Village Voice Media’s Bill Jensen Doesn’t Understand New Media

David Brauer at MinnPost picked up on a recent comment from the Director of New Media at Village Voice Media, Bill Jensen, where he tried to downplay the charges I made about Village Voice Media gaming Digg this past week:

Another VVM honcho, digital operations director Bill Jensen, dismissed Kohler’s charge that staffers game Digg’s social-networking algorithm to create powerful story-promoting identities:

“I equate it to someone complaining about us having too many boxes out on the street,” Jensen says. He says that the company and its writers and editors are simply trying to get their content out there by “going to where people are” online, and that, either way, less than 5 percent of VVM’s web traffic comes from Digg.

Here’s the real deal: Before publishing my post, I contacted Bill Jensen. CityPages’ Web Editor, Jen Boyles suggested I do this, and cc’d Bill Jensen in the email where she suggested I do this.

I then emailed Bill Jensen on January 29th at 6:12pm CST; one week before my post went live.

Below is the email I sent to Bill Jensen:

from Ed Kohler
to Bill jensen
date Thu, Jan 29, 2009 at 6:12 PM
subject VVM & Digg
hide details Jan 29

Hi Bill,

As you can see below, I’m working on a story about VVM’s use of Digg to drive traffic.

Jen Boyles says she’s responsible for content and traffic trending, but it seems like she’s also very active using social media sites to drive traffic to content.

Here are a few questions for you:

Who are Digg users ivanb and philostrato? Are they employees or
contractors? Why do you think they’re so much better than other VVM
Diggers at getting stories frontpaged?

Are you expected to Digg VVM stories as part of your job?

Do bloggers like Emily Kaiser understand the role Digg plays in their
traffic gains?

What percentage of traffic to a site like CityPages Blotter comes from Digg? Kevin Hoffman has suggested the site has grown from 35,000 to 250,000 page views / month over the time that Digg frontpage success has grown. Can I assume that, say, 75% of the blotter’s pageviews are coming from Digg?

Do local advertisers understand that Digg (generally not local visitors) is being used to drive traffic to their ads?

Why has VVM decided to rely to heavily on Digg for traffic? How did this come about? How many employees are involved in digging stories for VVM? How much time are they expected to spend digging stories? Are they trained? Some are clearly better at this than others. If the strategy is sound, it seems like training would allow for even more success.

What’s your role at VVM? Are you involved in the Digg work?

This will be for a follow up to this story:

And should go live next Thursday (Feb 5th).

Thanks for any help you can provide answering the above questions.

Ed Kohler
@edkohler on Twitter

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Decide for yourself. Were those fair questions to ask the Director of New Media at Village Voice Media before writing a post about how Village Voice Media was using new media to game their website’s traffic? Personally, I think they were fair, and was surprised that someone who works in new media wouldn’t respond to a blogger asking fair questions. It’s new media, right?

Rather than respond to the questions when asked, Bill Jensen allowed my story to go viral without comment. That story went ridiculously viral.

Twelve days after receiving my email, Bill Jensen indirectly responded by talking to an industry friendly trade rag called the Association of Alternative Weeklies.

I know I said I was going to blog about CityPages only once a week, but how could I not make an exception for something as douchebaggy as this? I’ll try to hold back until 5am on the 19th for my next post on this topic.

4 thoughts on “Village Voice Media’s Bill Jensen Doesn’t Understand New Media”

  1. Emails have gone out internally on numerous occasions from Jensen that request everyone to Digg stories.

  2. Did you once have a dream to work for CityPages and never got a call back after a job interview? I want the last 2 minutes of my life back. Actually, I’m just going to blog about it. Breaking!: Ed, some blogger, steals minutes of innocent internet users life! Booooring!

  3. @Jacob, I’m sorry to hear that, out of the billions of pages on the web, you chose to spend your own time reading something you found boring.

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