I’m paraphrasing there.)

So what the heck are people actually reading?

The answer is everything. Audit Bureau of Circulations numbers from the beginning of the month indicate that while there are some bright spots, print outlets are still struggling. But, as evidenced by recent big events like the Royal Wedding, the news of Osama bin Laden’s death, and the weather-related turmoil here in the U.S.,  people are all about getting news and information.

As the PR industry knows, and has known for some time, there’s tons of media fragmentation. People are going to a wide variety of sources that cater to their interests. And how they’re getting to these sites and stories is still something that analytics, monitoring, and measurement experts are trying to figure out.

The numbers of course make a difference to the outlets that are trying to sell advertising and otherwise find ways to earn money on the traffic they generate. And publicists aren’t interested in pitching outlets that no one is reading.

But not only are publicists and marketers looking for sites frequented by readers, they’re looking for the target reader. The busy mom for the new mommy product. The young athletic 20-something for the new workout-boosting beverage. The boomer looking for some of the travel options and latest gear for the trip of a lifetime.

A media plan focused on reaching that core consumer, that person most likely to share information about your client, or the influential voice that would ring the loudest is the way to approach an outreach strategy. While the media tussles over the numbers, publicists would be better served by keeping their eye on on that ball.