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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

Q&A: Jonathan Hunt, VP, Global Marketing and Partnerships, Vox Media on Media for Millennials

October 16, 2014 | By Michelle Manafy, Editorial Director – DCN@michellemanafy

Q: In your opinion and experience, do millennial readers have brand loyalty as a rule? How do you develop brand affinity/loyalty with them?

A: Yes and no. Above all else, young people (and frankly everyone) value quality and honesty. If another media brand can come along and offer a superior product then they have an opportunity to usurp loyalty. The fact is we live in a time when we’re getting our information from hundreds of different sources — publishers, social feeds, mobile apps, our friends and family and coworkers — all day every day. This is referred to as an Attention Economy. So more so now than ever qualities like utility, entertainment, honesty, and personality can easily trump loyalty.

But what happens when you consistently provide premium, honest stories to your readers? You can create loyalty. It’s easier said than done, but that’s our approach to every aspect of our business and why we’ve been on an explosive growth trajectory.

Q: Do you approach the development of user experience or content differently for the millennial audience?

A: We have to, but again I wouldn’t say this is relative to Millennials only–it’s a fundamental shift in how we all discover and share content, it just so happens that young people are quicker to experiment and adopt new ways of getting what they want when they want. At Vox Media, we’re platform and content agnostic. We’re not precious when it comes to how we get in front of as many people as possible; this is how we’ve been able to scale so quickly. So you may experience a Vox Media brand through one of our responsive sites, or on Tumblr, or as a video or a cinemagraph, through Xbox or Yahoo, or on a partner’s mobile app. As long as I can reach you and give you a reason to care about what we have to say, I know I have a better chance of getting you to experience our brand through other more premium experiences that impact our P&L.

Q: When working to attract and retain millennial media consumers, what would you say are the most important things to consider?

A: This is a question with no single answer. You want to cater to consumption habits (you going to them vs. them always coming to you); content formats (speaking to them through the types of content they create and share themselves); and providing them stories or news that have utility, are unique and entertaining, aren’t pandering, and don’t attempt to frame your brand as something that it’s not. This is the smartest generation ever, and they know it, so the best litmus test when building something for this audience is to ask yourself, “Who cares?” If you can’t answer that question unequivocally then there’s a good chance the answer is, “No one.”

jonathan-hunt-vox-headshotJonathan Hunt is the Global VP of Marketing at Vox Media where he leads audience development and distribution, co-sales partnerships, paid media strategy, and comms. Prior to Vox, he was the Global Marketing Director at VICE Media.

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