No Reputation? Let Your Page Views Do the Talking

By
Golis.
Golis. Photo: andrewgolis.com

With Yahoo News's new blog, the Upshot, Andrew Golis and his team of six reporters and two editors have a big job ahead of them. Not that it's going to be hard to get clicks; quite the opposite. The Upshot has existed in some form for months now, and in April, it recorded 57 million page views, thanks to Yahoo News directing hordes of readers its way. But with an official launch this week, the blog is now fighting to be heard above the din of Yahoo's massive traffic. (The Yahoo News portal is consistently the most-used news hub on the net, with nearly 53 million uniques recorded in May.) After all, a single breaking news story — even a strong one — isn't going to move the needle for such a juggernaut.

"Breaking news for us is a matter not just of increasing the size of our audience," Golis told New York in a phone interview yesterday. "One of the points is to create a more sticky brand and more of a place where people want to be every day. It's not a case of sheer volume — we already have a huge scale."

What the Upshot does not have, however, is the reputation of a legacy news organization. Online-media start-ups have been there before: Upshot reporters Michael Calderone and John Cook both made their names, in part, from the websites Politico and Gawker. They're essentially starting the process over, calling out to story subjects under the umbrella of a name nobody has ever heard of. Of course, their own names help ("When you have someone like [former Newsweek reporter] Holly Bailey who has reported on the Obama administration and the Bush administration from inside the White House, when she calls Robert Gibbs, he knows who she is," observes Golis). But when it comes to getting key sources to answer the phone, what helps even more is the sheer, measurable size of their audience.

I asked Golis what his reporters say when they call up subjects. Are they calling from Yahoo News, a brand people already know, but not for its investigative reporting? Or are they calling from the heretofore-unknown Upshot? "I'm calling from Yahoo News's blog the Upshot," Golis says. "We definitely have to explain to them how much reach the site is getting, how big the audience is, how important it is. I don't think that's different from any other start-up. In our case we get to build that up with the advantage of a large audience."

In other words, Yahoo's reporters don't need to have to say, "I'm calling from [insert trusted and famous old-media publication here]" to get attention. They can simply say, in essence, "I'm calling with 57 million page views." Any forward-thinking source or PR person will listen up after an intro like that. We're not at the point where everyone thinks that way yet, of course, but as time goes by and blogs like the Upshot take hold, we very soon should be.