A couple of weeks ago, I had a good conversation with an old friend and colleague who is an executive at a combined radio and television operation about the dilemma such stations have in knowing which of the new set of web tools being developed by NPR and PBS to adopt in such “joint licensee” situations. It parallels the dilemma such stations have faced for years in how to present their web operations – that is, to combine radio and television on one site, to build separate sites, or to make one combining the two. The scatter charts below are the result of a little deeper dive into the data then I did for my post last Thursday, Pubmedia web ranks vs. inbound links.
Bottom line: I’m now less inclined to say, “Let them develop separate sites,” than I was on the phone with my friend.
Both charts still look at inbound links (also called backlinks), though I’ve dropped PBS and NPR data to open up the scale a bit and added some stations. In the legends below, by “PBS,” I mean standalone websites for PBS stations; by “NPR,” I mean standalone websites for NPR stations that carry the NPR newsmagazines; and “Joint” means websites combining pages for both radio and TV. “Classical” refers to websites for both commercial and non-commercial classical music stations.
The first chart displays the same X and Y axes as the one on Thursday, but the data points have been differentiated for these four categories. Larger backlink numbers logarithmically improve traffic ranking. In other words, you dramatically improve search traffic by this demonstration of respect for your site’s content. It’s likely that search traffic is greater than what I’d label “relationship traffic,” though of course some percentage of people who find you through search go on to develop relationships with you.
You’ll see that the general pattern for combined joint licensee sites is not a lot different than the one for sites for NPR newsmagazine stations. Sites for TV stations and classical music radio stations trail in inbound links and in traffic rankings. The median Alexa traffic ranking for the sites in this group is 173,005 (ranging from 4,977 to 625,617). KCRW (#1), WNYC, WBUR, KQED and WBEZ sites are in the top 10,000 – all but joint licensee KQED are radio-only sites.
The second chart below uses the inbound links as the X axis this time, and the Y axis is the number of those backlinks per 1,000 television households (to control for market size). There are a few more data points because the number of inbound links is given for several stations for which no traffic rank is displayed.
Here, the median backlinks per 1,000 TVHH is a modest 0.16. The top performers are joint licensees, KQED.org and KPBS.ORG with 1.05 and 1.16 backlinks per 1,000 TVHH. Non-classical music radio-only site and joint licensee sites each have a median of 0.24. For TV-only sites it’s 0.12, and for classical radio sites it’s 0.04.
You might ask, is it just television that has problems? In joint licensee situations, stations like KPBS and KQED, which offer a lot of linkable content in both media definitely lift the backlinks and traffic linkings rankings of the combined site. Both lift the other, but television doesn’t provide as much lift as radio does. I looked at data for the four news-producing commercial TV stations in Washington, DC (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC) and for the commercial radio all-news powerhouse, WTOP. All five plus NPR all-news station WAMU had a respectable number of backlinks in about the same range (1,317 for CBS to 2,036 for Fox). TV stations with lots of linkable content do well.
You might also ask, is it impossible for a music-only station to perform well with backlinks? Here, I looked at the sites of just a pair of similar stations, KEXP in Seattle and WXPN in Philadelphia (neither are shown in the charts above). Both station have a national reputation and neither station is particularly high power (KEXP is only 560 watts; WXPN 5,000 watts). Having been a "neighbor" of sorts to KEXP during its development, I know that it made an aggressive push in internet delivery and now has 1,239 inbound links vs. 655 for WXPN – that translates to 0.66 per 1,000 TVHH for KEXP and 0.22 for WXPN (both numbers probably understate the true number since neither station probably reaches the full range of the Nielsen TV DMA households). That’s nearly 20% larger than all-news KUOW’s in the same market, five times larger than the site of KPLU (mixed news and jazz format), and seven times larger than site of the main PBS station in the market, KCTS. So, yes, music-only stations can get lots of “link love” and perform well in search with the right strategies.
So, back to my friend's question: There’s no reason why a majority of your pageviews shouldn’t be coming in through search. For this blog, it’s about 70%. These data suggest that search traffic will be lifted if you combine the sites, since the main URL’s “respect” will drive that. The “relationship traffic,” on the other hand, might be advantaged in some ways by building independent sites. At a minimum, joint licensee sites should do a much better job at making radio visible instead of hidden on a tab behind a bunch of public TV program visuals. Remember, radio lifts TV better than TV lifts radio (that’s true for on-air promotion also) – and both lift the web better than the web lifts them. Judging from what I’ve seen, way too many stations are apparently following the losing strategy of making the web site into a program promotion vehicle. You’re content companies – put that up front, make it as much of a river as you can, and look for strategies to grow your inbound links.