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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

Why HBR’s Maureen Hoch is focused on high-touch content right now

May 18, 2020 | By Peggy Anne Salz, Founder and Lead Analyst – Mobile Groove @peggyanne

Media consumption in the Covid-19 era is hitting record levels as captivated audiences try to stay on top of non-stop news headlines and updates. It’s an upward spiral that is causing a massive shift in consumer behavior. But new research from J.P. Morgan shows that audiences are specifically gravitating to established media outlets that make sense out of news developments – not just report them. 

Harvard Business Review (HBR), is finding new success – and subscribers – with a lively mix of content. Their strategy combines in-depth analysis, podcasts, and social media experiments to put all aspects of our “new normal” into perspective. From how to maintain a work-life balance to how to cope with grief and loss, HBR is increasing reach and revenues by providing audiences analysis and answers.

To kick off our new series of DCN video interviews, I talk to Maureen Hoch, Editor of  HBR.org and Managing Director, Digital Content of Harvard Business Publishing. Hoch leads Harvard Business Review’s digital newsroom and the HBP Content Lab. She joined HBR as Senior Editor in 2013. And she played an instrumental role in the redesign of HBR.org, which has since garnered three Webby awards. We discuss how HBR is harnessing podcasts and narration, as well as a growing portfolio of new audience projects, to keep audiences informed and connected. 

Here are three key takeaways from our talk:

Speed matters, but advice triumphs

At first, Hoch says, HBR switched gears to publish information and insights at a “newsroom pace.” This cemented HBR’s position as a prime destination for hard analysis, around the business impact of the crisis. But the incredible success (“millions of page views”) of high-touch articles is shaping a new approach to storytelling that focuses on people first.

Audiences have a sizeable appetite for digestible content

Longer-form content is a hit with audiences, but audio versions of magazine articles knock the ball out of the park. HBR relies on a mix of narration and curation to engage audiences online and in-app. But this is just the start as HBR continues to look for more audience-first ways to make content accessible and forge the relationships that make it happen.

Audio content strikes a chord

Podcasts are driving audience engagement and subscriber numbers. But where is the money? Hoch discusses the models working for them to power monetization and increase retention. These include selling sponsorship on a CPM basis as well as more inventive models (“exclusive audio features”).

Hoch also offers some practical tips on how to emulate HBR’s success.

Watch the full interview: 

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