February 26th, 2013 § 2 Comments
Following the Interflora penalty and Google cracking down on the sale of advertorials, I’ve been reading around on Johnston Press, the publisher that owns many of the titles slapped with a PageRank penalty last week.
According to the Guardian, they’re not really in a great place financially, with print revenue down 12.5% in the first half of 2012 (when the article was written) and debts of over £330 million which they were trying to reduce.
From the article:
Chief executive Ashley Highfield said he was “strategically hanging his hat on” digital display advertising. Digital advertising was up 43.8% year on year.
The publisher’s websites have seen a 39% increase in traffic year on year, while the fledgling mobile business has seen a 100% increase in usage.
I wonder how much of the “digital advertising” uplift came from advertorials. Selling these placements is another way newspapers caught onto to make money, but in order for a web property to be valuable it needs PageRank and it needs good visibility online.
Although Johnston’s web properties may have seen an increase in traffic last year, it’s by no means guaranteed to last now they’re in Google’s bad books.
In fact The Scotsman, one of Johnston Press’s bigger web properties, hasn’t been doing very well for some time:
Both of those drops, on the 13th of October 2011 and the 26th of July 2012, look like Panda to me, but it will be interesting to see their visibility graph once SearchMetrics updates this week.
Obviously Johnston Press own a whole load of newspapers, so let’s take a look at some others:
The Yorkshire Post
There’s a slightly suspicious drop around the time of Penguin in May last year…
Now I just picked a few of their bigger sites to run through SearchMetrics but the story these graphs show isn’t great. Any publisher relying on the internet – as many newspapers now are – doesn’t want to see the big drops demonstrated above.
If you’re an advertiser you’re not likely to spend your money with a site that gets no traffic, and they’ve lost any appeal they had to the SEO community too. It would be interesting to know just what sort of clean-up plan Johnston Press (and other publishers caught selling advertorials) come up with, and if their sites can recover.
Mixed with a tough economy and competition online it’s not a great place to be.