I recently attended the Westminster Media Forum in London and spoke about how we’re engaging younger audiences through Capital FM, PopBuzz and We The Unicorns. I only had ten minutes so it was quite a speedy tour, but here were my notes from the other excellent speakers that presented. Continue reading
I’m a big fan of Gamestorming – creating really fun interactive sessions motivate participants to focus on a project objective. Using the element of play can be really useful in these instances, as so many of our meetings are dominated by distraction with people answering email on their devices and disengaged. Introducing novel exercises can really counter the monotony of established office routines.
The ‘Pre Mortem’
The exercise I selected from the Gamestorming book was the Pre Mortem – essentially focusing the group on what could go wrong with a project. Asking a group to spend time actively ripping apart a proposed vision or product is actually really fun, and something people aren’t usually asked to do.
Here’s how the hour was organised:
10 mins intro (explain project and point of exercise)
10 mins 2 x groups of 5 – generate disasters
5 mins 1 x person from each group to stick up on wall
5 x mins dot voting
15 mins back into groups – take the top 4-5 and brainstorm mitigation for each
5 mins 1 x person from each group to stick up on wall
10 min summary of what we’ve learnt
With so many meetings booked in our calendars, many of which overrun or haven’t an established agenda or goal, it’s easy to take the simpliest path – attend, keep participation to a minimum, and then head to the next meeting. With a bit of forward planning, and maybe testing on a few willing participants in advance, it’s possible to create a really constructive session that really bonds the team and helps them see the project (with its many challenges and solutions) in a new light.
A list of my most interesting content strategy-related reads this week…
Here’s What Makes The Guardian So Successful On Facebook
A great insight into FB distribution strategy at the Guardian. And if you like that, find out what Buzzed are up to in the video space as well.
Facebook videos live fast, die young
We all knew this right? but still interesting read…
‘While YouTube and Facebook have established themselves as major hubs for mobile video, the lifespan of content on each platform is markedly different. Put in astronomical terms, a Facebook video is a brief supernova, peaking early and then quickly fading out; a YouTube video is more like a cooling star that emits a small flash of light then slowly decays.’
Facebook is going to start showing you pieces people actually read
Time online is back people!
With a scripted daily comedy news show, Mic looks to add a little late night TV to the social video mould
Interesting to see how Mic is choosing the comedy format to increase reach amongst the millennials. Again, it’s an example of a team that has been given the freedom to experiment.
How to build audiences by engaging your community
Great starter-guide for approaching community journalism in your newsroom.
Netflix Knows Which Pictures You’ll Click On–And Why
“One of Netflix’s earliest findings was that interest tended to drop off when an image touting a show or movie contained more than three people. It seems that users find it hard to focus when there are too many people, and may not be able to absorb cues about the storyline. This was a surprising insight for Netflix, given that some shows are popular precisely because they have large casts. Orange Is the New Black is a good example of this. “While ensemble casts are fantastic for a huge billboard on the side of a highway, they are too complex at small sizes,” Nelson says. “They are ultimately not as effective at helping our members decide if the title is right for them on smaller screens.”
Hi Gang! I’ve just spent a delightful couple of weeks restoring my blog after meddling with the database too often. Lesson learnt. Moving forward I’ll aim to curate a list of my most interesting content strategy reads this week.
Your Media Business Will Not Be Saved: Joshua Topolsky
Interesting to see how the industry is now revisiting the monetisation vs quality debate…
“So over time, we built up scale in digital to replace user value. We thought we could solve with numbers (the new, seemingly infinite numbers the internet and social media provides) what we couldn’t solve with attention. And with every new set of eyeballs (or clicks, or views) we added, we diminished the merit of what we made. And advertisers asked for more, because those eyes were worth less. And we made more. And it was less valuable.”
Things I learned working on Serial: Kristen Taylor
Some interesting tips here for how to social your audio and engage your community between episodes. And if you haven’t read about that NPR audio experiment here you are.
What Networks Does BuzzFeed Actually Use? Zack Liscio
Nice infographic here of the Buzzed distribution strategy. Now presented in a million strategy presentations around the world.
2016 guide to free online SEO training courses
I thought this was a really good resource for journalists. From beginner to intermediate level.
Although I do have to admit that my most interesting read has been this bad boy. Probably the best sci-fi book I’ve ever read.
This week I attended another of Tom Hewitson‘s excellent Content Lab sessions, this time looking at how creative writing exercises can feed into content design. Although Content Strategy/Content Design/ContentMarketing are fairly new disciplines, it’s already fairly easy to follow ‘established’ methods which may not break any exciting new ground. I know that might be controversial so I’ll let that one hang for a while…
Anyway, at the session we had the wonderful Jacqui Lofthouse who took us through a series of exercises like the following:
- Individual: Here’s a random photo of a person and answer the following – what’s his/her name?, What do they most regret? Who do they hate? What stops them sleeping at night?
- Group: Flesh out your characters further with some inspiring ‘props’ (a series of envelopes with random objects e.g. a dollar note etc). What is the connection between the objects and the character?
- Group: Write, without editing, about your character for six minutes. Here’s a scene to get you going…
Apart from being fun session (I rarely go to creative writing sessions) I found the techniques above really focused the mind around what the character thought and felt in a moment in time. The six minute stream-of-conscious approach was also good at fleshing out aspects that might have been easily deleted in the writing process.
You can see how this might be useful in persona-building activities and is certainly something I’d consider with my own team. However, I would have to be careful not to conflate an entirely fictitious character with a user: personas do have a habit of taking on a life of their own. But as a quick exercise to really engage a team around a topic/challenge, this was really fun exercise to explore.
— Steven Wilson-Beales (@stevewbeales) April 26, 2016
— Steven Wilson-Beales (@stevewbeales) April 26, 2016
You know the drill by now folks. Here’s my best reads from the last week or so. Enjoy and have a fantastic Christmas and New Year. See you all in 2015!
Bad community is worse than no community
“By coupling a format that encourages intimacy with a network design that encourages out-of-context amplification, Twitter has evolved into something fundamentally volatile. It’s fun, fast and powerful, but remains highly risky for anything approaching honest conversation, or even satire.”
“Smart news organizations know that in 2015, the value of our attention will continue to eclipse the value of our clicks. The best way to harness attention in the digital ecosystem is to service the consumer’s needs rather than simply repackaging content to fit the form factor of her various devices. A deeply engaged consumer is easier to monetize. She is a good ambassador for the news organization. And, ostensibly, she’s a better informed citizen.”
The news mixtape
“If the rise of podcasts and newsletters has taught us anything this year, it’s that there’s value in consuming bundled content.“
The rise of the jacktivist
“…news outlets will have to do more than merely report what’s going on. Journalists will have the added responsibility of giving people a pathway to act, to improve their lives and the lives of others.
Again, I understand this may seem anathema to some, but people today need more than headlines and stories. They need more than data, visuals, and explanations. They need more than journalism. They need an empathy-driven service to improve their lives, their communities, and our world.”
16 reasons why this research will change how you look at news consumption | Online Journalism Blog
“The value news has in people’s everyday life seems to hinge less on the increasing technological, social and participatory affordances of the informative platform than on time- and place-dependent user needs …
“News wants and needs, place, moment of the day and especially the convenience of a particular news carrier appear to be defining factors in what people do with news. As Rosa (26) explained, she checks the news on her smartphone and her work computer during the day, snacks the news on her laptop and in the newspaper after work, and reads her newspaper’s weekend supplements on Saturday morning at home.”
(PS I loved the 16 consumption trends spotted here…)
Andy Carvin launches social-media reporting team for First Look
“Because the idea of Reportedly is to have journalists or anchor/producers embedded in different social platforms and engaging directly with users there, the project doesn’t have a website yet, although it will be getting one. Carvin said that to begin with, the team will be using a Medium collection to talk about how the experiment is unfolding, and to brainstorm about the kind of journalism they want to do. But in the future, he hopes there will be a site that can act as a “central dashboard” where readers can see everything.”
The gender split in news consumption: A case of discovery?
“It could simply be, then, that the seeming disparity between the equal amount of women and men who have access to connected devices and the fact that men actually consume more news on those types of devices could be explained by the following statement: Women in the UK prefer to discover their news through social means, and certain types of digital content (that of BuzzFeed and Upworthy etc.) are simply more shareable than others.
Ultimately, the difference in the type of news content men and women consume could be as much about how they find news as what they are intrinsically interested in.”
The newsonomics of the newly quantified, gamified news reader
“The trick here is in inferring reader likes and dislikes, as in the Cosby story example. Says Frons: “Subject-based personalization limits serendipity — one of the main pleasures of social feeds in particular and the Internet in general…For content creators, I am not sure that slicing the report up into micro-individuated bundles is ever going to make business or product sense. But a little bit of personalization within a product can go a long way.”
One of the reasons I absolute love working for Global Radio is being involved in the amazing selection of events they put on each year. Whether it’s Capital’s Summertime Ball, Jingle Bell Ball or XFM’s Winter Wonderland – it’s always an exciting time of year as the company rallies round to deliver a brilliant experience for our audience.
As a content person I particularly love these live events because, no matter how much you plan in advance, there are always challenges (and opportunities) that crop up which need to be dealt with in the moment. If you want to get academic, it means providing an editorial structure that is nimble enough to adapt to traffic behaviour, potential technical difficulties, competitors or just amazing stuff that just happens on the day that you couldn’t have prepared for in any planning session. And it rocks.
This year covering Capital’s Jingle Bell Ball has been extra special for us as we’ve recently launched our brand new mobile site only a few weeks ago. As the majority of the Capital audience visit us via mobile, it’s been important to ensure they get the best experience possible and, looking at the positive growth in audience numbers, it’s good to see they agree!
Besides updating platforms, I think the biggest change we made this year to cover the ball was just around workflow. This is the nerdy side of editorial that, I must admit, I’m very interested in. This year we really looked at the time it took to deliver content to our audience from inception (onstage performances or backstage antics) to delivery (video, gallery, article etc) and eliminated any obstacles. That meant creating a workflow that adapted throughout the day and in accordance with the content we wanted to prioritise.
Layer on search and social and that’s an interesting beast to manoeuvre – and only made possible by a brilliant digital content team working within a slick operation that is all working towards a common goal.
Day one is now over and I’m about to head over to the O2 to prepare for the arrival of another fantastic lineup of artists. If you’re with us today in person, or through radio, online or mobile, I hope you have a brilliant day!
Follow Capital’s Jingle Bell Ball live blog here.
Why social is key to creating habit-forming news products
“According to Nir Eyal, it’s often fear that encourages a person to return to a product again and again. Boredom drives return visits to YouTube, loneliness encourages people to go to Facebook, uncertainty encourages people to search Google, he says.
So for newspapers, news sites and digital products, perhaps the driver is FOMO, a fear of missing out. People return to find out about the key news events that they don’t want to miss.”
“1. Everyone’s talking about Serial. Seriously. Vox has gone one step further and built an interactive guide to keep track of who’s who in this character-driven crime story. Brilliant? Yes. A step too far? Maybe. But the resulting audio cards are really user friendly and offer sideways entry points into the story, in addition to making it all easier to follow. Now, just think of other ways we could break down a story that might make it easier to for the
audience to enter and understand.”
Why We Crave Human-Curated Playlists
“Context is key for music, and that is where services like Songza and Beats Music are picking up tips from FM radio. These services are essentially using algorithms to help people discover new playlists, instead of discovering new songs. This allows for a marriage of both technology and human curation.”
“Sharing content is another key part of the strategy. Other publishers aggregate news from elsewhere or open their sites to outside contributors to increase their publishing volume quickly and at low cost. With all of Hearst’s magazines as well as newspapers to draw from, the publisher has a long way to go before it has to look to outside sources for content. Part of Lewis’ mandate, then, has been getting Hearst to surface stories that can work across brands. Ultimately, the goal is to have 20 percent of a given Hearst site’s content coming from another Hearst property.”
“An ageing population and an increasing numbers of retirees could mean increasing popularity. However, the test is to ensure that young people continue to reach out to radio as they grow older.
“To address this challenge, radio must continue to be a place of ‘music discovery’ and must adapt to new ways of enjoying content on the go – and on modern media devices.”
“We don’t adhere to the preset roles you have in news organizations,” Seward said. “It prevents a myopic view of how stories need to be told. When you have the ability to think about how to tell a story differently, then it leads to more creative ways.”
“So while Instagram currently isn’t the best host for what most publishers are doing right now, as the platform becomes more video focused publishers with expertise in creating narratives in video form will find Instagram’s a more effective way to reach audiences. Until then, though, as Guyatt says, there’s very little purpose to publishing content to a platform on which it does not belong.”
“The money and raw numbers have finally gotten investors to pay attention, and investors have a lot of press influence. But podcasts have never exploded and have never died. The truth is that they’ve grown boringly and steadily for almost a decade, and will likely continue to do so. And that’s great!”
“To see the mistake here, just look at the most popular mobile app supposedly leading this turn away from the web: Facebook. A substantial portion of Facebook content offers links to other websites. Tapping them opens a browser within the app, and there you are, on the web. The latest version of Apple’s iOS mobile operating system, in fact, brings in-app browsers on par with the company’s own Safari browser in terms of capabilities and performance.”
“Each week, Williams and his designers choose one of the feature articles set to appear in the print magazine, usually the cover story, and brainstorm ways they can add visual design elements that improve the storytelling process. This has become increasingly common at many publications ever since the launch of Snow Fall, the multimedia story project produced by a team of New York Times journalists, designers, videographers, and coders — though when I mentioned Snow Fall, Williams was quick to note that New York’s forays into the medium are much less epic in scale. “It’s possible to build them with each issue and without overwhelming the team,” he said in a phone interview.”