Maintaining Credibility While
Pursuing New Online Revenue
Kathy Best, managing editor for digital news
and innovation, Seattle Times and seattletimes.com
How does a news organization maximize revenue from contextual ads
while maintaining credibility with readers?
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Q&A with Kathy Best
Can you briefly describe your APME Online Journalism Credibility Project?
Using extensive reader surveys and focus groups, we tried to determine what
effect contextual advertising, in varying forms, either was having or might have
on the credibility of news or ads on our Web site.
Why did you choose this issue? With revenue in free-fall at many news
organizations, pressure to experiment with new ad forms – particularly contextual
advertising – has been growing. We wanted hard data that would give the
newsroom and online advertising a shared understanding so that we could
make wiser choices about how to boost revenue without eroding credibility.
How did you approach the issue?
The newsroom, our design and usability experts and our corporate
marketing research team collaborated to create a quantitative survey that
asked participants to look at 17 different examples of contextual ads on
both story pages and index pages. We also tested reaction to contextual ads
placed near hard news and feature content. Then we followed up the
quantitative surveys with two focus groups, which allowed us to probe reader
reactions more deeply. We got advice before we started from Ken Fleming,
director of the Center for Advanced Social Research at the Reynolds
Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri.
What actions did your news organization take?
The research gave our news organization data on which we could decide what
kinds of ads we wanted to start to use or continue using. We shared the results with
the entire company with the goal of breaking down barriers and creating more
constructive conversations around the use of contextual advertising online.