Embrace platforms: What success looks and feels likeDouglas K. Smith, Quentin Hope, Tim Griggs, Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative,
Publishing on the platforms that your target audiences use requires your newsroom to get good at (1) how best to use each separate platform; and, (2) how best to manage your portfolio of platforms. The net effect is a publishing platform plan, action and performance that are strategically crafted, effectively managed, resilient to external changes and robust in growing your share of audience, especially in your local metro market.
Success looks and feels like the “to” side of the following:
FROM > TO shift for publishing on the platforms used by your target audiences
|Strategic selection and conscious management||An assortment of publishing platforms accumulated over time||A consciously and strategically chosen portfolio of publishing platforms chosen to serve targeted audiences and continually optimized based on platform performance|
|Some orphaned platforms with little audience and little attention paid (e.g. newsletters or apps started in earnest but left to drift)||Every publishing platform has an owner; every platform is tended to; every platform’s audience performance is tracked|
|Random, unmanaged and unshared platform approaches used or unused by reporters and editors as they wish||Performance-based and platform optimal practices actively managed by platform owners and experts and mandatory for reporters and editors to use|
|Reporters and editors do not see or accept platform distribution as essential to their jobs||Reporters and editors, with rare exception, understand and incorporate platform distribution into their daily work|
|Stories are created and published without consideration of a platform distribution plan||With rare exceptions, stories routinely include platform optimal considerations in the planning stages|
|Failure to meet key user experience (UX) expectations on each platform that matters||Meet or exceed basic user experience (UX) expectations on all platforms that matter|
|Lack of platform specific metrics||Have and use metrics relevant to each platform|
|Lack of engagement metrics along with page views and uniques||Have and use engagement, page view and uniques|
|Other’s platforms||Fear of algorithm changes||Reasonable confidence in not being adversely affected by algorithm changes based on your audience targeting, content relevance and overall platform publishing strategy|
|Vulnerability to traffic drops by over reliance on particular traffic sources and susceptibility to changes by those sources||A robust distribution strategy that’s resilient to changes in any given traffic source based on conscious targeting of platforms to target audiences and providing content of value to those audiences|
|Near dread of the “next new thing” as one more thing to deal with (or not)||Interest in the potential of the “next new thing” to better reach and serve your target audiences combined with clear approaches and criteria for evaluating and possibly experimenting with the “new thing”|
|Local market penetration||Traffic growth driven primarily by out-of-market traffic; out of market-traffic an increasing share of total traffic||In-market traffic growing at a greater rate than out-of-market and increasing its share of total traffic|
|Lagging local market reach on key platforms vs. local news competitors (e.g. TV stations)||Consistent #1 (or at least high) local market ranking on key platforms (e.g., desktop, mobile, Facebook and Twitter)|
|Monthly in-market uniques that represent only a small share of your metro market||Monthly in-market uniques that represent a larger share of the metro market than in the peak days of print|
You and your colleagues ought to create your own version of this “From > To” statement. Doing so will help you define the changes you need to make – and explain those changes to others in ways that engage them. A from/to is also a good way to identify gaps.
Try drafting a version of from/to yourself or, better yet, with colleagues. Describe the “from” and the “to” as sharply as you can to capture your newsroom’s current state versus the better state of your aspirations. Share it with others as widely as possible, and ask them to build on the needed shifts using language that makes sense to your newsroom. There should be nods of recognition when reading the ‘from’ side – and an energetic “yesses” when reading the ‘to’ side.