Tuesday, December 4, 2007

About Ledes and Webster's Dictionary

Do you remember the ledes you hated most as a newspaper editor?

Mine go something like this…

Webster’s Dictionary defines an accident as something that happens accidentally, meaning no one is really at fault. That’s kind of what Sally Jones thinks about the accident that caused her to lose her mind.”

And me to lose mine!

Ok, yeah, Sally Jones is fictional. But I was a newspaper editor for years…and believe me, I saw my share of “those kind” of ledes. (And yes, I know the word “ledes” is an old-fashioned newspaper word. But hey, given that I am an old-fashioned newspaper editor and given what everyone is saying about newspapers dying soon, I feel the urge to use old-fashioned newspaper words before they -- like the industry and old newspaper editors like me -- go off to a more heavenly home.)

Anyway, getting back to my point, which was definitions. This blog entry isn’t going to talk about Webster’s Dictionary. (Thank God, you say.) But it will do some defining for newspaper folk who want to learn more about the Internet, which I will remind you is what I now do.

And nooooooooow (Dating myself, but insert Johnny Carson-type intro here)………. Definitions for today.

Bounce rate.

No this is not the way an annoying reporter bounces after you’ve thrown them – and their grammatically incorrect story – down the stairs and out the building, screaming madly, over and over “Strunk and White, Strunk and White, Strunk and White,” at the top of your lungs. Actually, it’s less violent and more complicated – and not nearly as funny. Bounce rate is defined as how often a user goes to your site, looks at one page and leaves. If he or she sticks with it, you’re in luck. And so is your site. That kind of user is good, good, good. But what isn’t good is a user who looks at one page and leaves. He or she then adds to your “bounce rate.” And that makes the editor want to scream madly all over again – though “Strunk and White” is not exactly what she had in mind this time.


Ok, sounds like something an old newspaper editor would know right? When I was the editor of the Times-Recorder newspaper in Zanesville, Ohio, (Yes, Virginia, there is such a place, and it has a Y-bridge, a Zane Grey Museum and a riverboat called The Lorena, if you can believe it) we did this all the time. We worked with another company, let’s say Longaberger, for example. (Ok, it’s a stretch to think the Disney of basketmakers would work with a newspaper on any project, but let’s just play along shall we.) Anyway, both companies get together, put their name on a banner, hang it in a park and have a shindig for the community to celebrate…well…something. And a good time was had by all… Co-branding right? Not on the web. No sirree. On the web, co-branding is a little more complicated. It goes something like this. We start a niche web site. Because we hire great journalists and a fabulous editor, (ok a little plug for the writer here), we get great content and publish it online. Some Internet big dog looks at our content and decides they like it so much they want to use it – on their pages. We agree to give them the good content, which is built into their pages. And because they get lots of people on their site, we get more traffic.

And because we get more traffic…. a good time was had by all.