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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

Three takeaways from DCN’s “Content Everywhere” event

May 11, 2016 | By Michelle Manafy, Editorial Director – DCN@michellemanafy

According to our latest research, engagement with known brands is boosted when consumers encounter them on favored social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. At DCN’s most recent member’s-only event, Content Everywhere held May 10th in New York, Andrew Hare, Senior Director, Research and Strategy at Magid (which partnered with DCN on the study) previewed the 2016 DCN Content Distribution Impact Research report. The good news is that, thus far, social is additive, not cannibalistic of consumers’ content consumption on brand sites and aps. While Hare alluded to an eventual tipping point—in which consumer attention reaches maximum overload—he said that today, distributing content via social channels builds traffic through brand discovery.

However, as DCN CEO Jason Kint pointed out in his opening remarks “attention is the scarce resource that matters long term.”. So media brands must approach social wisely in order to receive fair value for their content in social contexts. And, with both the promise and challenges in mind, a wide range of speakers from DCN member companies, as well as invited industry guests, discussed topics ranging from staffing and resource allocation for social media, to deep dives into strategies for specific platforms, and measuring the impact of social distribution.

Here are 3 key takeaways from this closed-door event:

1. Social is everybody’s job: Not surprisingly, a recurring theme throughout the day was the vast audience that media brands can reach via social platforms. Even those with misgivings about brand-recognition within social settings recognize that social distribution must be part of the mix. Several speakers noted that it is ideal for all staff members to be active on social and understand how to communicate with audiences, Tom Fishman, SVP of Audience Growth & Engagement at MTV cautioned that “hiring a social team can be easier than training an existing team on social. “

And looking for the applicants with the highest follower counts is not the way to go about hiring, according toVox Director of Programming Allison Rockey who noted these individuals are terrific at building their personal brand, but may not be the best at building yours. In fact, Rockey suggests starting with a 140-character cover letter and finding people who genuinely love your brand.

That said, Rockey (and others) pointed out that there are platforms such as Snapchat that require specific skill-sets. This was reinforced by Amy Lawless, the VP Digital Strategy & Planning at Scripps Networks, which boasts a 10 person Snapchat team that produces 14 pieces of content for the platform daily. While the New York Times has tested platform-specific staffers, they’ve found that having photo editors and headline writers who are adept at social is more effective, according to Jason Sylva, Executive Director of Digital Media. The Times and others like to see staffers with social media expertise working with writers and editors to help them hone their skills so that a broader cross-section of staff become adept at creating content for different platforms.

2. Engage (and re-engage): Because there’s currently no easy way to get a clear view of measurement across the many social platforms publishers must carefully consider metrics when it comes to social content distribution.Keith Hernandez, President at Slate, says it is essential to analyze the performance of specific content in order to optimize for specific platforms and continue to look at how people interact with the content over time so that you can deliver sequential experiences that deepen engagement. With branded content specifically, Hernandez says that Slate has been able to build “audience pools” in social which are much more likely to be interested in specific types of information.

Targeting has also been a particular strength of social for Atlas Obscura, according to CEO David Plotz. In their case, using the brand’s highly-visual content to entice geo-targeted individuals to attend live events has been “a powerful indicator and driver of brand-affinity.”

Roker Media has focused its efforts on live streaming, which CEO Ron Pruett describes as “the missing link between social and television.” Given his background in commerce, Pruett says he also evaluates content based on actions and with live “you get instantaneous feedback.”

3. Build audience affinity: While reaching massive audiences is the primary driver of media brands’ social content distribution efforts, click-throughs and page-views do not tell the whole story. Though Plotz believes that social played a large part in growing his audience sevenfold in the past year, the company’s ability to drive audiences to its live events provides a context in which Atlas Obscura becomes indelibly branded.

Lawless says that Snapchat has provided Scripps Networks with an opportunity “to develop a relationship and brand affinity with younger viewers so that as they age up, they have affinity with us.”  Jonathan Meyers, Senior Vice President, Strategy & Operations at CNBC Digital says that social has offered a context in which his brand can connect with younger audiences as well. “Millennials are something like three times as likely to start a business” so he focuses evening content for social on entrepreneurship.

At Harvard Business Review, they are always thinking about the customer journey, according to Katherine Bell, Editor of HBR.org. “Use social to build the habits and trust. Then, at that moment when they are in real trouble at work, they’ll think of you… and you can save the day and earn their loyalty forever.”

Universally, the speakers and the attendees from DCN member companies that participated in the Content Everywhere member day are all embracing social platforms with a careful eye towards maintaining brand value and strategic resource allocation. As new platforms emerge, publishers are focusing on lessons learned from ongoing experimentation to make social work for audience building, brand affinity and—of course—revenue.

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