I recently met an audience development manager at a major B2B media company, who explained his job to this effect: “We're the ones who get the audience for those of you in editorial to write about.”
When you put it that way, it intrigued me. I responded something along the lines of: “Well, that's actually part of my job as well.” Not only are journalists interacting more with our audience, but increasingly we are, directly or indirectly, charged with creating content aimed to maintain and attract an audience — a.k.a. audience development
Media companies and audience development managers should be leveraging this approach to their advantage. Meanwhile, journalists should be honing their skills to be individual brands and audience specialists.
The trend is part of the greater move and necessity of editors to understand the business side of media. In a previous post, I spoke more broadly about how the role of the editor is changing
to incorporate more marketing, audience development and business development. Here are three specific ways editors are taking on larger audience development roles.
Editors as audience specialists
SEO has been one of the biggest drivers to get journalists and media companies thinking about their audience. Content strategy continues to evolve like the search landscape
. Beyond just optimizing for Google
, the thought of “giving users what they want” has dramatically shifted some of the thinking behind how content is conceptualized and delivered.
I recently had an email conversation with Robert Keenan
, vice president of Online Media for B2B publisher at Edgell Communications, about the emerging role of journalists as audience developers. He offered a helpful insight:
Here’s what I tell editors. In the old days, editors relied on an audience development department to build lists and it was their job to maintain the relationship. And, one of the great ways to judge that was through the annual re-up rate for the publication. But, those days are long behind us now. Just look at the impact Google has had on our business. Today we not only need to write stories that engage users, we also have to write in a way that allows Google to effectively rank and index our content. Therefore, as an editor writes a piece of content, it has to be done in a way that it generates audience through the search engines.
Social media has obviously given editors the unprecedented opportunity to interact with our audiences and create engaging content catered to them. Editors are crucial to building and running communities and growing relationships with readers, just like we've always been. Now the results are simply more measurable in our number of retweets or the length of time a reader stays on the page.
In the last couple of years, most media companies have transferred the reins of social media
to editorial rather than marketing, though it's different in many organizations — and an example of an area where marketing and editorial collide. It's common at a small media organization to find an editor running most of the social content and managing and encouraging Twitter followers and Facebook fans (either for their own following or that of their organization). Editors, essentially, are filling the role of “social circulation managers.”
Being their own brands
We've all certainly heard this observation enough: Journalists are their own brands
, whether they work at The Washington Post or are Perez Hilton. Google
is now even highlighting individual content creators in search results.
Rather than fighting it, publishers can make use of these journalists as individual assets
and audience ambassadors. Think of every journalist as a club with its own newsletter, representing another channel of communication to benefit the larger media organization. When you "buy" a journalist, you're getting his or her list.
New audience development roles
The expanded roles editors are taking on don't make the audience development department irrelevant (no, we don't want your business job). But it's important to recognize how the two are overlapping. To go back to the opening example in this post, let's just say an audience development manager shouldn't feel the need to explain what they do to a journalist ― and vice versa.
If editors are charged with creating content with the audience in mind, audience development managers are charged with turning that audience into revenue.
“On the audience development front, this also means there needs to be a change in the way users are engaged,” Keenan said. “Specifically, audience development managers and executives have to now learn how to mine the data they receive from content developed by editors in order to increase conversions to newsletters, websites, lead gen products, and print vehicles.”
Audience development managers can also help interpret the audience for journalists to better serve them. It's a throwback to the binder of audience research editors have always been provided by audience development departments. Now we have high-powered analytics at our fingertips.
The new newsroom
It's important for media companies of all types to recognize and encourage the growing role of journalists as audience developers, arming them with the right training and tools. Enthusiast publisher Interweave, for example, made a significant investment to train its employees in skills like SEO, social media optimization (SMO) and content marketing.
Forbes' recent newsroom restructuring
is the perfect example of how the roles are changing. Lewis Dvorkin's new newsroom houses an audience development team within the editorial department and puts audience data at the center of all initiatives (as shown in in the diagram). “The New Newsroom is about collaboration ― between editorial, product, design, production ― and, yes, the advertising sales and marketing departments, too,” he wrote in a recent post.
In addition to reconsidering the structure and training of the newsroom, publishers should be recruiting editors who “get” how to engage and produce for their audience. An editor-in-chief of an organization (particularly in B2B) has often been recruited for their brand and respect, and that attitude is trickling down to all editorial staff. If journalists are going to be pivotal in bringing in the right audience, it's still as crucial as it's always been for media companies to bring in the right journalists.