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5 Questions for Hugh Thompson, Digital Home Canada

Hugh Thompson
_Hugh Thompson is the publisher and owner of “Digital Home Canada”: He is a consultant with over 10 years of online experience working for advertising agencies, vendors and consulting directly with clients on maximizing ROI from web marketing and e-commerce initiatives. As a voice for the Canadian electronic consumer, Hugh is a frequent guest on radio and television programs across the country discussing the latest in consumer electronics and the business of convergence in the digital home._
*One Degree: Why did you start Digital Home Canada?*
Some guys like cars but my passion has always been computers and consumer electronics so I decided to create a website about the convergence of technology in the home.
*One Degree: Did you intend it to be money making venture and did you ever expect that it would become your full-time job?*
When I first created Digital Home, it was for my own enjoyment. Once Digital Home was up and running, I considered trying to turn it into a moneymaker however since it was just after 9/11 and the dot com bust, I decided against it!
For several years, Digital Home simply became a neglected hobby while I went about the business of earning a living and raising a young family.
During that time I actually shut the site down for a short period of time, however so many people emailed asking me to reconsider that finally in the Fall of 2004, I hooked up with “24/7 Canada”: who agreed to provide advertising representation for Digital Home.
With advertising representation secure, I “re-launched” the site with new technology, new servers and a new approach.
In November 2004, Digital Home became a full-time endeavour for me.
*One Degree: How do people find out about your site – is most of your traffic from searchers or from regular community members?*

The majority of new readers come from Google News and Google search results. A small percentage comes from other search engines and about 5 to 10% comes from links and referrals on other sites.
Occasionally a popular article will draw big numbers from sites like “”: which can then send us 20,000 new visitors in a single day!
*One Degree: How has your approach to the site changed since your re-launch in 2004?*
The biggest change has been to identify and focus on the needs of my readers. When DHC was my playground for technology, what went up on the site was strictly what interested me at the time.
My goal now is to find ways to improve on what I deliver to my three audiences – Influencers, News Seekers and Shoppers.
Most people assume our site is all about hardcore users, which I call influencers, but the reality is they comprise about 10% of visitors. The hardcore visitors are those readers who typically visit the site everyday or multiple times a week.
I call them influencers because these are the people that everyone goes to when they have questions about new technology. This group is proud of their knowledge and enjoys being the go-to person for technology questions.
To be relevant to this audience, they must read about “it” first on DHC.
Our second audience is news seekers. This is our second largest group and typically find us via Google news. This group visits the site on regular basis to get a Canadian view of the latest Digital Home news and product announcements.
To be relevant to this audience, we must give them Canadian news and information.
The final group and largest group are the shoppers. This group typically finds us via search engines when they are looking for category or product information about an upcoming purchase.
In 2005, I suspect that anyone in Canada who used the internet to investigate buying an HDTV, satellite radio, VoIP service, or a cable or satellite television product landed at least once on Digital Home.
The second change in approach has been to use cutting edge web technologies to enhance and simplify the user experience rather than simply for the sake of being able to say we use it.
DHC employs an advanced open source content management system, SEO URL rewrite and server side scripting technologies, Javascript, Ajax, RSS and is focused on XHTML compliancy and on occasion has delivered podcasts so we’re using the latest technologies but most readers are surprised when I tell them this because they don’t see it. I enjoy that because it tells me the focus is clearly where it should be – on the content!
*One Degree: Do advertisers in Canada see the value of community-based content?*
I’m not sure what you mean by community-based content. If you mean, Canadian content or content based on interest, then the answer is no.
Most web advertising decisions are based on tonnage. Typically advertisers only look at audience reach and circulation by demographic.
To give you an example: In Canada this year, about 400,000 flat panel HDTV televisions will be sold. Despite only being about 15 to 20% of all televisions sold, these sets make up the majority of television revenues and about 99% of the profits.
Throughout the year, a very large percentage of those 400,000 buyers that go on the net to research their decision will end up on Digital Home. Digital Home has lower reach and audience but in terms of effective reach and frequency against buyers we have saturation.
Despite this television manufacturers spend millions on newspaper and magazine and scant little on the web. Again any web initiatives are based on tonnage rather than relevance.
For the price of a one full page ad in a national newspaper, a television advertiser could have a modest 52 week presence on Digital Home. Switch a couple of those full page ads and you would have a strong presence among people who are buying these products.
In my opinion, a prudent decision would be to move a portion of those dollars from the mass vehicle into an advertising vehicle that is cost effective, relevant and one whose readers have intent to buy.