Mindful creative content, multichannel integration keys to audience engagement

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Technology keeps giving us new ways to build audience (the Web, tablets, mobile, Facebook, Twitter, apps, etc.), which sounds just dandy, except it also means extra work for audience developers trying to figure out how to use all those channels. As it turns out, if you want to grow audience across various channels, it should also mean extra work for the edit department. Maurice Persiani, VP-business services at McGraw-Hill Cos., said that while the Internet remains his company's most productive and profitable source of new audience, excellent content across all channels is key. Denise Robbins, VP-corporate audience development director at NewBay Media, said the general assumption is that audiences of different channels overlap a fair amount, but a closer study shows they don't always and shouldn't just be fed the exact same content. NewBay used this info when it decided to hire two local music students to go to a big music industry trade show and tweet about it throughout the week. “The valuable lesson was that the audience the "guerrillas' attracted was younger and more technologically aligned than our current readership,” Robbins said. “We realized that, for a lot of them, this was their first introduction to our brands, and [that] gave us some insight into how we could better package our content to serve them and keep them engaging with us.” She added that the experiment taught NewBay that each channel needs useful content. “The offers [by audience developers] to the brands where editorial had taken ownership of the account had the most followers and reaped the biggest responses,” she said. Drew Hansen, director of editorial operations and business development at Forbes Media, said that building audience over multiple channels starts with collaboration within the newsroom. “Audience development is integral to our strategy, but it won't be effective unless it's intertwined with our editors, writers and producers,” he said, suggesting that audience developers be open to new opportunities. “We keep several tests running at all times, and use the data from our pilots to inform our decisions,” he said. “With the proper tools, we're able to track our performance and make adjustments along the way.” Robbins said that NewBay is experimenting with push notifications through apps. “Guitar World had great initial success with its app download,” she said. “[More than] 500,000 people downloaded the free app on the iTunes store to their tablets and mobile devices. Although the percentage of people who actually purchased either a single copy or subscription to Guitar World was about 30%, we knew we had an opportunity given that more than half a million people wanted to engage with our brands badly enough to download the app. “We've been exploring ways in which we can deliver sponsored content to these people for free to keep them engaging with our brands through their tablets and mobile devices,” Robbins said. And the edit team can be good for something other than great content creation as well. Brad Mitchell, director of e-media and audience development at Babcox Media, said that sometimes members of the edit team collect names and email addresses from contests and other events they may be running. When it comes to using multiple channels, developers should be ready to deploy various strategies because what works in one place may not work in another. Choose your channel, develop a plan with your edit staff on how you're going to field it with relevant content, and then, hopefully, you'll be watching that audience grow taller than a beanstalk and more revenue-generating than that golden egg-laying goose.
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