Archive for the ‘Digital Publishing Innovation Summit’ tag

Digital Publishing Innovation Summit, Part 3

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Very specific content can reach a giant audience through the emotional connections of sharing.

Very specific content can reach a giant audience through the emotional connections of sharing.

Following Jacobson of The Blaze (see second post of this series), Nick Rockwell of Conde Nast presented “How Much does the Product Matter?” Without a doubt, great content is the key. This was a driving point amongst many of the presenters – that quality content will eventually pay off in sustaining readership and engagement. Of course as this is a digital innovation summit, the questions at hand are how to cultivate engagement on the web and across platforms. Rockwell presented a slide demonstrating how much effort goes into UX development. Conde Nast has 70-80 people working on user experience and amongst all the companies at the summit, some 750 to a 1000 UX developers which adds up to an estimated budget of $120 million. Add another big publisher and it’s easily $500 million a year going into user experience. However, a full-site redesign only generates a 7% lift in key performance indicators after 12 months. A 3 month recirculation optimization boosts session depth by 3.5% at best. Rockwell’s point was that all the UX investment isn’t paying off and more money should go into Ad design.

He demonstrated how little ads have changed over the last 120 years by showing a banner add from the 1990s that looks like current day banner ads and then a newspaper ad from 120 years ago that was likely more effective. Considering ad space – television ads have 100% of the screen space, print magazines – 33-50% whereas web 5%. There is currently a lot of ad innovation happening through targeting, following clicks, but there needs to be more innovation in presentation. It’s difficult for me to gauge his arguments as I have Ad blocker on my browsers. I’ve discovered that friends without ad blocker have a very different web experience than my own. However, there has been innovation in content distribution that requires the viewing of ads. Due to my ad blocker, last NFL season, around mid-season I was shocked during my Monday morning ritual of seeing highlights when the videos would not load unless I turned off my ad blocker. And of course, Hulu has attempted to re-established the television scenario, but with multiple tabs open, I just switch to browsing or reading while the ads play out. I imagine that before long, the ads will pause whenever I switch tabs.

Stephen Loguidice of BuzzFeed discussed the historical transformations of content distribution. He started off with a great visualization of the growth of the U.S. railroad system followed by pointing out the transformative power of the addition of photography in print, then the rise of television and the recent move to streaming content. Today, it’s all about the social. The new form of distribution is social feeds. The content that is shared and distributed via social feeds reaches the largest audience. BuzzFeed, of course, is all about how to create something for the way that people are consuming content. He pointed out that there are two underlying goals between sharing:

  1. We share to form community, because people are inherently social beings.
  2. We share to build personal brand.

For companies and brands the questions of distribution needs to be changed from “What do they want?” to “What do we want?” There is no they, it is all of us, we are all consuming and sharing… we are the distributors. The distributors are no longer some other entity or ad company. So we can ask ourselves, what is it that we like to share? Loguidice makes a pitch for the following emotions / sensibility for sharing:

  • Inspiration, we like sharing inspirational, uplifting stories, one example is the batman kid in San Francisco.
  • Identity… things that we identify with and make up part of our identity that may be about sexuality, cultural background, food, sports, location…
  • Humor – it’s inherently social. If one laughs or is sufficiently amused, it will be shared.
  • Nostalgia – memories are social and present a snapshot of oneself and likely others.
  • Capture the moment – related to memories and archiving / snapshot that is meant to be shared.

Loguidice discussed the science to social… studying the real-time analytics to understand how content is shared. For example, a tweet will have the life span of an hour or two, whereas FB a couple weeks, Pinterest a few to several weeks.

Following Loguidice, Tessa Gould the director of native advertising at The Huffington Post discussed the creating of successful native ads. Perhaps the underlying term is Authentic Advertising and the formula consists of appropriate advertising for your content that is informative and or entertaining. If it’s the wrong ad on the wrong platform for the wrong audience it is not only destined to fail, but could lead to a lash back by the readership.

Gould presented The Atlantic’s sponsored ad for the Church of Scientology as a recent example of a poor match. The aftermath for running this ad was so bad that it was not enough to take down the ad, but The Atlantic had to write a letter of apology. (Even today, if you Google “The Atlantic Ad” it’s the first thing that comes up.) Gould summed up by stating that this was an ad that did not bring any value to it’s reader, either as information or entertainment, I’d say that it did worse than not bring any value as it caused so much outrage. So, authentic advertising is appropriate for the platform, reader and brand.

A successful native ad is the collaboration between Trulia and Barbie. The Trulia online residential real estate site ran an ad for the sale of Barbie’s Malibu Mansion for $25 million. There was even a video interview with Barbie discussing her move. In the end, the mansion was taken off market and Mattel put out a new Malibu Dream House – great marketing. Trulia’s audience was surprised and entertained and it was a win for both Trulia and Mattel.

Gould discussed the power of Infographics as infotainment that can effectively combine information and entertainment. Viewers come away with a sense of having learned something while being entertained – the underlying goals.

Gould wrapped up by presenting an example of a perfect storm – The Huff Post’s own sponsored ad for Chipotle “9 Disgusting Things You Didn’t Know You’ve Been Eating Your Whole Life” from this past March. It has over 37K shares, emailed over 1700 times, tweeted nearly 1k and 412 comments. So the questions to ask when considering sponsored ads are:

  • Does the platform and content fit together?
  • Does it offer real value learning or entertainment?
  • Is the content relative to the brand?

The first day of the Digital Publishing Innovation Summit wrapped up with a panel discussion – “Digital Publishing from the Perspective of the Content Creator.” The participants were from HuffPost, NewBeauty, Scholastic and the moderator from Issue. As I tuned in and out of the panel, I’ll just bullet the points that I noted:

  • Scholastic employs games to promote reading
  • People engage with different platforms during the day, so plan and target appropriately:

    1. morning: smart phone
    2. day: desktop
    3. evening: tablet
  • In the recent past there was a focus on SEO, then social dashboard, now built into the editors used by online publishers there are buttons to switch content such as titles and images for the desktop vs mobile.
  • Pinterest is huge at night, Sunday nights specifically.
  • High quality, long form content will always climb to the lead and has the longest staying power.

Digital Publishing Innovation Summit, Part 2

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Following Kretchmer of LiveFyre (see the first part of this post series), Marty Schecter of Wiley presented a business plan in which the publisher is transformed into a sort of life guide. That is a life guide that attempts to influence or to maintain a presence in the consumer’s career arc – from higher education to career launch to skill maintenance and development to professional communication and outreach.

Wiley sees itself as a “knowledge service” not merely a technical education publisher. It’s mission is to innovate with the customer and it does so by working with customers through the development of their products from wireframe to demo to beta to stable distribution and then product sales.

Schecter discussed the following options as the routes to market: build a channel, partner with companies that provide a channel or acquire channels. He then provided a breakdown of product development:

  1. Proof of Concept that includes smoke tests, lead users and the setting up of a test site to gauge interest.
  2. Live Demo that includes working with critical partners and early adaptors.
  3. MVP (minimum viable product) with the lead generation through free trials.
  4. Release of a mature product, distribute updates, generate conversation and engagement.
  5. Product Expansion by developing new services, up sell and cross sell.

For Wiley, the target consumer is the individual who wishes to become a product manager. The product manager who has a technical background, a business degree and has startup experience. This is the individual who understands all the components that it takes for a product to succeed and can communicate between the various specializations from concept, design and tech to marketing to consumer.

He wrapped up by making the point that in the digital world everything starts small and must be nurtured to grow and succeed.

Following lunch, Rick Ferrie of Pearson discussed “Accessibility and Digital Publishing” and clearly pointed out that accessibility provides a competitive advantage due to an underserved global market, as illustrated in the numbers below.

Need for digital accessibility

Data reflecting the need for accessibility in applications and the web.

Ferrie explained that as books moved from print to digital, accessibility advocates expected things to get better. However, they did not (Flash has played a large role in lack of accessibility). Over the last three years aggressive advocacy has ramped up. As a response, content repositories such as NIMAC have grown and efforts such as Marrakesh Treaty have helped. However, Ferrie does not want to see repositories become permanent middlemen for the access of content. Hence content providers should provide the accessibility themselves. They may easily do so by planning accessibility as part of the product, and following standards and good coding. Accessibility is easy if it is built in during production, not as an after thought.

Following the need for digital accessibility, was a millennial speaker, Kenton Jacobson of The Blaze which he announced as the single largest WordPress site. Jacobson focused his talk on the need for comments – how The Blaze used comments to build its audience and the evolution of its comment system through audience feedback. He pointed out that votes are much more common than comments, with merely a click of a button there tends to be 10 votes to every single comment. The Blaze of course employed AJAX to implement immediate commenting tools. Votes are used to sort the content. Jacobson’s underlying point was that users understand the system differently than you do and therefore must be consulted and listened to in order to build a successful publishing tool and a happy audience.

The Blaze

The Blaze has focused on user comments to build its audience.

Site commenting slide

Comments are powerful

Digital Publishing Innovation Summit, Part 1

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It seems that a more appropriate name for the Digital Publishing Innovation Summit would be the “Digital Publishing Survival Summit.” I may be naive, but I did not expect that the driving topics of a digital publishing conference would be advertising and socialization.

Today, I attended the first day of the two-day conference “Digital Publishing Innovation Summit” featuring speakers from Gannett, Scholastic, Harper Collins, Wiley, Pearson, Conde Nast… at the Marriott East Side in Manhattan. I went expecting/hoping to hear about revolutionary ways of producing and publishing multimedia content i.e. text, image, audio, video, data visualization for multiple platforms from a single source. That is to hear about the integration of multimedia for the web, ebooks and apps from a single click. That magical editor that allows for the integration of file formats to produce rich interactive content across platforms. No such luck, clearly the best bet is HTML5/CSS/JS and the modern browser… that much I knew. Instead the speakers focused on transformations that publishers have begun to make and will continue to figure out in order to reach a diverse audience across diverse platforms.

Amongst the speakers there was a mix of old and new from long-standing publishing companies to digital native startups. I’m going to give a quick rundown of the speakers and what I took away from their presentations.

I arrived late and only caught the last ten minutes of Gannett’s David Payne – “The Hard Thing About Hard Things in Media.” I don’t think that I missed much, because the wrap up was merely about the diverse challenges that publishers face today, most of which have been widely publicized over the last decade.

I very much enjoyed Scholatic’s Heather Cassano presentation on UX and product development through “LightningLabs.” She effectively broke down 4-day design challenge in which a group of about 5 people are given a design challenge:

  • Day 1 – Brain Prep – get everyone on the same page, look at goals, review information on stakeholders, available products, analyze the problem. The first day includes “lunch time theater” in which the participants enact prototypical stakeholders. The actors reflect the skill set, attitude, behavior and needs (personas are assigned a week ahead so actors may prep). Another portion of the first day is the “Amazing Race” in which the participants spend a few minutes with various apps, use them, try to figure them out. Participants consider the UX pyramid, from the bottom up: Goals, Tone/Expression, Personality, Promise.
  • Day 2 – Prototyping and iteration using paper and stencil UX toolkit to make lots of designs. At the end of the day, the bake off presents the best idea to then make a paper functioning version.
  • Day 3 – Usability testing with 6 diverse users. She pointed out that 6 diverse users will reflect 80% of what a larger test-base would present… 6 users can represent the target. Since it’s Scholastic, the development group may go to a school on day 3 to test with groups – 4 teachers and 5 students.
  • Day 4 – Create higher-fidelity prototype and test again. Establish a roadmap for the product and future work – plan next lab, if the product is worth pursuing.

The next speaker Jim Daily of Ebuzzing & Teads is a tool. He spent several minutes talking about and demonstrating video ads. “In-read” ads that are embedded in articles, they only play with sound when moused over, they have skip buttons which will make them disappear or social buttons to share… And a second type of video ad that opens from the top with the same behavior. Not very interesting or innovative, but Jim Daily did open by pointing out that he knows how to make money. No meat, but he was quick.

Brian Perrin and Jim Hanas of Harper Collins discussed the lasting power of deep immersive reading. They pointed out that book revenues are now UP, both print and ebooks. Over the last several years there has been a difficult period of transition toward establishing ebook systems that have now begun to stabilize. They can now predict how many print and ebooks of a publication will sell and that print and ebooks work together for sales. People will pick up the hard copy to review it and later purchase the ebook. The print book acts as an ad for the ebook. What they are still working on is direct to consumer marketing and sales. Hence they have partnered with subscription services like Oyster Books and Scribd.

Jordan Kretchmer, founder and CEO of LiveFyre was very entertaining and informative. In “Taking Back Your Community: How to Build an Engaged Audience” Kretchmer made a pitch for publishers to socialize their sites and steal back their audience from FB or Twitter. He pointed out that publisher’s content is making money for the social networks – people engage and share content through FB, so he considers these viewers as “leased” viewers since they really belong to FB.

Rather than depending on the social networks for distribution of a publishers content, why don’t the publishers build their own channels that are visited directly. He pitched a socialization business plan of Content, Engagement, Identity and Monetization.

Kretchmer presented Storify and Mashable as two content builders that are making the most of the web. Cnet as a great example for user engagement. So much of engagement today depends on connectivity – who in the audience is connected to one another and why, what do they have in common? Identity – who is the user, what will drive a user to write a comment? Monetization through user generated content. Examples include Nike using images by consumer to make banner ads. Univision with T-Mobile to create a platform for user generated content around the World Cup.

As each speaker was given 30 minutes, this was only in the morning! I’ll continue into the afternoon on the next post.