A home page isn’t always home

Here’s an unremarkable proposition I think we can all agree on: if you have any responsibility for a brand, you know that communicating with your current or potential customers isn’t just about messages. It’s about content. And brands have to be in the content generation business as much as any analogue-world media brand.

Not a controversial thought, you might have thought. And yet, most brands don’t appear to want to learn all that much from content specialists, media organisations and others with editorial experience. Of course someone will chance some sort of tie-up with Vice, in the hope that the hipster pixie dust will make everything alright, but that’s about the extent of it.

So, in the spirit of bringing you insights from the editorial world, here’s something that you might have missed from a few weeks back: a report from the Nieman Journalism Lab, on how media companies are getting traffic to their sites. It’s well worth a read, but the topline is: the majority of visitors to the sites of brands such as the New York Times don’t bother to stop and say hello to the home page. Search engines still play their part, of course, but the ‘side door’ that is social media is growing ever more important. And while no newspaper website is in a hurry to ditch the idea of home page as front page, it’s clear that the instruction ‘every page needs to be a home page’ is truer than ever.

I hope this brief tour round medialand means you start thinking about the following: does your brand need a home page? Does it actually need multiple home pages? If yes, what needs to be on each of those multiple pages? What happens when someone tries to view the home page on a mobile? Do the 20 apps your team has launched in the last six months make any sense in the context of your brand home page?

Not unremarkable questions I know. But well worth answering.