CNN managing editor blasts clickbaiting news outlets, says media trends are leaning towards niche audiences

CNN Digital International vice president and managing editor Andrew Demaria has spoken out about the changing trends in digital media for quality content and niche, engaged audiences over clickbait news and hollow audience numbers.

Speaking about Australian media, he said outlets would soon face the question of whether their numbers were genuine figures advertisers will be interested in, or just hollow figures which provide no value.

“We will see a trend in the digital media industry around the value of audiences, and being able to put proper value on what that audience is. Not that long ago a lot of sites were getting massive traffic from all sorts of page view techniques and there was no depth on what that audience is doing. Are they really valuable? Or are you just getting big numbers that don’t mean much to an advertiser that wants to be associated with it,” said Demaria.

“Produce good content and you will find an audience that is interested in that content and I urge any journalistic company out there to consistently think about the quality of content that they’re providing for their audiences.”

Speaking at Mumbrella360, Demaria said SEO strategy was too important to the growth of CNN, especially in markets where the outlet isn’t prevalent such as APAC, that wasting reader’s time with clickbait headlines or badly researched stories was incredibly detrimental to the business’ overall growth plan.

“Now that they’ve found us on Google, what is the return that audience is getting? If they’re getting a crappy return, chances are they’re not going to click on you next time they find you. A lot of the time in that search space you might have one chance to get that right which is why we need to invest in every single piece that we do,” said Demaria.

CNN’s SEO strategy involved finding secondary or third-tier SEO terms that bigger outlets were ignoring and focusing all the attention there. Unable to compete with outlets like BBC and the Telegraph in their markets, CNN instead turned to tweaking their headlines and stories slightly to target audiences in a different way and hopefully engage them more than by covering the same stories in ways which had already been done.

“Rather than seeing the same headline on the BBC or the Guardian or the Telegraph, we’re trying to present something different that’s perhaps a little bit more engaging, a little bit more rewarding, that actually gives more knowledge to our audience,” said Demaria.

“We don’t want to be first. We want to be first with the right information. We headline test everything, not with one headline or two headlines, but normally a minimum of three, four or five, and we constantly look to optimise that. We’re always testing, changing times, trying to make sure that we’re optimising all the content that we’re producing and as we’re getting data back from the audience we pump that back in to the editorial decision making process.”

The CNN team have been working to build their back catalogue to better position themselves for SEO wins by going back through the verticals and optimising old content. Under the CNN Travel vertical alone over 4000 articles have been optimised with dedicated search terminology.

While the returns may not pay off in the short term, Demaria said CNN is dedicated to playing the long game and ‘dominating’ the search space. In the future the plan is to combine that SEO superiority with programmatic technology and editorial strategy to deliver the right content for consumers in any situation, no matter where they are in the world.


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