Canada's Top Newspapers reviewed on social media use

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The National Post was dead last. Theirs is the social media equivalent of telling the Ford Model T to “gitty up” while whisking it lightly with a buggy whip. They are not even in the game. They have a weird PDF viewer format for their digital version. It offers readers a kind of PDF readable version of their daily, but once you struggle to get into the PDF you find it’s a just another version of what’s on their home page.

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Canada's Top Newspapers reviewed on social media use

  1. 1. Blog – Newspapers and Mags Canada’s Top Print Journalism Sites Get B-Minus for Social Media This week we look at how well Canada’s top five print journalism publications are marshalling the power of social media marketing. As a group, I’m giving them a B- minus, with kudos awarded to three for taking some creative steps to keep printed news marketable to 21st century readers. Our team reviewed The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, The National Post, Maclean’s Magazine and a number of small Quebecor Media regional newspapers. Straight comparisons applying the same parameters to all were not going to work, we decided. That’s because some are still taking baby steps and others are in various stages of participation in the social media forum. Therefore, our review looked at each on its own merits. In summary, Quebecor, Maclean’s and The Star were the flawed but obvious social media racecars of the pack. The Globe is simply struggling to spark the ignition while The National Post is still looking for its car key. The following are broad highlights of how successful we thought they are. More detailed and technical analysis can be found at the end of this article. The National Post was dead last. Theirs is the social media equivalent of telling the Ford Model T to “gitty up” while whisking it lightly with a buggy whip. They are not even in the game. They have a weird PDF viewer format for their digital version. It offers readers a kind of PDF readable version of their daily, but once you struggle to get into the PDF you find it’s a just another version of what’s on their home page. Getting out of this site was not easy either as I had to give up and close the pages and start over. Users hate that. There were no social media connections of ANY kind for sharing their publication. The Globe and Mail takes a baffling course by making users join The Globe and create an account before they are in a position to share Globe content with other users. That’s like being screened by a Walmart greeter before he’ll let you tell your friends about what’s on sale. Remember, people take nanoseconds to decide if they are going to move on. On the technical side, the normal social media buttons, other than a microscopic one for Twitter, are missing. Again, where is the sharing mechanism that social media marketing requires to be successful? Maybe they have other social media accounts, but users remain in the dark as to how they might be accessed. Easily available analysis shows globeandmail.com has a disproportionately high number of users who are highly educated, white, childless men making over $60,000 per year and who browse from work. There’s a growth limiting demographic for a newspaper if I ever saw one. Meanwhile, their site set up to inhibit rather than encourage new readership. Another off putting aspect on The Globe site is the Trending Tech Contributors column.
  2. 2. Readers want newsworthy articles, not reverbs of other articles and opinions. They also want news without a sales pitch by the columnists for her services. Of note is this columnist’s claim to leading Rogers in their social media success. Followers of The Social Media Report will know that Rogers gets a failing grade on all things social media. So where is the credibility? The Toronto Star’s web site has done a pretty good job of latching onto social media, with good use of buttons connecting onto their social media sites. However, on the positive side, they have a blog supported by TypePad technology, a reliable blog technology. When I went to Twitter I found The Star had a nifty explanation for this application. Better still, before taking the jump to Twitter, The Star’s setup allows you to choose the Tweets related to categories available in their print version. Very smart, this. However, The Star could manage their site views to better advantage. At 3.986 seconds, their site is very slow to come into focus. Poor loading is poison to users. Some would liken it to reading a soggy paper because no one put a plastic bag around it for rainy day delivery. It’s shame that many users won’t have the patience to get to all their hard work because of the loading time. To look at Quebecor Media, I focused on the large number of small regional newspapers accessed through the Canoe.ca portal. In looking at the newspaper web sites accessed through this site, I was struck by what a good job Quebecor had done in marketing regional and community newspapers to their niche audiences, i.e., providing local news and issues for people who want to read about where they live. While I was disappointed to see there were no buttons or links on the sites, there were many social media wins to be found here. I found interesting that each regional newspaper under the Canoe.ca banner had a “submit article” section and most had blogs. This is a good move. That way, readers can set up an account, like you would in Yahoo, which creates a profile with their interests. In this way, a very simple browser interface allows readers to post articles, news and opinions on regional or community news and issues. Once an article is posted users can share it on Twitter and all the other social media networks. With just one click, they offer up the entire world of social media connections. Hats off to Quebecor. They are following social media rules and it’s working for them. They’ve developed a list of users’ email accounts without, it seems, misusing them as spam mail accounts. Most impressive, though, is how well the big search engines index articles posted on these small regional newspaper sites. With this in place, you will see an article posted across to advantage in a series within the Canoe.ca-listed newspapers. We will be respectful and post a few by province to show how this works (see analysis at the end of this article). Maclean’s Magazine’s online version has followed many of the rules for social media marketing and is reaping the benefits. It’s ironic that they are owned by Rogers, a flat out failure in following social media basics. Their parent company could take many cues from Maclean’s successful implementation. For example, they have nailed the basics. The Maclean’s site is correctly verified with top search engines. They use the corporate version of Wordpress, which is a very good choice. Bravo for installing big social media buttons and for having RSS news feeds. I loved the
  3. 3. way they set up Twitter in a way that allows users to choose the feed or Tweets focused on the users’ specific interests, broken into the defined magazine sections. Implementing a well-thought-out way to connect readers with their interests is a job well done. Who do we like the best? Well, I have to say that Canoe.ca regional newspapers, exploited to good advantage by Quebecor, have it all going on. So much that needs to be in place is. This includes article posts, blogs and all the social media links to other types of social media networks. Their use of portal technology to link their regional news with their local target audiences is smooth work for sure. They’ve set up a great opportunity for themselves. One suggestion, though, is they need to promote it better. That’s a part of good social media practice often missed or ignored. MacLean’s and The Star are both about parallel in implementing social media marketing principles. But do they have all the toys in play to get the most out of technology? They have both missed out by not installing the key button that allows users to share articles without joining their sites. Trying to get people to join so that mailing lists are harvested is an old fashioned marketing ploy that no longer works. As for The Post and The Globe, there is not much further to say, except the new Globe print version has driven me to read The Star. By the numbers how did each make the grade? The following is the technical analysis of the top five print journalism companies’ social media marketing activities. About The Globe and Mail (theglobeandmail.com): National and international news including Report on Business, information, commentary and interactive discussion. Subscription information available. There are 1,647 sites with a better three-month global Alexa traffic rank than Theglobeandmail.com. About 12% of visits to the site are referred by search engines. The site can be found in the “Canada” category of websites. Relative to the overall population of internet users, Theglobeandmail.com's users are disproportionately Caucasian, and they tend to be highly educated, childless men earning over $60,000 who browse from work. Visitors to the site view 2.8 unique pages each day on average. About Canoe (canoe.ca): Canadian sports, entertainment, finance and business news. Includes articles, horoscopes, TV listings, and travel information. Canoe has a three-month global Alexa traffic rank of 2,321. Visitors to the site spend roughly four minutes per visit to the site and 51 seconds per pageview. Search engines refer roughly 14% of visits to this site, and Canoe has a bounce rate of about 45% (i.e., 45% of visits consist of only one pageview). This site is based in Canada. About The Toronto Star (thestar.com): Founded in 1892, The Toronto Star is Canada's largest daily newspaper. Thestar.com is ranked #2,222 in the world according to the three-month Alexa traffic rankings. Compared with internet averages, the site's users are disproportionately Caucasian, and they tend to be childless college graduates earning over $60,000 who browse from work. Approximately 50% of visits to the site are bounces (one pageview only). The site belongs to the “Canada” category. Roughly 11% of visits to Thestar.com are referred by search engines. About Macleans (macleans.ca): Maclean’s is Canada’s only national weekly current affairs magazine. Maclean’s enlightens, engages and entertains 2.8 million readers with strong investigative reporting and exclusive stories from leading journalists in the fields of international a Macleans.ca has a three-month global Alexa traffic rank of 24,171. This site is based in Canada, and visitors to the site spend about 84 seconds on each pageview and a total of three minutes on the site during each visit. It is in the “Magazines and E-zines” category. Macleans has attained a traffic rank of 771 among users
  4. 4. in Canada, where roughly 43% of its audience is located. About National Post (nationalpost.com): Canada's newest national newspaper. There are 6,978 sites with a better three-month global Alexa traffic rank than Nationalpost.com. Compared with internet averages, the site appeals more to Caucasians; its visitors also tend to consist of childless college graduates earning over $60,000 who browse from work. It belongs to the “Canada” category of websites. About 68% of visits to the site consist of only one pageview (i.e., are bounces). We estimate that 47% of Nationalpost.com's visitors are in Canada, where it has attained a traffic rank of 212.

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