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Traffic as a Feature

I saw this article today (and accompanying analysis) and thought it was brilliant.

A year ago, CBS Corp. announced the creation of Innertube, an entertainment channel on CBS.com designed to make the company a player in online video....CBS's new chief Internet strategist now jokes that the Web address for Innertube should be "CBS.com/nobodycomeshere.

First off, the line is great. Especially since (a) it is coming from a CBS executive; (b) because it's true; (c) it's so rare that a big company actually has the capability to recognize its own failures.

CBS, after a year of experimenting with various Web initiatives, says that forcing consumers to come to one site -- its own -- to view video hasn't worked. Instead, the company plans to pursue a drastically revised strategy that involves syndicating its entertainment, news and sports video to as much of the Web as possible.

In other words, there's more to winning online that just great content or a large offline audience. Point of fact is that most times the offline audience won't translate into online numbers. If they did, ABC, CBS and NBC would be the top three sites. Fox figured this out a while back ago and built their audience around MySpace through acquisition. The NYTimes did the same with About.com.

We do partnership deals all the time with others and partners always have long feature request lists. The one thing I always ask for is for them to treat building an audience as a feature. Have a plan - a product plan, SEO, SEM, online marketing, offline marketing, etc. - don't just assume that if you put something up, people will come to it. I know this seems obvious, but you'd be surprised how often that doesn't happen.

Seems like CBS figured it out. My guess is that they'll make sure their new distribution partners think this way too.


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