“Respect your readers.”
Buzzfeed CEO Jonah Peretti emailed a sort of vision statement to staff recently, and I liked the front-and-center position he gave to the ol’ #1 Rule of Editorially Driven Publishing (you know, the kind where the content you put out actually has to be better than what people can easily find elsewhere):
RESPECT OUR READERS
By which he means that there are some absolute no-no’s Buzzfeed will not engage in:
We don’t publish slideshows. Instead we publish scrollable lists so readers don’t have to click a million times and can easily scroll through a post. The primary reason to publish slideshows, as far as I can tell, is to juice page views and banner ad impressions. Slideshows are super annoying and lists are awesome so we do lists!
We don’t show crappy display ads; we make all our revenue from social advertising that users love and share.
We never launched one of those “frictionless sharing” apps on Facebook that automatically shares the stories you click because those apps are super annoying.
We don’t post deceptive, manipulative headlines that trick people into reading a story.
We don’t focus on SEO or gaming search engines or filling our pages with millions of keywords and tags that only a robot will read.
We avoid anything that is bad for our readers and can only be justified by short term business interests.
And the one thing you strive always to do:
We focus on publishing content our readers love so much they think it is worth sharing. It sounds simple but it’s hard to do and it is the metric that aligns our company with our readers. In the long term is good for readers and good for business.