Use criteria to decide which audiences and platforms to start with… and get goingDouglas K. Smith, Quentin Hope, Tim Griggs, Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative,
Get going, ideally with audiences and platforms that have (1) the greatest revenue potential; and, (2) the leaders and teams who are most ready and passionate – but, in any event, get going!
Look again at where your newsroom sits on the spectrum of development of mini-publisher audience and platform teams. It is imperative that your newsroom commits to moving toward the full mini-publisher approach on the right-hand side of that spectrum.
In other words, where ever you are now, pick some audiences and platforms and get going!
Use criteria for choosing which audiences and which platforms to begin with. The criteria should combine assessing the audiences/platforms with (1) the greatest revenue potential and (2) the most readiness. Leader and team readiness, in turn, reflects a blend of (1) capability (having key Table Stakes in place); and, (2) passion/will (leaders and teams who are excited about the mini-publisher approach).
This section provides guidance first for audience teams, then platform teams. In each case, you might select audience or platform leaders and teams just on a gut feeling about revenue potential and readiness – or you might ground the choices in facts, data and analytics about revenue potential and readiness. The latter alternative (facts, data, etc.) turns on just how much you know today and/or how much time and effort you think is necessary to develop facts you might not have today.
Remember this though: deferring ‘getting going’ in favor of analysis runs a risk of not getting going soon enough. And, mini-publisher leaders and teams learn a lot by ‘just doing it’ – by learning about mini-publishing by being mini-publishers.
- Audience Teams
Use the logic in this matrix to assess mini-publisher audience opportunities against two sets of criteria:
Matrix for assessing audience teams to develop into mini-publisher teams
|Audience team readiness (skill + passion)||High||Get going because you have strong audience teams contributing to primary revenue models
|Get going with these mini-publisher ready audience teams|
|Low||Hold off while these possible audience teams move further to the right of the spectrum
|Get going while providing support for leader/team skill development|
Here are three ways you might make choices:
- Senior leaders use a blend of gut feeling and available data to pick some audiences and just get going
- Senior leaders ask for a small number of volunteers to just get going
- Senior leaders shape a sort of contest or competitions in which potential mini-publisher teams make their case using the criteria of revenue potential and readiness
- Revenue potential
Evaluate revenue potential by:
- Estimating how much revenue your mini-publishing efforts could generate from moving the target audience in question through the funnel of Table Stake #4 – whether the funnel produces digital subscriptions, ad revenue and/or other revenue types such as events.
- Estimating how much revenue your mini-publishing efforts could generate through Table Stake #5’s approaches to diversifying revenue – using the table in TS#5
Considering more qualitative indicators of unique revenue opportunities that, absent a mini-publisher approach, will be lost. For example:
- The team has successfully bootstrapped revenue initiatives but needs further support from beyond the team to develop those further, e.g.:
- A newsletter that’s attracted a respectable number of subscribers with a high open rate
- A couple of events that have attracted good-sized, engaged crowds but have been one-offs where the good buzz dissipated.
- The team has identified promising revenue producing ideas but has lacked the capacity or needed backing to pursue them beyond the conceptual stage.
- Leadership somewhere in the organization has developed a revenue producing idea that hasn’t gotten traction but fits well with the team’s audience and the team could really run with it and own it, given the right support.
- Team readiness
Assess teams against these characteristics team drawn from Table Stake #1.
Audience Team development and mini-publisher readiness assessment
1– 4 (low to high)
|Team identity, passion and behavior||· The team’s composition is clear and members personally identify themselves with the team.|
|· The team members work as a team. They communicate well, actively collaborate, develop skills together and share accountability for the team’s audience performance.|
|· The team coordinates well with platform teams as well as social editors, audience developers, technology/tool folks, and marketing and ad sales.|
|· The team is passionate about succeeding as mini-publishers.|
|Audience focus and data/analytics||· The team thinks “audience first” and asks what audience needs and interests are served by every piece of content produced.|
|· The team can describe the problems it is solving for its target audience.|
|· Audience data is routinely used to better understand what content actually attracts and engages readers and viewers.|
|· The team has a clear mental profile of the audience being served and a deep understanding of their needs and interests and the audience’s problems the team is solving.|
|· This audience profile is articulated and documented so it can be shared with others (e.g. advertising sales) and used to guide decision-making.|
|Testing and learning||· The team routinely conducts quick experiments in coverage focus, story-forms, content partnerships, distribution platform or other areas to figure out what works and what doesn’t.|
|· The team operates on a rhythm of short sprints (2-5 weeks) to focus on and achieve specific improvements in areas such as skill development, tool use, consistent best practice use, workflow streamlining or technology fixes.|
|· From its learning and experience the team is developing a “playbook” for winning with its target audience, ensuring that this institutional knowledge is not lost and can be imparted to new team members and other teams.|
|Performance focus and accountability||· The team has created an audience scorecard that captures key measures of audience traffic, reach and engagement across the platforms used.|
|· The team holds itself both individually and mutually accountable for achieving its goals.|
|· The team regularly reviews performance against the scorecard and actively uses reviews to identify opportunities and plan improvement actions.|
|· The team has actually succeeded in making significant gains in audience growth (e.g. 30+% in local market uniques within six to nine months).|
|· The team understands and connects team and individual performance goals to the skills and training the team and individuals need to succeed at those goals.|
|· The team regularly reports progress in closing skill gaps.|
|· Senior newsroom leaders regularly review the progress of the team against the team’s performance and skill goals.|
Teams scoring threes and fours on most of these indicators are ready to take on the full scope of being a mini-publisher team. Teams scoring mostly twos and threes with maybe a few fours need more time (say, a few months) to fill in the gaps. If a team scores mostly 1s and 2s, but has a team leader truly ready to be a mini-publisher, ask that leader for a plan to get the rest of the team ready as soon as possible. Finally, senior newsroom leaders should direct teams scoring mostly 1s and 2s to take the steps required to fill gaps and otherwise prepare for mini-publishing.
- Platform teams
Whereas target audience teams own enterprise-wide performance for audiences, platform mini-publisher teams own enterprise wide performance for platforms – for the critical distribution channels on which your metro, local or regional rises or falls.
Platform-based mini-publisher teams must take a whole business view of:
- Developing and managing platform specific revenue opportunities, which may include working and negotiating with outside parties.
- Growing revenue and audience on the platforms you own by coordinating with audience teams to maximize audience growth and engagement, funneling random users into habitual, paying loyalists, and maximizing ad and other revenues
- Growing revenue and audience on the platforms you own by bringing in outside partners or B2B customers, e.g.:
- Partnerships with local entities to provide content for a new vertical within the platform – in effect, inviting the content partner to use you and your reach as their distribution platform
- Service arrangements by which you license/provide access to local enterprises to use your platform technology or practices for their own publishing
- Investing (or recommending such investments to senior management) in more platform specific technology that demands mini-publisher attention and accountability for outcomes
- Aligning and optimizing the varying interests, competing priorities and potential conflicts across the newsroom’s audience teams sharing the platform
You should form mini-publisher platform teams around clusters of platforms. For example, you might form teams around the three fundamental types of platforms described in TS #2:
- Platforms you own where audiences come to you
- Platforms owned by others that feed audiences back to your platforms
- Platforms owned by others where the audience stays on their platform
You might further tailor teams to align with the audience funnel stages and tactics outlined in TS #4:
Platform mini-publisher teams based on the audience funnel
|Brand awareness building platforms||Mobile/social pull platforms||Push platforms||Core loyalists platforms|
· Snapchat (general)
· Mobile/responsive web
Note: particular platforms could be placed in different clusters depending on your current strategy for using the platform. They could also be moved to different clusters over time as your strategy for the platform shifts.
You will likely need only two to four platform teams. Indeed, too many teams risk fragmentation of focus and effort. As said, begin with putting Table Stake #2 in place: publishing on the platforms used by your target audiences. Individuals will emerge as platform owners; and, once they do, you can broaden their roles and responsibilities into mini-publishers.
Use the same two sets of criteria described above: capability and readiness of the platform team compared to the revenue potential of the cluster being considered:
Matrix for assessing audience teams to develop into mini-publisher teams
|Platform owner readiness||High||Strong platform owners focused on growing platform reach and engagement and supporting existing platform revenue generation (if any)||Mini-publisher ready platform owners to focus on significantly growing existing and developing new revenues in a platform cluster|
|Low||Platform owners to develop further and/or re-evaluate
|Priority platform owners to develop further and move up|
|Revenue potential of the platform cluster (size and uniqueness)|