Are PR people the main readers of UK online IT news publications? Google thinks so.


Google has just updated its Doubleclick Ad Planner tool with a useful new feature that shows a site’s top 10 audience interests, representing the aggregate interests of the site’s visitors.
As Google says: “In these top 10 lists, each interest is assigned an affinity score, such as 3.9x, which means visitors to the site are that many more times likely to be interested in the topic than the average Internet population.”
I tried it out on a couple of UK online IT news sites – computerweekly.com and v3.co.uk.
For the former title, public relations was the 2nd top audience interest for UK visitors, with an affinity score of 33.3x.  For V3.co.uk, PR was the top audience interest with an affinity score of 30.1x. In other words, the average UK visitor to computerweekly.com/v3.co.uk is 33.3/30.1 times more likely to be interested in public relations than the average Internet user.
Which is curious. Who knew that UK IT folk were so interested in PR. Or could it be that a sizeable proportion of UK visitors to these online IT news sites are in fact PR people (presumably checking to see if they’ve got any client coverage).
I realise this is only a sample of two, but I’m curious to see if this is a common phenomenon across the online IT publication sector as a whole – at least in the UK.

What engagement time tells you about the value or otherwise of online press coverage


Consider the following:
1. An average person can read around 200 words per minute on screen.
2. The average UK Guardian website reader spends around 7 mins and 30 seconds per visit (according to Google)
3. The Guardian has monthly page views of around 88 million in the UK and around 21 million unique visitors per month (according to Google)
4. Based on the above, the average visitor will spend around 450/4.2 = 107 seconds per page. In other words, the average reader will read up to 350 words before moving on to another page or off the site completely.
What might we infer from this?
1. Any article longer than 350 words will not be read in full. Not least because on any given page, the reader is also potentially being distracted from reading editorial copy by ads and other elements on the page. In which case, what density of client reference is required within 350 words to have any material impact on the reader?
Is 107 seconds really long enough to make any impact at all?
What about press releases?
Based on Google Ad Planner figures, the average amount of time spent on a page on Sourcewire.com (a well known press release distribution service) = 151 seconds.
Based on an average reading speed of 3.33 words per second, then your typical Sourcewire visitor (ie a journalist) is going to consume, at best, 500 words per page.
However, based on an admittedly small sample, the average Sourcewire press release contains 800 – 900 words.
In which case, you might argue that putting a release on Sourcewire of more than 500 words is a waste of time because the likelihood that a journalist will read more than 500 words per page is very slim (ignoring the SEO value that you might gain from using Sourcewire).
Caveats
These are average figures (Avanash Kaushik would roast me alive). Some people may be able to read more quickly on screen. Then again, many people will read more slowly. And clearly some people may spend more time with content. However, that means that an even greater number spend less time. In fact, that probably is the case if the Newspaper Marketing Society’s figures are true (that 56pc of all UK newspaper web site visits last less than one minute).
Google’s figures may be wildly inaccurate too. That was certainly the claim from publishers when Double Click Ad Planner was first launched. However, you don’t hear so much complaint about them now.
Conclusion
Online PR planning needs to take account of engagement in determining what media sites to target and the appropriate content to provide. If a site’s visitors spend barely 30 seconds on reading a page, then crowing to the client that they’ve got 14 paragraphs of coverage at the end of a 3,000 word article is pretty meaningless – whether it is the BBC or the Wheel Tappers & Shunters Weekly.
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