How This Disney Blogger Gets 35 Million Monthly Pageviews
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Kurt Schmidt is an extremely successful site owner who is back on the podcast to discuss all sorts of traffic and content-related topics.
Kurt is the owner of a portfolio of Disney-focused sites generating HUGE amounts of traffic.
He is a true expert in Google Discover and other alternative traffic sources. And with all the Google updates, there's perhaps no better time to pick his brain.
One of the big changes he's made this year is shifting focus from prioritizing page views to user engagement metrics like time on page, highlighting the importance of engaging content.
Ingrained in all of his sites is the importance of balancing tried and true, evergreen topics with up-to-date, trending, and conversational content.
His team does a great job of creating content fast for the newsy topics in the niche as well as long-term organic traffic.
There was even a period when they were publishing 90 articles a day, but at such a scale comes issues of quality control and fact-checking.
So, Kurt offers up a ton of wisdom on solutions that will interest and help site owners of all sizes.
For instance, creative ways to tackle the same topic in fresh and unique ways, tips on AI, as well as various new traffic sources to pursue.
Overall, Kurt gives us yet another insightful look into online publishing, with awesome tips and strategies to help you get more traffic and make more money.
Watch The Interview
Topics Kurt Schmidt Covers
- How he got into online publishing
- Acquiring a portfolio
- How much traffic does his portfolio get?
- Time on site
- Balancing site strategies
- Publishing 90 articles per day
- Covering the same topic in different ways
- Fact-checking content
- Localized content
- Facebook Newsbreak
- Awesome tips for Google Discover
- And more!
Links & Resources
- Inside The Magic
- Disney Dining Eats, Treats, News, and More
- How Kurt Schmidt's 'Inside The Magic' Gets 40M Monthly Pageviews
- True Anthem
- Get SEO Consulting from the Niche Pursuits Podcast Host, Jared Bauman.
Jared: All right. Welcome back to the niche pursuits podcast. My name is Jared Bauman. And today we have a returning guest, Kurt Schmidt with inside the magic. net. Kurt, welcome back.
Kurt: Thank you. I appreciate being invited back. This is exciting.
Jared: You're at your first episode and for people haven't listened to it yet.
You gotta, I hate to tell people to hit pause, but you really need to go back and listen to it. It was really well received, really, uh, uh, one of the more popular ones we've had, and so much of what you talked about almost a year ago. Has almost become more discussed in our industry since then. So it only made sense to have you back on.
Um, but just in case somebody wants to keep listening. And they want to, um, uh, learn more about you. Maybe tell us a little bit more about your background. Catch us up a little bit on who you are and, um, how you came about inside the magic. net.
Kurt: Yeah, so I purchased inside the magic coming up here close on six years ago, uh, new to the online business space and world.
Prior to this, I was a credit union ceo and worked in lending in the credit union industry. So had a background in the financial services side of things, but not. In, um, online publishing, but nevertheless, um, six years ago is when I took the leap into this world. And then, um, it was about two and a half years ago that I added to the portfolio of websites with acquisition of five other, uh, Disney themed website.
So now it's a total of six websites. Um, You know, we're covering anything and everything that should appeal to the Disney fan or those who are curious about Disney, Star Wars, Marvel, and, you know, we cover other theme parks and the like.
Jared: Yeah. In, in our, in our previous interview, you know, we talked a lot about, um, various things like, uh, how you get traffic and the different buckets you have.
We talked about, uh, how you came about into this site and certainly that first, the, the, the first year that you had the site is, uh, is quite the, uh, quite the story there. So again, definitely go spend some time listening to that, but, but we'll dive into a couple other details today, especially I want to hear about these acquisitions you've made because we didn't get to hear much about that.
I think that'll interest a lot of people. Um. If you can, when we last talked inside the magic was getting kind of like about 40 million page views per month throughout 2022, how is 2023 gone? Like, where is the website at now? And are you still getting roughly the same buckets of traffic from the sources you were getting before?
Kurt: Unfortunately, traffic's not as good now as it was then. I think actually about the time we were recording last year, um, it was shortly. After had made some staffing changes and, um, that actually did create a little bit of a hit. A few other things created a hit to traffic overall. And, you know, it seems like it's been up and down and moved around a little bit.
But inside the magic itself is probably down about 35 40%. Um, this year, compared to last year, 25 to 30 million page views a month is more common. But the good news is the other sites that I have, um, where last year they were doing maybe a few million total. Now we have for the entire portfolio sites, um, it's about 35 million a month.
So in that regard, you know, we're down a little bit, uh, compared to last year, but, um, You know, not not drastic numbers. And when, um, you know, the largest site has gone down some, you know, some of the others have gone up. And since all of them are in the same niche, um, you know, part of that, it might be that we've taken traffic from ourselves.
I think part of it is just, you know, as, as the nature of the business that we have with traffic, it can be very news driven. It can be very subject to, you know, Google discover algorithms on and so forth. So As far as the total traffic, um, a lot of the same story, uh, Google Discover is still number one, um, the sites that have grown the most that I have, uh, they have seen that growth also in Google Discover.
Uh, Facebook is number two. This has been a, um, tough year in terms of Facebook traffic. Uh, so that's been, been down, um, you know, across the board. Then once we get, uh, you know, three and four, it's, it's, you know, kind of flip a coin one month to the next in terms of whether it's, um, Google search or Google news, um, search traffic has been, um, It took a dip and then climb back up.
And then Google News has stayed very constant throughout the year, as good now as it was any time last year, you know, pretty much near all time highs. And then this has been specific just to a couple sites, but news break traffic has really been big for us. And so we've seen a lot of changes there.
That's probably the area I would say is the number one change since we spoke, um, you know, a year ago.
Jared: If I did my math right on the last episode, you were generating like almost 15 million page views a month from Discover alone. So I, you know, even if that's up or down a little bit, I want to, we're going to drill into Discover traffic, uh, a little bit later on.
Um, and I'm taking a few notes here on some things I want to ask you about, about Newsbreak. That's really fascinating. Um, Let me ask you a quick question, though, about the traffic fluctuations. If we could just from afar, like trying to think how much of the downward turn that has happened on inside the magic.
How much do you think is a result of maybe algorithmic type stuff? Whether it's a Google algorithm update, whether it's not being as successful and discover, whether it's Facebook's algorithm changing. How much of it is algorithmic versus maybe more seasonal? You know, like I'm thinking 2022. That was, I think, early 2022.
That was when I took my family back to Disneyland for the first time since the whole COVID stuff. And I'm sure a lot of people were going earlier, but maybe 2022 is a really good year. And 2023 isn't necessarily down or it's just normalized a bit. How do you evaluate stuff like that?
Kurt: Yeah, you know, that's that's a great question and one that, you know, I think about a lot and frankly, it's challenging to really know for sure.
So 2022, like you said, there was a lot of travel. Um, we don't see a ton of our traffic, um, based on the travel. Um, ups and downs and everything, but can't help but think that, you know, had some impact. Uh, one of the other big changes for us is, um, for those of you who, um, will recall in May of 2022, there was the Johnny Depp Amber Heard trials.
Our best article of all time was, uh, written May of 2022. Um, and it was about Johnny Depp. So, you know, you got to travel, you add, you know, a new story, you know, such as that now, you know, that one article got, um, five, 6 million, five and a half million page views. So it's not like, you know, when you're talking about nearly 500 million page views over the course of a year, that that by itself, you know, was a major sway.
But nevertheless, that was a massive topic. And to get, you know, over 5 million page fees in a single article, um, on an event that we don't really have a similar event to recreate this year, you know, without a doubt, um, you know, played, played into it. Um, but then as far as the algorithm, you know, one of the things that, you know, I've even been debating and trying to figure out, um.
About the site is it does seem like if I can use a football analogy, um, you know, we may be, you know, instead of sustaining long drives or whatever with our traffic. We might get a first down and then, you know, we have to punt the ball or whatever, like the traffic goes away and, um, it just doesn't seem like the drives of hit google discover articles are as sustainable.
Is that something we're doing internally? Uh, perhaps that's something that I've been thinking a lot about, um, you know, if you. Going back to my Johnny Depp, um, you know, hit article example. If you follow that up with another Johnny Depp article, another Johnny Depp article and you kind of get this, um, you know, train of, of hit articles on a similar subject, you know, you're in my, my goofy football analogy that dry sustains a little bit longer, you know, yesterday we had a great day and a lot of the good articles from yesterday.
aren't doing as good, you know, today. And again, it just kind of today feels like part of that. Um, you get a pop, but then it dies out, you get another pop and it dies out. So, you know, that very well, um, you know, could be algorithm issues and everything. Um, and then surprisingly enough, you know, in October, Google even, um.
Had mentioned that one of their updates had caused some funkiness in Google Discover, right? And, um, you know, looking at our own numbers, I estimate that might've been a 15% hit in the month of October on Google Discover when I look at the prior month versus, um, you know, that month in isolation. So, yeah, a lot of different things, and it's hard to say.
Uh, for sure. But I, I think it's all of the above that has been a factor.
Jared: So many moving parts, so many moving parts. Um, Hey, so let's, let's, let's, let's kind of dive into some Google discover. Chatter. You've had another year under your belt with Google discover since the last interview and the last time you shared a lot of great tips and again, if people are interested in kind of maybe, I don't want to call it a one on one, but certainly like.
Hey, Google discover from a high level, go back and, uh, and listen to that episode. Uh, you talked about things like, Hey, make sure your image sizes are nice and big so that, you know, Google loves pulling those big images. You guys talked a lot about, um, headlines and, uh, how to write catchy headlines that engaged, were a little bit click baity, but not click baity to the point where when people arrive, they feel like they're not getting what they came for and that balance.
Um, talk about. Anything that maybe has changed or updated to your model for Google Discover this year that maybe in years past wasn't as, as prevalent in what you did, or you weren't seeing as much of a factor that is now. Yeah,
Kurt: yeah, definitely. So one thing I would do is I would, um, you know, point the audience back to, uh, so much of what Spencer has shared, um, with, uh, what has worked with Google Discover.
I know as he's, you know, has been sharing information and everything, I've been keeping an eye on it. And I would. Echo so many of those points. Um, so again, you know, a shout out, um, you know, to what, you know, he has, he has seen, but in terms of, you know, things that, you know, I feel like I've seen and, and everything here this, this next year, again, and.
I apologize for some of the analogies or whatever, but there's a certain part of of Google Discover made me start thinking about it. And I don't have a background in this. So if anyone knows this industry, well, maybe I'm mischaracterizing it, but it kind of feels like the fashion industry where you're guessing next season's fashion trends, like so much of trying to stay on top of the trends and the conversation and everything.
There is that anticipating. What people will, you know, want to talk about and in part of that anticipation, um, you know, I also think of, and this goes to, I'm going to call it an update to, you know, what I was sharing on headlines and everything previously is, you know, really thinking about and trying to avoid the ruts of, you know, we, we handled a headline this way in the past, it worked.
And so you get maybe used to handling headlines in a similar way. But kind of tying this to the, you know, anticipating the audience's, um, you know, interest in everything, you know, it's like, gosh, I've, I've seen this kind of thing. It doesn't sound as intriguing. It's not as interesting and everything, you know, like, we all want to have new, interesting information, you know, presented to us that keeps us engaged.
And at the end of the day. What really matters, I still believe, um, my mind has not changed on this one iota. What really matters is having engaging content. And so if you are, um, falling into a rut and you kind of lose, um, your ability to engage as much, I think that can, you know, uh, be a big factor in everything.
Um, you know, but then it's also partially looking at like. Okay. What is the, what is the current trend? What is the thing that seems to be working? Um, you know, I already brought up the whole Johnny Depp, you know, trial thing. And, you know, almost as soon as those words escape my mouth, I'm like, yeah, I also feel like I'm sharing some, you know, um, you know, sadness for what used to be there, but part of that's just the game.
And part of the process is like, what is, what is today's conversation that is. intriguing and interesting in the same way for our audience. The Johnny Depp Amber Hurt trial was was interesting a year ago and everything. So, um, you know, it's it's those kind of things that I think about the most. But at its core, it's, you know, I'm really trying to think about as a team, we are trying to think about what, um, What's going to be engaging?
What's going to keep people, you know, coming back? Um, and and I guess tactically, one of the things we've done different, we've really leaned in even more this past year to looking not so much a page views and the amount of people coming to the site in terms of page views, but really how long are they staying engaged on the site?
Uh, so we have some internal metrics that, um, you know, we're looking at using chart beat as a tool instead of Google Analytics. Um, that's really, you know, seeing how far people are reading into articles, how are they responding? And that is more of our North Star than a page view in terms of, you know, any kind of sign of success.
Jared: I think a lot of people listening, uh, might Typically approach content on their website from, we'll call it more of an evergreen approach where they're looking at maybe topics they're doing keyword research on those topics and that keyword research is producing articles that just by the nature of keyword research tools ranks over the course of a couple of years, what.
Could you give people a bit of a framework for how to think through ideation around topics that will do better on Google Discover? Um, like how to think through stuff that hits in Google Discover, because I've got to imagine it's very different than the type of stuff that's going to rank two to three years
Kurt: from now.
Yeah, so, um, I guess one of the things is, where, where's the discussion going in your niche? So, If I were to, and part of this is, you know, I guess even what I've observed, um, you all have done with niche pursuits. Um, you're looking at where the conversation is going. And, uh, for instance, we're going to dig into more talking about Google Discover.
And so if you start, you know, talking more about Google Discover, because that is a topic more and more people are interested in, then almost, um, you know, that's going to be your. Kind of pathway into Google discover. So for, you know, for us, when we're looking at it, um, and this is, this is probably a bad example as we're recording this, um, uh, Disney's, um, latest movie wish just came out.
And so, um, that, that movie, at least as of this recording has not been much of a success. I saw it on the website today. Yeah, we, we, we're still covering it and, and, but it's, you know, still it's new enough. We're going to be covering this. We're going to be talking about it. You know, what I would really hope for is that, um, you know, movie was a resounding success and a lot of people were, you know, really engaged in talking about that movie, but it's, it's looking at those kinds of things are trending.
And at the same time, does your industry have, you know, some, um, some absolutes, um, Again, as I think about this from a niche pursuits, um, you know, standpoint keyword research, even if it's not the hot topic of the moment, it is a topic that is, you know, you're always gonna kind of come back to. And so if there is something new you can share, you know, you don't want to lose sight of that.
So what I'm trying to make is, is I try to think of this. We try to think of this almost on two different tracks. Bye. What are the, what are the tried and true things that are really going to work that, you know, our audience has, has responded to and what are the things that seem to be more conversational, more important at the moment and, um, you know, those in a news driven, Google discovered driven kind of mindset, those things can change on a dime because the news changes on the dime, but, um, you know, you still have to, you know, recognize what are your, um, What are your bread and butter topics?
What are the things that people will come back to time and time again? And because of that, um, you know, I personally spend some time on Google search console every month looking at, you know, what are the topics that we have covered that are ranking? How does this change from, you know, times in the past?
And, you know, you'll see our coverage, uh, to some extent ebb and flow based on the things that are out there. Um, you know, ranking more recently because, you know, we're getting, um, success covering, you know, this celebrity, this attraction, this park, you know, whatever that, that may be. Uh,
Jared: I want to ask you about how you structure a team to create content that works on Google Discover.
Uh, there's an, uh, a freshness factor that has to go into it, like a recency sort of, I don't know what it's called, bias, but like stuff happens, you got to publish it if you want to hit discover. Last interview, a year or so ago, you were around 30 people. How do you have a team? How do you structure a team to create discoverable, Google discoverable content?
Kurt: So, for one, we just publish a lot of content. Um, you know, this, um, and this is across all my sites. Um, At our peak, um, for about two months this year, um, we were frankly producing too much content and we've since pulled back, but we were producing about 90 articles a day, seven days a week. And we kept up that pace for, for about two months straight.
You know, now we've pulled back. We're at about the 50, 60 articles a day, uh, seven days a week. And, um, you know, but to your point, that's really how we address the freshness and everything is. We're producing a lot of content. And so, you know, things stay, things stay fresh and in our numbers and what we see, um, you know, you have to kind of dig hard to find, you know, what are those, you know, long term evergreen articles that are still producing, you know.
Couple hundred, a thousand page views a day or a week or, you know, whatever that, you know, consistent, you know, production may look like, um, because it's really for us. Um, you know, there's a, there's a new, a new conversation, a new story, a new something going on that we're covering. You know, that's what, um, you know, is, is helping inform our, our content decisions.
And then what we're also doing is looking at how others is. Um, other publications have covered the same or similar content and trying to do it in a new, fresh way. Um, ideally, you know, and we don't do this maybe as well as I would hope, but ideally, even amongst the sites that I have, each site is covering things a little bit in a new, fresh way than the other site.
Um, you know, because then we could theoretically on one single topic. Have, um, you know, two or three articles that are very similar topically, but all, you know, hitting at once if we've covered it in a way that it really feels like, you know, these are three different takes on the same, you know, general topic.
Um, but again, you know, one of the traps is sometimes, you know, we can fall into is we see whatever the new story is. And we cover it the same way others have covered it. We've even covered it, you know, amongst our other publications. And then, you know, that's, that's not as successful. Um, you know, Google discover, um, you know, I guess in its very name, um, it's helping us as readers discover content that we may be interested in.
And most of us are not interested in reading the same thing, five different ways. You know, we may be interested in the same topic with five different takes. So that's really how, you know, we have to be thinking about, about content. Suffice
Jared: to say, like, if you're waking up in the morning and you're looking through your phone and someone is already in your discover feed for a topic, is it pretty, is that like a pretty clear indicator that you're probably not going to get there?
Or will Google kind of cycle through different publications on the same topic?
Kurt: Um, correct. I would say it's a pretty clear indicator. We will not get there unless we are able to cover the topic in a, um, noticeable enough different way. And so, like, 1 example of this is there is a topic that for those who follow the theme parts, um, close enough, maybe, um, aware of a few months back.
There was some restrictions put on independent tour guides and in Disney World. So there's a kind of this niche industry of tour guides who will, um, you know, offer to, you know, help you maximize your, your time, your day around the park and everything. And, um, they kind of been operating in this gray area and everything.
Business Insider, Insider, uh, some national publication had initially covered that. It was in Google Discover. Um, had three of my sites, uh, cover the same story. One site actually covered that story and did amazingly well in, um, Google Discover. The key difference was that author took that story and didn't focus so much on Disney saying, you can't have, um, You know, we're, we're outlawing these, you know, or, or trying to put restrictions on these independent tours, but more of the, um, you know, what this did to the actual business owners, um, who are operating the, the tours.
So it, it became more of this, this is now a, um, you know, digging into the, to the small business owner, and that was enough different take. On largely the same concept that that did really well, but, you know, how do we focused and the other 2 sites that did focus us on the tours themselves that did not do that?
Well, because to your point, um, there was already a story winning and Google discover by the time we. We created a content around that same, that same conversation.
Jared: I feel like I can see the Google discover headline right now. Like meet Kurt Disney destroyed his tour guide business overnight.
Kurt: Yeah. I mean, it was, um, you know, maybe we should take one of our, our headlines and re.
Retitle it to that. So, yes, I mean, but, but it's something to, to that, to that effect.
Jared: Yeah. Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. Okay. That's really, I like that. That that's a great analogy because I think that helps people who are thinking about like, Oh, in my niche, you know, in rock climbing, I'm just looking at my window, um, you know, somebody just set a new world record, but you know, rock climbing magazine already covered it.
Well, maybe you could take different approaches to the same story. And still get ranking for it in Google discover.
Kurt: Yeah, exactly.
Jared: Well, you've mentioned it a couple of times now, so it's probably a good time to transition into what is going on with all these sites you acquired. You have expanded your footprint quite a bit in the Disney space.
Maybe talk us through like the origin of that decision and desire and then how that all played itself out.
Kurt: Yeah, so, um, it happened a little bit, um, by, by chance, I would say, in so much as, um, the person I acquired, uh, these sites from, he, uh, it was one, one owner, uh, one, one, Yeah, portfolio of site owner. And he actually had a backup offer on inside the magic.
Had that, um, and my purchase fallen through. And so, you know, because of that, um, you know, we got talking early on in my, my ownership of inside the magic and I knew he was looking at acquiring more sites. Um, you know, I thought, you know, one of these days maybe I should do the. Do the same thing, but it wasn't fully, um, on my mind and then, uh, how many of our years later, but I guess it was two and a half years ago that I made the purchase.
So, um, three years after I probably first met him, um, we got talking and he said, you know, I'm actually now thinking about getting out of, um, the online publication space. I'm going to look at some other, uh, business opportunities. Would you be interested? Didn't take long thinking about. I'm like, gosh, these are, you know, tremendous sites.
I, I know of them. I like what, um, they're doing. And I think there's some things, you know, I was seeing they weren't, um, they weren't on, uh, Google discover having the same success. They had a different ad network that I thought, you know, by, you know, making a change to, um, the ad network I had would, would be more helpful.
So, you know, some, some good opportunities. I'm like, yeah, let's, um, you know, let me. Do some due diligence didn't take too long and figured out. Yep. I wanted to purchase some and then just really try to, um, incorporate these sites into the, the business model, the way of, of, you know, generating traffic and, and monetizing the business and everything that we already have.
Plus, in the process, I learned a few things that they were doing well. Um, You know, before I purchased them, they were doing better with, um, email, um, traffic newsletter traffic. They were doing better with some affiliate traffic. Um, so, you know, help me, you know, get an education on some of these areas that we were not as strong on and and we were able to up our game.
So. Uh, it made a lot of sense
Jared: the big question when you're acquiring, you know, other sites or the brands, but still inside your, your vertical, your niche, right? Is like, how do you handle what each specializes in and focuses on and, you know, like talk through how you evaluated whether this was going to just.
Have diminishing returns because you know, you're already publishing content on the topic versus how it can actually scale your returns and help you Get more bang for your for your buck.
Kurt: So I would say some of that there was It was kind of an educated guess that this would work and and my educated guess was based on Looking at things like I'd seen some studies in the past about other media companies and you know, how many Um, you know, media companies that, you know, people will, will consume.
And, you know, most of us don't get all of our news from one single source. We have a handful of sources. And I thought, so, okay, can we be amongst the handful of sources with, you know, maybe two websites, three websites, you know, something like that. Um, I also was thinking of this, um. And, and kind of looking at a, um, uh, Procter and Gamble analogy with laundry detergent that, you know, and I, again, I don't know even Procter and Gamble that much, but I know like they make Tide and they make a few other laundry detergents.
They, they all clean your clothes. Um, but you know, some people like, you know, the bottle, uh, the red bottle with the bullseye or whatever. And someone else likes the green bottle or whatever. And so you buy different laundry detergent. I'm like, well. You know, kind of news has a certain degree of that where you have your preferences for whatever reasons that you have your preferences.
Um, so with that in mind, what I knew I wanted to preserve and keep is I was willing that we would have. The same general topic covered by multiple sites, but I wanted to assign writers more specifically, uh, to sites so that if, you know, writer a on one site, um, is taking the story and has, um, a certain approach or a way of covering a topic and writer B is taking that on another, uh, site that, you know, readers can start developing just as they already have or continue to develop their preferences on.
I like how this site covers a topic versus versus that site and since the process that I had in place for writers already had a lot of hands off and gave a lot of authority and autonomy to writers, you know, it just seemed to kind of work that. We could continue to give the writers the freedom to cover topics, you know, in, in different ways.
And, you know, sure enough, you'll have on, on one site, um, you know, maybe a writer says that, you know, their take on a certain thing is, is some way that is in total opposite or contradiction to what we said on another site, you know, in things that are a matter of opinion, you know, uh, whether there was not a, an exact right or wrong.
Answer. And so, um, it seemed to work, you know, at the same time. It might have been that part of what we've seen with inside the magic's traffic declining this year has to do with, um, you know, these other sites, the second largest site that I have in the portfolio, uh, this year will roughly three exits traffic from the year prior.
So, you know, when you get that kind of growth, um, you probably got the readers from somewhere. You know, how many of those came from inside the magic, you know, I'm sure some percentage did I try through, um, some rush and some other tools to try to parse that out. But it's, it's really hard. I know I'm cannibalizing on some degree.
Um, and I think I'm gaining traffic and readers, you know, in other ways, um. You know, but yeah, it's still a little bit of, um, you know, even two and a half years later, it's a little bit of, of, you know, an experiment and process and everything. And we're still tweaking how we look at the coverage between all the different sites.
Jared: I can imagine it's, it's a bit of a nightmare to some degree, just because, I mean, I run a marketing agency for a living and attribution is one of the most hotly contested things that we try to help people do. And it's always. A bit imprecise.
Kurt: Yes. Yes. Definitely.
Jared: Being generous with that. Um, I want to make sure we get to this topic.
And so I'm going to ask now, it's a bit of a right turn. Uh, what role is AI playing in your business right now as, as it is? I mean, you, you kind of touched on some things last year. In the interview and, and that interview came out, I think, you know, right around when chat GPT was hitting the market. Um, and so, uh, here we are a year later and AI is taking a much more prevalent role for a lot of large and small content producers.
You guys produce so much content. I just be dying to hear the ways you're using AI or the ways you're seeing it be effective in the
Kurt: business. So, um, and I think I mentioned this last year, I should have, uh, double checked, but one of the things we use from A-A-S-E-O tool set is Market Muse. Yes. Market Muse has incorporated, incorporated AI more and more into their tool set.
So in all the ways Market Muse is incorporating ai, um, expanding a topic and you know, in some, you know, cases actually writing, you know, portions of the topic and everything. We will. I use that. Um, well, let me say some writers, not all writers will use that in their, um, content creation again, being a very hands off, um, management approach.
I have some writers that I fully believe they are not using at all. They, they don't, they don't want to use it. And I understand why they don't want to use it. Um, you know, there is this challenge as a writer. Well, I'm using AI, um, and it's. Kind of taking away from my job. Do I really want to embrace this, this technology?
And then there's other writers who will look at the, you know, same opportunity and say, yeah, this is great. You know, I'm going to spend less time writing and I'm going to spend more time. You know, how am I positioning a topic? You know, what is the, what is the hook, um, you know, to bring the reader in and everything.
Um, But nevertheless, a lot of that is getting done within, uh, the market muse tool set. I know we also have some, um, writers who are going directly to chat. Gbt, um, have really at this point is on my end been more experimentation. Can we, um. Formalize that into a stronger structure. You know, how do we want to handle that?
We haven't made much progress. I'd say the number one thing, though, that, um, we are doing with a I and we're still in the process of, um, taking some people that we've trained and are doing this on a part time basis and getting them eventually moved into a full time role. But that hasn't happened yet is having fact checkers.
Um, I really have, uh, become convinced that the area where publications perhaps are going to use AI, that's going to come back and bite them is not really being cautious of the content that is going out and with a publication, our size and or publications and all the content we're creating, you know, really want to have that additional set of eyes and um, fact checking, you know, it.
Kind of having this, you know, operating in the field, so to speak, is harder than it may seem on the surface in so much as, you know, especially if there's opinion in there is, you know, going back to something like click bait. Well, is that, um. Is that an okay use of a tease? Um, and how you've positioned the topic?
Have you actually, um, been deceptive? Is that something that, uh, you know, as a fact checker, we should pull out, you know, what is that interaction? You know, does the, does the fact checker actually get to say, um, this is not, um, you know, Something that we're going to put out, um, to to our readership, or does the writer who we've given a lot of authority, you know, get to make that final call.
So we're leaning heavily into fact checking, but we're also so in the midst of fact checking, um, that it's, it's almost even for me. I have more questions than answers. I think right now on the whole fact checking process, but I would say that for us is the number 1 thing when it comes to AI is how we're bringing in humans.
To verify the content that may or may not be written with a I. And really, when it comes to fact checking. It doesn't matter if that was AI written content or human written content. If we deem that it's not accurate, we need to, um, you know, make some, make some revisions and everything. So, so that's really where our mindset has been with, with AI is around this whole fact checking process and everything, probably more than any other single way.
Jared: You touched on it in the last interview a little bit. But I wanted to bring it back up again, as it relates to a lot of what we talked about, um, whether it's market muse and optimizing articles, whether it's fact checking articles, um, uh, we talked about the need to publish content rapidly in order to kind of be at the forefront of getting in Google discover.
How, how do you implement all this stuff when you've got to get the article out there maybe in a matter of hours, at least that day, right? Yeah.
Kurt: Yeah, that's, that's a great question. And that's one of those, those things that we are still, um, struggling and, and kind of working through. Um, you know, because to, to that very point, you know, is there, you don't want to sacrifice, uh, speed and covering a topic quickly, if that is, you know, part of what your business model depends on and our business model definitely does depend on, uh, speed, um, to, you know, it's, it's, you know, um, you don't want, yeah, the pursuit of perfect, you know, can get in the way of producing something that's going to be very good and work well.
And, you know, maybe you'll never get to perfect because you've slowed down the process so much. Um, and you know, that's all I can report really on that is that probably in the last two, three months we have tried out, um, 3, 4 different variations of, you know, how we are trying to build that into our process because, you know, it feels like if we go a little bit too far, we slow things down too much.
We don't go far enough. And we're like, you know, we really should have, you know, caught that. And so, you know, part of that, I think, like, with with anything is when you're building out a new, um. You know, portion of a team is you really kind of have to experiment, you know, what works for your team and your people.
And, you know, part of how I'm even currently thinking about this is there is a difference on how maybe we approach, um, you know, things, um, you know, even during the day when we have, you know, the fact checkers working versus, you know, are we going to be pursuing news as heavily, you know, in the late afternoon, evening hours over the weekend and everything when we don't have that process, you know, is it actually, um, you know, acceptable for us to continue to, um, you know, push out the news in that way.
And, you know, this is something again, you know, it's Early stages of formulating, you know, in, um, you know, our minds internally on, you know, how we're going to handle this, but it's very much, you know, the kind of questions that we're trying to address. So, yeah, the change with AI this past year on top of all the Google algorithm changes on top of everything else.
I mean, this has been a massive year of trying to figure out all the changes. Um, yeah, it's been unreal.
Jared: I try to explain to my wife some days, like, nope, I'll forever remember 2023. I don't care how old I am and I don't care how tumultuous the following years are in my career. I will forever remember 2023 is the year that the ground never stopped shaking.
Kurt: 100%, 100%. Uh,
Jared: um, yeah, I had this listed on my, my agenda. I wanted to ask about it. I can't find a good time. So I'm just going to ask her right now. So we don't miss it. It does have to do with the Google discover topic. And, um, I want to ask. Because you mentioned it a little bit earlier. What are you seeing as, if any, differences in publishing and creating content for Google Discover versus Google News?
And does it even get that detailed for you guys? Like, Google News is more about News topics. Discover is more about topics that relate to individuals and their interests. I might be overgeneralizing that. That's how I've always described it to clients. Is there any general, is there any, um, uh, specification and how you guys do stuff at, uh, at your company around those two, or is it all just kind of one bucket?
Kurt: So how we think about it internally, it's more of one bucket. Um, one of the, one of the things that there's so many moving pieces. Um, we try best we can, um, to simplify how we're looking at things as often as we can. And it seems to be that if you keep a priority on, um, creating engaging content, if you keep a priority on speed and timeliness, if you keep a priority on, um, you know, a lot of the other things that Google talks about, whether it's, um, you know, the EAT, um, you know, requirements or image size or, you know, any of these other number of things, then Yes, maybe all those things aren't needed for discover in the same way they're needed for Google News, but you've at least created this approach.
This is how we're viewing content, and if it happens to be more newsworthy and going to do well in Google News, great. You're going to be prepared for that, and maybe I've done a little bit of overkill on some other things, but I'd rather have a little bit of overkill than not doing enough. And, you know, then the same way for discover.
So, yeah, we've, we've tried to create more of this like. Here's a general set of things that we try to do, um, all the time when we're producing content, um, you know, and so even if the topic is a little bit more evergreen, um, you know, we don't, we don't like it if a writer sits on a topic for, you know, weeks or months on end, trying to, you know, come with a perfect way of covering that topic.
We still operate a lot more like a news organization. Okay. We recognize maybe that topic can, um, you know, they can work on it for a day or two, but we still try to get things out. Quickly, and again, it just simplifies it for us. Yeah.
Jared: Okay. Um, we haven't touched on your other forms of traffic yet, so let me ask you about, I know a year ago Facebook was driving a good amount.
Um, uh, uh, you mentioned some other ones, uh, when we were talking and so maybe this might be a good time to touch on News Break as well and maybe explain a bit more about that to listeners who maybe don't. Have any clue what that is and maybe how you're optimizing for that. So Facebook, Newsbreak, other, any other channels that you're seeing drive traffic?
Kurt: Yeah. So yes, Facebook, Newsbreak, you know, I think of, you know, something like Flipboard or Smart News, you know, a lot of these, you know, fit into a similar bucket for whatever reason. And I can't even fully explain or understand why Newsbreak has been, um, Of that, you know, that bucket of these, you know, app slash social media kind of traffic sources, the one that seems to pop, but it's been very specific.
It's popped for inside the magic. Our largest side is popped. It has not for our 2nd largest site. It has been beneficial for our 3rd and 4th largest, but it's non existent in the 5th largest on the 6th largest. So, like, it's 3 of the 6 sites see news break traffic. And it's our 3rd largest site that sees the most news break traffic.
Um, they seem to reward, um, stories that are more localized. So if they're picking up something, you know, within the story that would tie it to locality that Uh, seems to help. Um, it's, it's even been interesting. You know, we've played around with some syndication of our own articles internally and, you know, sometimes it won't pick up a story on on one site that otherwise would get news break traffic, but it does pick it up on on this other site.
Um, we early on found with news break, we were getting super low engagement time and for the longest time we were seeing all this traffic and because we've leaned so heavily into how long people are reading an article, um, I'll admit, um, you know, at Despite the advice of smarter people on the team, I was, I was ignoring news break in many ways because I just, you know, we're seeing engagement times that just didn't seem to make sense that, you know, there wasn't really any value in it.
Um, but then we had a few other writers, you know, write more articles that were getting picked up with news break and they started seeing great engagement time. And, um, yeah, and it's, it's worked out really great. Thing I can say with Newsbreak is I'm still trying to figure out why a site gets included in Newsbreak versus another.
Now, you can apply to be, um, you know, have Newsbreak consider your traffic and the traffic we've gotten so far has largely been, um, what they've decided to send, you know, without us being formally approved as a Newsbreak publisher. Some of our conversations when we have spoken to him about, um, applying to be included is they have, um, you know, said that that may be going away in time.
We'll have to see, you know, 1 of our internal conversations, especially when we're getting low engagement was. Do we want news break traffic? Will that cannibalize, um, better, higher earning traffic from Google Discover? Because if someone sees the article on news break and then sees that later on Google Discover, um, you know, our early thinking is we might be able to earn 10 times more on that article on Google Discover.
So you really wanted to make sure we were having next to no cannibalization. But now that seems to be less and less of a concern as we're seeing higher engagement rates and it Google discover still pays better, but news break as we get those higher engagement rates, um, seems to be, seems to be doing better, uh, keeping in mind that as a, as a programmatic ad driven site, um, you know, how long someone stays on an article and how many ads they see, you know, has, you know, as a key contributor to, to income.
Jared: Perfect transition. Thank you. I was going to ask you about, um, monetization. I mean, you were. Sharing last time that you were with Cafe Media, AdThrive, Raptive, the whole vocabulary of, uh, of different brands we can associate. Um, are you still with them? Are you with them with all of your sites? And, um, uh, then I have a couple of follow up questions.
Like, how's it going this year?
Kurt: Yeah, so, so we are with them, uh, with all the sites. Um, and October was an absolute amazing month with, um, our RPMs and so far, you know, as, as we're recording this in, in November, November is looking to be even better. Um, so, you know, I couldn't be happier from, from an RPM.
Well, I could be happier, but. You know, in, in reality, I, you know, um, I, I have to say I'm pretty darn happy, um, with, uh, with the RPMs. Um, but it's also, it's, it's very different depending on site. So for those of you who, um, have worked, you know, any listeners who've worked with Raptive, uh, know that they have a direct sales team.
Um, and, and I think Mediavine and some of the other, um, ad networks also have the same thing. But one of the things that I, um, theorize when it comes to. Our ad rates, um, differences between the sites is, you know, how many of these direct ad deals are coming to one site versus another inside the magic, for example, still monetizes the best on a per page view basis.
Of all the sites. It's the, it's the largest site. It's the most well known brand. Um, and it doesn't exactly go from, um, you know, largest site to smallest site and where those RPMs come in. But, um, you know, there is a distinct benefit for the larger sites.
Jared: Hmm. The. Monetization via ads has been a hot topic, especially as it relates to Google updates and the helpful content update by the site owners who are making the majority of their, uh, their revenue from ads.
Have made changes in terms of what ad, how many, what ad density, how many ads are showing above the fold video ads, these kinds of things. Like where are you guys at as a brand in terms of how heavy you go on ads? And if you fluctuate that at all, if you have made any adjustments on that in the last year or so.
Kurt: So, um, we, we do, uh, use Raptors, um, auto optimize. And, um, so, you know, we're going to get a lot of the. You know what? Raptive would say is best practices. Now, again, I know depending on site owner, you know, some people say, Hey, that's way too many ads. Um, you know, I, I haven't been, uh, one of those who have, who have.
put restrictions on, um, what rap div does. I actually listen keenly to the different advice they have, you know, is there, um, you know, advantage of even changing some of the margins or different things. So different ad sizes can, you know, load and, you know, you, you get a more complete option for, um, you know, your, your ad inventory, um, trying to think as far as like.
Specific things we've done to really make sure we get more ads in place. Um, you know, there's, there's been a few little things like, um, pixel size is something when, so going back to having purchased all these sites, you know, uh, for first year or two, I just kind of allowed. You know, a lot of how that site was set up to kind of stay intact, um, this year before the, for the fourth quarter really started paying attention to pixel size.
And, you know, I think riv, um, I should know this totally off the top of my head 'cause we were looking at it, but they're gonna say 20 to 22 pixels is, um, the optimal size for, for ads. And we had some of our, um, content that was, I think if it was in block quotes could be as small as 12 pixels. So, you know, we increased that, um, which will then help, you know, deliver a few more ads.
But that's, that's really how we've, we've thought about it is largely taking the auto optimize approach with, um, you know, adding a little bit of, you know, how can we make, um, you know, the site. I guess more ad friendly. Um, but at the same time, what you're really doing when you're changing pixel size, you're also making it easier to read.
Um, you know, I guess if your eyes work really well, you don't really care if it's, you know, 12 pixels or 20 pixels, but as you get a little bit older, you know, giving your eyes a little bit of a break, um, you know, no one's going to argue with that. Uh,
Jared: yeah, I have that debate a lot depending on who I'm with and how young they are.
They have different thoughts about how large the funds should be. Um, you know, I've got to imagine that, uh, that, that perhaps you get hit up by brands a decent amount. Do you do much in the way of collaborations? Do you do much in the way of extra monetization opportunities outside of just what ad thrive programmatically puts on the site?
Kurt: So we made an attempt to do that earlier this year. Um, it didn't work that well for us. Um, and, and large part, um, it's, it's a more difficult operation to sell ads directly than, um, I think, you know, even as I was getting prepared to do more of this, I thought, well, yeah, we'll, we'll talk to a brand, we'll, we'll quote a price.
We'll do this or that. Um, you know, this will all be wonderful. Man, when you're, when you're used to an ad network, like a raptive or a media vine or, you know, a Zoic or any of those, um, ad networks out there where they're taking everything off of your plate, um, that's a lot of time and attention. And then, um, so, so.
Uh, bottom line. Yes, we have. We've definitely I think this year will be a record breaking year for us on number of direct sale ads. Um, percentage wise, we're still in the low single digits. You know, if we hit, you know, 23 percent of our revenue from direct sale ads, um, you know, that's going to be about it.
So it's, you know, record breaking year is, is relative. Um, you know, it's not a big part of our operation and it's not something that as we, um, As we dove into it this year, um, you know, was any way a rousing success that we said, Hey, let's double down on this. If anything, we've been pulling back and saying, you know, let's, um, you know, not get distracted, you know, too much on, you know, doing ad sales.
It's, it's kind of nice to have a raptive, you know, take care of that for us.
Jared: Um, as we wrap up, I've been saving this question to kind of ask you at the end here. Um, a lot of people are talking about Google Discover and how to get more traffic from it. Um, and you know, you, you touched on how when it's going, it's such a great thing, right?
Like when you, when you have that article that hits and it's certainly last year, you had an article that hit to the tune of 5. 5 million page views. And it's like a faucet of traffic that gets turned on. Turned off. And a lot of it got, like you said, got discussed in the October situation where Discover Traffic was turned on for a lot of people, it seems like inadvertently and turned off for a lot of people inadvertently.
What advice from just a very high level do you have if someone is interested in pursuing Google, uh, Discover Traffic? Now, you've talked a lot about it, so I get, you know, the type article you write, captivating headlines, good user experience, all these kind of things. But any, anything else you could add for someone who, isn't getting traffic from Discover, but is dying to do that in 2024 and beyond.
Kurt: Um, so the advice is be patient, but even beyond be patient, um, pay attention. So You know, we're coming up on the end of the year, and one of the processes that I'm going through right now is I'm looking at our top writers, um, their content this year versus their content last year, and, um, you know, if I asked most of the writers, they would say, yeah, you know, I'm producing fairly similar content.
And in some ways, some of these, um. You know, articles aren't having as much success this year as, as they had last year. Um, but one of the things, you know, as I'm, you know, preaching patients, it's also looking at and seeing, okay, I'm going to actually go back and read the top articles from 2022, that this writer wrote.
And I'm going to read the top articles from this year that they wrote. Where are they different? Do you have a way to really, um, you know, kind of dig in and find distinctions? And, and surprisingly, um, I'm seeing a lot more distinctions than I would have thought. And so, um, you know, in my mind again, I'm, cause I'm a fan of analogies.
I kind of think about, you know, It's almost like if you're gaining or losing weight, you may not realize in the days or weeks that that's happening so much that you're gaining or losing weight. But when you see that your pants are getting tighter or looser, you look at a picture from a year ago or whatever, you're like, Oh, Yeah, I've, I've gained some weight, I've lost some weight or whatever.
Like thinking about Google discover and thinking about your traffic, you know, I preach, you know, a similar kind of, you know, look at it, you know, from those kinds of perspectives. Um, and yes, I know this is probably going to seem a little bit contradictory. You're looking at, you know, what is the trending topic, the thing, you know, that sort of thing, but, um, you know, in, in.
This part of what I'm sharing is, you know, really just pay attention to how you were doing things in the past, either when you had more or less success and with anything, try to build upon, um, you know, what you're doing and, and, you know, hopefully take a. A path that is going to lead to more and more success.
Um, easier said than done, but you know, as we come to the end of the year, I think it just more naturally, you know, sets itself up for, you know, looking at those differences and, um, you know, if, you know, you got, you had an article that got 10 page views of Google discover traffic in 2022 and a different article that got a thousand pages in 2023, you know, is there anything you can tell that might be.
Different about those that you didn't even think of at the time when you were writing them and you can, you can leverage to do more of the 2023 stuff.
Jared: Hey, Kurt. It's been so great having you back on. Um, we got the deep dive Google discover. We got to hear about your acquisitions. We got to hear about how you guys are using AI.
Um, really a lot of great insight. You shared where, uh, now that you have so many websites, where is the best place for people to follow along with you? I mean, we know about inside the magic. net. Is that the best place for people to go if they, um, if they're looking to, to, to see more of what you're doing?
Kurt: Yeah. You know, uh, take a look at inside the magic. net, you know, take a look at Disney dining. com. That's our second largest site. Um, you know, you can actually, you know, I think it's in Disney dining. com you'll see in the footer. We have a lot of the other sites listed, you know, happy to have readers, you know, Um, on all of those, but again, you know, kind of my philosophy is most people will have one or two sites that they follow.
So, you know, if it's any of those, any of them, you know, it would be, it would be more than grateful.
Jared: Well, thanks again for coming back on. I'm sure we have a lot of Disney fans listening and, um, uh, it's been great having you and congrats on your success. I mean, like you said, what a crazy year 2023 has been, but, um, it's, it's really great to hear how you're navigating it and how you're approaching it and stuff and obviously learn a ton from you along the way.
Kurt: thanks again. Well, thank you so much. Enjoyed being on the podcast both before and again, this time. And, you know, I really hope the, um, you know, listeners find this beneficial. So thank you so much
Jared: until we, until we talk again.
Kurt: Thanks. All right.
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