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The Digiday Podcast
39 minutes | 6 days ago
'We shouldn't have to go on so many first dates': How Bustle Digital Group is wooing advertisers
The ways in which publishers solved their 2020 problems vary, but Bustle Digital Group's approach included reestablishing longterm relationships with advertisers in a variety of categories and leaning on retail partners like Amazon to bring in incremental commerce revenue.During the first quarter of 2020, Bustle Digital Group was projected to be up 40% in revenue over 2019 by the end of the year, according to Jason Wagenheim, BDG's president and chief revenue officer. But by March, reality of what the year would hold had set in and that projection was thrown out the window."We had the darkest 72 hours in our company's history where literally tens of millions of dollars just cancelled within a three day time period," said Wagenheim in the latest episode of the Digiday Podcast. "There was a lot of panic at the start of the pandemic."Ultimately, BDG ended the year about 5% up from 2019, thanks to its position in a myriad of advertising categories. Wagenheim did not provide exact revenue figures. "It's the importance of being able to satisfy retail as much as tech as much as auto as much as fashion," he said.
43 minutes | 13 days ago
CBS News Digital’s Christy Tanner doesn’t expect to see a ‘Trump Slump’ in news consumption
News outlets experienced a surge in traffic and viewership during Donald Trump’s presidency right through to when he left office in January. In fact, between the inauguration of President Joe Biden and the attack on the U.S. Capitol, CBS News Digital received more readers to its site and attracted more viewers to its video programming in January than in any previous month in its history, according to CBS News Digital evp and gm Christy Tanner.But now that Trump is out of office — and hopefully without another Capitol attack on the horizon — news outlets have been faced with the question of whether people’s interest in the news would subside. In other words, whether the Trump Bump would turn into a Trump Slump.“I do not expect to see a slump. We still have some major, major compelling stories that are not going anywhere anytime soon,” Tanner said in the latest episode of the Digiday Podcast.The election may be over, but there remains a pandemic, a racial reckoning and a climate crisis for news organizations to cover, said Tanner. “In many ways, what I’m happy about is we can focus on these really important stories now that we have a different president in office and a different type of news cycle,” she said.
36 minutes | 20 days ago
'Proactive is the path': Group Nine's Geoff Schiller on his selling strategy
Last year proved to be one of the most challenging years on record for the media industry with ad revenue drying up in the second quarter, but for Group Nine, it was magnified by its entry into its first full year following the merger with PopSugar.In the first few weeks of the merger, the company’s chief revenue officer Geoff Schiller came onto the Digiday Podcast to talk about the vertical sales strategy he implemented at the beginning of 2020 that required sellers to have a deep endemic focus — a strategy carried over from his time leading sales at PopSugar.This would allow sales expertise that normally fits with a brand like PopSugar — like entertainment — transfer to a brand like Thrillist, after main sponsors in the travel and restaurant industry took a big hit and pulled back from advertising in 2020.Navigating last year helped Schiller realize the horizontal focuses all of Group Nine’s titles needed to account for as advertisers’ needs shifted throughout the year. Pivoting to include the horizontal with the vertical, Group Nine’s revenue in 2020 was flat with 2019, according to Schiller, but the fourth quarter ended up being the best on record for the company.
38 minutes | a month ago
'Urgency around the community': How Pop-Up Magazine pivoted to (even more) experimental storytelling
By March 16, theater doors around the country shut their doors. The Pop-Up Magazine touring production, which had just completed its first (and only) national tour of 2020, had to figure out where to go from there.The publisher, known for its on-stage renditions of original magazine stories that rethought the performance of storytelling, had not previously filmed its shows. But the pandemic forced the publisher to experiment with a virtual format like many others and in true Pop-Up form, it came with a twist.The publisher premiered its Spring show on YouTube Live, with performers filming themselves from home alongside animations and illustrations. And then wanting to push the experience even further, the company created a $70 issue-in-a-box and organized community groups and virtual experiences that could continue convening the show's fanbase despite not being in a shared theater space."The silver lining for us about 2020 and the pandemic is it was an opportunity for us to be very experimental with storytelling in different formats," said Chas Edwards, the president, publisher and co-founder of Pop-Up Magazine Productions. "And most importantly 2020 gave us permission to get closer to our audience in a variety of ways."
34 minutes | a month ago
The New York Times’ Ben Smith saw the alt-right’s rise and sees a new era for social platforms
Ben Smith has an enviable view of the current media landscape. Before The New York Times announced in January 2020 that the publication had hired Smith to be its media columnist, he had eight years as the editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed, a period during which the meme publisher matured into a media company that retained its social savvy while also operating a news business. And before BuzzFeed, Smith had covered politics as a reporter and blogger at Politico. That experience helped Smith to see the coming rise of alt-right media outlets using social platforms to spread misinformation coming before many others. “I think was increasingly aware of it at BuzzFeed. Because we were swimming in those waters, we were very quick to see the rise of the alt-right, and we covered the hell out of it in 2014 and 2015,” Smith said in the latest episode of the Digiday Podcast. Lately Smith has been reflecting on media in the early days in the internet. Specifically he has been thinking about he and others learned how to use the web to get around gatekeepers like the big, traditional media companies and inadvertently “opened a kind of Pandora’s box,” he said. He continued, “It’s not that we didn’t see that it had a dark side, but I think we misunderstood the balance.”
43 minutes | a month ago
'Convince the gatekeepers': How The Week Jr. is growing its U.S. subscriber base
The Week Jr. was set to debut in the U.S. last spring but the day that the first run of the children's magazine went to the printer, much of the country went into lockdown.That threw a wrench not only in the magazine's editorial plans, but also in the marketing strategy for how the U.K.-based, Dennis Publishing-owned title was meant to enter the western hemisphere.Despite the initial hiccups, Andrea Barbalich, editor-in-chief of The Week Jr. U.S. and Kerin O'Connor, chief executive of The Week said on the most recent edition of the Digiday Podcast that the weekly news magazine for kids has already surpassed its initial run of 50,000 issues and now reaches 75,000 subscribers in the U.S.This is in part thanks to 2020 having one of the most intense news cycles on record, which Barbalich said her team was diligent about covering in a way that kids could easily digest and in a manner that parents might not be able to do on their own.Within about three or four issues we had The Week Jr. being read in every state in America," said O'Connor.
39 minutes | 2 months ago
‘You’ve got to earn that’: Mike Hume of The Washington Post’s Launcher on covering gaming and esports inside a mainstream publication
For years, gaming has been categorized as a niche form of entertainment. But that’s been changing over the better part of the past decade, including within the realm of gaming journalism. In addition to longstanding gaming publications like Kotaku and IGN, mainstream outlets have invested in covering gaming and esports, as The Washington Post did in debuting Launcher in October 2019. And their coverage extends beyond console reviews and game play tips.As Launcher editor Mike Hume explained on the Digiday Podcast, Launcher covers the business and culture surrounding and inside video games, from esports competitions that have formed around games to people holding their weddings within games to the legal standoff between Apple and Fortnite maker Epic Games. Rather than focus on legitimizing gaming to The Washington Post’s broader audience, Launcher has had to take care to legitimize itself to that core gaming audience. “We’re not going to be the Kool-Aid guy breaking down the wall and being like, ‘The Washington Post has come. Gamers rejoice. Now you have a mainstream outlet.’ No, you’ve got to earn that. That’s what a lot of our focus was in year one,” Hume said.
34 minutes | 2 months ago
How Future PLC’s audience-first strategy grew revenue in 2020
While 2020 was a year of struggle and strife for many publishers, London-based Future PLC ended its 2020 fiscal year up 65% in total revenue from last year, bringing in a total of just under £340 million (approximately $459 million), according to the company’s 2020 annual report.As a special interest-based publisher, Future PLC has the advantage of having niche, passionate audiences that trust the publications they read. But with over 130 titles, the company also has the scale of a mass media company, with a total audience consists of upwards of 400 million monthly unique users. That extensive database of user behavior, interests and shopping habits is what the company’s CEO Zillah Byng-Thorne said helped the company grow over the past year.In the latest episode of the Digiday Podcast, Byng-Thorne discusses how Future positioned itself over the last year to grow not only its e-commerce business during the coronavirus pandemic-induced online shopping boom, but also its advertising business.
66 minutes | 2 months ago
Coronavirus-induced change and accelerations: Digiday’s top trends for 2021
In this week’s episode of the Digiday Podcast, our editorial team takes a look ahead at what 2021 may have in store for the publishing and marketing industries, from what Zoom fatigue means for the virtual conference to why perks aren't what they used to be.
39 minutes | 2 months ago
'Using all parts of our business as innovation': Vox Media Publisher Melissa Bell on recent departures and future content
It's a new era for Vox Media.The company is a year into its merger with New York Magazine, and in recent weeks has seen some of its leading journalists and founders leave for such legacy companies as The New York Times as well as upstart destination Substack."I think it's a sign of success," Vox Media publisher Melissa Bell said on the Digiday Podcast. "I see it as a benefit that folks can come to Vox and work with Vox Media or Vox and add a really big gold star to their resume."Beyond the talent chase, Bell said Vox Media has ambitious multi-platform plans."We are going to actually produce simultaneously podcasts and TV shows when we really know the idea is super strong," Bell said. "It allows us to reach audiences in the way that they want to be reached. Some people are audio listeners, or learners and some people are visual learners." Vox's podcast audience has grown by 45% this year, Bell added.And then there are CTV and streaming plays. "We're going to be starting to look into the OTT streaming platforms for Vox," she added. "We just announced that we're doing a new deal with HBO [and] we're still heavily partnered with Netflix. So you'll see a lot of growth there."
42 minutes | 3 months ago
Google's Amy Adams Harding on why digital newsrooms should 'act like an e-commerce player'
As Google continues to partner with newsrooms to help boost their traffic and revenue, the company's Amy Adams Harding has one recurring piece of advice: "making sure that you're employing e-commerce-like tactics.""Even though you're a news publisher and your journalism is core to what you do, you are, at the end of the day, selling that journalism," said Adams Harding, Google's director of analytics and revenue optimization for news and publishing, on the Digiday Podcast.Those tactics include offering a low, middle and high-budget option for content (the middle is most likely to net buyers, Adams Harding says).The esthetic of the offer matters, too. Adams Harding suggests orange "squovals" (that's square ovals) has proven to drive engagement, as well as making these offers more prominent."The number of sites that we've come across where they've got this tiny, little upper right hand side, 'subscribe to us' button — that's not going to build your reader-direct revenue strategy."Adams Harding also suggests hiring more like an e-commerce player."I can't tell you the number of meetings I've had with CEOs of news companies, and they say 'well, I want to launch a reader direct revenue monetization strategy. Who should I hire?' And I say, 'well, for goodness' sake, don't hire anyone from the news industry, hire someone from Amazon, right?' You need to be able to act like an e-commerce player, because those are the ones that are having success online."But Google's partnerships aren't just about dispensing pat advice. The company works with thousands of news organizations in more than 100 countries via News Consumer Insights, a digital product launched this summer to help newsrooms parse the mountains of they're sitting on."It allowed us to create our version of a user engagement funnel, specifically for news," Adams Harding said. "All it did was re-visualize the data in Google Analytics, so that it made sense to a news partner."
65 minutes | 3 months ago
'I believe enough in this to try to do it myself': CollegeHumor owner Sam Reich on the brand's future potential
Despite the name, CollegeHumor isn't a spring chicken anymore. Founded in 1999, the comedy site was acquired by IAC in 2006 and grew into one of the most successful video publishers on YouTube.It also went premium with shows for TV like Adam Ruins Everything, and launched a subscription streaming service called Dropout. But whereas CollegeHumor succeeded in terms content side, business has been another story.In January, IAC decided it was no longer willing to finance CollegeHumor and laid off more than 100 employees and then sold the business to Sam Reich, who had joined the company in 2006 to build out its original video business.In his estimation, there's a helpful paradox at the center of the company's content strategy. "When we began, it was with what we thought was a really mature thesis for how to run a subscription business: We're going to a have our acquisition content and our attention content," Reich said on the Digiday Podcast.The acquisition content had higher budgets and shorter run time, but in the end, the cheaper, longer-form stuff outperformed it on all fronts."In other words, the most expensive content was less effective in getting people in or keeping them there than the less expensive content," Reich said. "And if that hadn't been the case, I don't know that we would have taken over the company."
73 minutes | 3 months ago
'Profitability in the back half of next year': BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti (and Verizon Media CEO Guru Gowrappan) on their big merger
Two of digital media's biggest players are merging into one, with the announcement last week that BuzzFeed will be acquiring HuffPost in an all-stock deal.This episode of the Digiday Podcast hears from both sides of the transaction. First, senior reporter Kayleigh Barber interviews BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti, who will be leading both companies as they remain separate but share resources on fronts including advertising and content syndication.Senior media editor Tim Peterson then follow with an interview with HuffPost’s seller — Verizon Media CEO Guru Gowrappan— about the complementary audiences, products and goals he envisions for the two sites."What I've told Jonah is, 'now it's your time to take this and grow. And we want to make sure we are syndicating and we are working with you on ads, working with you on commerce," Gowrappan said. "That's how we're going to measure success."Verizon Media will have a minority stake in BuzzFeed, though Gowrappan is keeping its size a secret.For his part, Peretti believes "there's a strong possibility of profitability in the back half of next year."
39 minutes | 3 months ago
'People give when they're excited about good things': Grist CEO Brady Piñero Walkinshaw on what drives member support
With a Biden administration set to take over in January, one arena for policy whiplash is the environment.The president-elect has promised to rejoin the Paris Agreement against global warming on the day he's sworn in, and campaigned on the existential threat that is climate change. What does that mean for Grist, a news non-profit focused on environmental issues, and which has experienced a "Trump bump" just like many news organizations covering the White House over the past four years."I think sometimes people give when they're excited about good things too," Grist CEO Brady Piñero Walkinshaw said on the Digiday Podcast. "And folks are excited about good things [on environmental policy], not just attacks or assaults" on it.Grist's staff of 50 depends on around 5,000 "low-dollar members," Walkinshaw said. Five percent of the company's six to seven million dollar budget comes from advertising, but the majority is via partnerships with foundations. "The climate is increasingly one of the top-of-mind issues to a growing, growing, growing number of Americans," Walkinshaw said.
38 minutes | 4 months ago
Shine co-founders Naomi Hirabayashi and Marah Lidey on how mental health went mainstream
Whatever else can be said about the year 2020, it has at least led to a renewed focus on issues of mental well-being for those open to discussing it."Even in 2019 there wasn't this spotlight on mental and emotional health," said Marah Lidey, co-founder of wellness-focused company Shine, on the Digiday Podcast. "The pandemic is helping to destigmatize conversations around mental health," her co-founder Naomi Hirabayashi added.Founded in 2016, Shine offers guided exercises and community around mental wellness."This summer, we knew it was really important to prioritize, you know, Black mental health, specifically, in response to what was happening in our country," Hirabayashi said. Their app notifies users of a daily theme and meditation exercise and is available in both free and paid tiers (at either $12 a month or $54 for a year).According to Lidey and Hirabayashi, the company reaches 4 million users.
36 minutes | 4 months ago
Activision Blizzard Esports' Jack Harari on how the energy and pageantry of gaming is enduring the pandemic
If there was one mode of international competition that wasn't to be disrupted much by the global coronavirus pandemic, it's esports."One of the unique things about gaming is that our players don't have to be in the same place," Activision Blizzard Esports VP Jack Harari said on the Digiday Podcast.Still, elite video game competition benefits from the same trappings that established league sports do, from pre-game pageantry to fan cams and a real sense that competitors are squaring off against one another even as they sit at their computers."It adds more energy, creates some really unique production opportunities," Harari said. He joined Activison Blizzard — the creator of esport staples like Call of Duty, Overwatch and StarCraft — after five years with the NBA.Like most media businesses, the company hopes to resume physical events next year, the company, Harari said, hopes to resume physical events next year, but has proved highly engaging in a media economy forced to be remote.One clear differentiator between the company's Overwatch League and a traditional sports league is that Activision Blizzard owns the game from top to bottom. Avid fans of the sci-fi shooting game can go from watching the world's best to playing the exact same game themselves, albeit with different stakes.In a week, the average fan watches four to five hours of professional esports while playing the company's games for more than 20 hours, according to Harari.Activision Blizzard is hoping to monetize that high level of engagement in a way other sports can't. Last year, the category brought in more than $1 billion globally for the first time.
35 minutes | 4 months ago
The 74’s publisher Jim Roberts on bridging equality divides in education and making trust bonds with audiences
For the 74's publisher, nothing has been hit as hard by the pandemic as education: "Overnight, kids were basically told 'everything changes," said Jim Roberts, publisher of The 74, on this week's edition of the Digiday Podcast.Launched in 2015, The 74 — short for the estimated 74 million children in the United States — is a nonprofit covering education and now, the extent it has been disrupted and transformed by the coronavirus crisis.One of The 74's central focuses before the pandemic was the achievement gap — along socio-economic and racial inequalities —and other entrenched problems in America's education system."That crisis to me just exploded exponentially as a result of the pandemic," Roberts said. "If you were poor and disadvantaged before the pandemic and you were struggling to get a quality education, I can imagine that it is just exponentially more difficult now."Roberts is new to the nonprofit game — he joined The 74 earlier this month. But he sees one common goal for any publication looking to survive — get people to click, make them feel rewarded for doing so and get them to come back for more.The 74 is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the Walton Family Foundation and other groups.
39 minutes | 4 months ago
'Retention has been one of our best stories of the year': Bob Cohn on steering The Economist through the crisis
Bob Cohn joined The Economist Group in February after more than a decade at The Atlantic, where he served on both sides of the fence -- as its digital editor and later as its president. As president and managing director, his stated remit was to grow The Economist's global readership and open up new commercial opportunities in North America.Of course, merely six weeks into the job, the coronavirus pandemic hit. With it came a surge of subscribers as readers looked to the Economist to unpick the impact on the economy, politics, culture and more."We did see, for a few months back in the spring, new subscribers coming [in] at about twice the rate that we expected," said Cohn on the Digiday podcast.Subscriptions and circulation made up around two-thirds (£204 million;$265 million) of the £326 million ($423 million) The Economist Group generated in revenue in the year to Mar. 31 2020. In recent months, pre-pandemic, the company had already shifted its subscription strategy from focusing on acquisition to more of a retention push. The surge in subscribers during the coronavirus crisis created "a kind of urgency" to keep the newly acquired users."We were an acquisition machine; we were not focused as diligently as we could on retention," prior to Cohn's arrival, he said. "We came into this year with a determination to be better at that and embrace best practice and go beyond best practice."Some of the new efforts have involved the creation of subscriber-only digital events (some 27,000 subscribers tuned in to watch a Bill Gates interview,) increasing the price of its introductory offers and exclusive subscriber newsletters. The number of subscribers in The Economist's "highly engaged" category increased 21% last year, Cohn saidLooking ahead, The Economist plans to roll out a new customer experience platform and create more products at a wider price range to tap a more diversified user base."Retention has been one of our best stories of the year," Cohn said.
35 minutes | 5 months ago
Diversity 'is a commercial imperative now': Brand Advance CEO Chris Kenna
Brand Advance, the three-year-old media network that helps marketers reach diverse audiences, has marked a sharp uptick in business in 2020, according to its CEO and cofounder Chris Kenna. Advertisers spending through Brand Advance's network increased 400% between mid-March through June."If Brand Advance was to be formed now everybody would say 'that is the most timely company,'" Kenna said. "The need wouldn't be questioned. Back then, it was questioned. It took a global pandemic for people to actually realize that diversity [should be] a main staple of every media plan."Kenna has unique bona fides on this front, telling Digiday he was the first Black person born on the U.K.'s the Isle of Man. "I got a certificate for that. I don't remember getting it, obviously," Kenna said.Diversity has grown into a "commercial imperative" in the last 10 to 15 years, Kenna said. To meet it, he advises companies to create their products and campaigns with diverse consumers in mind from the start, not as an afterthought. He also said that so-called test campaigns for companies to know whether this or that segment is worth reaching often miss the mark."I'm not testing being Black, I was born it. And LGBTQ+ people aren't testing being LGBTQ+, they just are. We don't understand why you have to test if we're a good consumer," Kenna said.
45 minutes | 5 months ago
'Scale for scale's sake is almost meaningless': Axios CEO Jim VandeHei
For Axios CEO Jim VandeHei, the unquenchable firehose of outrageous news from the Trump White House — and the 2020 presidential election in general — is a distraction."My hope is we do very little coverage or analysis after the next debate if there's nothing substantive to say," VandeHei said on the Digiday Podcast (a few days before the president's coronavirus diagnosis would put future debates into question).He added that Axios won't be "made or broken by whether Trump wins or loses" in November.For him, the major stories of the 21st century include artificial intelligence, climate change and China's actions on those issues — and in the world at large.And Axios seems to be proving there is in fact a market for the concise coverage it provides on those issues and more. The company will make a small profit for the third year in a row, VandeHei said. For 2020, he forecasts revenue above the Wall Street Journal's recent estimate of $58 million.That has made an optimistic CEO out of VandeHei, which is new. "I've been a pessimist about a lot of media for a long time," he said. "What we are seeing are a couple of trends that are really positive for high quality media companies." For one, her said, Google and Facebook have gone from threat to being "a net asset" for companies like Axios as they can bring big audiences and are themselves big sources of a specific kind of advertising."Call it corporate image or corporate social responsibility type advertising, which is ads from companies about something other than selling a product," VandeHei said. "It's 'what do we stand for? what are we trying to do as a company as a corporate citizen?' That's a boom market. That market has turned out to be a lot bigger than we had anticipated."
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