7 ways to make your news site a destination

Why should people visit your homepage rather than Facebook? Here are 7 ways to make your news site a destination.

1. Personality trumps publisher. The Facebook generation care more about the personality of their news than who’s published it. If another publisher does a story better, aggregate. (It’s not just social networks doing it, just look at Drudge Report).

2. Pictures. The MailOnline (massive homepage traffic) has a simple formula: lots of photos of attractive celebrities. More detail in this post.

3. Something to believe in. MailOnline portrays itself as the voice of the everyman and common sense. Guardian and Upworthy believe in making the world a better place. For more, check out Start With Why.

4. Co-creation. A recent Wired article about how to make products compelling says, “The key is for the user to contribute some element of their own—a tweet, a comment, a video—and for that, in turn, to set in motion a chain of events resulting in the delivery of the next trigger”.

  • Upworthy have a “Submit link” menu in their site navigation
  • Metro plans to try co-curation: a “vote up” button
  • Hearken has potential

5. The metric for article success should include return visits, not just views/shares. Metro dev team has built a working prototype.

6. The right blend of topics. Provide a better mix of content than the competition. Of course, what constitutes a “better mix” is different for everyone. The secret weapon is… personalization.

Personalization matters because mobile users don’t use site navigation (only 2% of Metro visits on mobile use site navigation). You have to give users what they want right there on the homepage.

More detail about personalization and aggregation in this post.

UPDATE June 2015: We tried a simple (opt-in) personalisation experiment and the results were poor. Next we might try automagic personalisation.

7. The secret sauce. A report by Contently claims to have found the secret to driving engagement and return visits.

8. Optimise for browsing, not clicks. For example, MailOnline (massive homepage traffic) has long headlines – their first homepage headline is currently 32 words with a sub-headline of 50 words! You don’t need to click on the article to know the story. This is bad for clicks but GOOD for browsing.

Save the Upworthy-style headlines for social media and your article pages.

9. Let users express themselves. People love to express themselves. Metro’s polls peaked at 5 million votes in one month. It’s simpler than commenting but more expressive than a Facebook Like.

10. The habit loop (detail here). Triggers such as emails and homescreen icons have potential.

We tried prompting users to add a Metro shortcut to their iPhone homescreen. The impact was minimal, maybe prompting to install an app would be more effective.

What do you think?

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