How to Test If Your Content Marketing is Working?



In today’s culture marketing messages are absolutely everywhere. Every time you turn on the TV, boot up your web browser of choice, or even just walk down the street you are almost instantly bombarded by thousands of brands, slogans, and carefully packaged products designed to attract your eye and extract your hard earned dollars. The marketplace is more crowded and competitive than it has ever been, making it incredibly difficult for new brands or ideas to break through to their target market. [Read more...]

How do newspapers really stack up?

newspaper stack

PaywallsThe big news in newspapers this week is that paywalls are starting to pay off for some of the bigger-circ publications. The latest data released by the Alliance for Audited Media (AAM – formerly known as the Audit Bureau of Circulation) indicates that while overall circulation figures for papers nationwide have gone down, major papers like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal have seen a boost in their total circulation numbers, in no small part due to their boost in digital subscriptions, which now account for almost 20 percent of all daily circulation.

One caveat to these cheery figures is that AAM allows newspapers to count individual subscribers who have both a print and digital subscription twice, as multiple media commentators have pointed out.

So where do these papers actually stand then?

With the Newspaper Association of America (NAA) recently releasing a Nielsen study they sponsored about consumer media engagement that reports newspapers have the highest “trustworthiness” among readers, and highest audience engagement with content and advertisements, it would seem the newspaper industry is out in full force to prove it still has efficacy – especially to advertisers.

The New York Times, among some other papers, could use a boost in advertising confidence. The paper’s Q1 earnings fell flat, with a 93 percent drop in revenue compared to the same time frame a year ago. Granted, these figures failed to include properties that the Times Co. sold at the end of 2012, but they still fell short of projected earnings. Likewise, advertising revenue was down 11 percent to $191.1 million from $215.2 million in Q1 2012.

Investor confidence is also down, with stock price of the NY Times Co. slipping this week, despite news of circulation bumps.

There’s no doubt that with all of the ways readers can access and share the news, quantifying exactly how large a given paper’s readership is can be immensely difficult. But measurements are only going to get messier.

In October, AAM will no longer require newspapers to submit a five-day average of their circulation figures for audience measurement and auditing, which has long been the standard measurement. This means that even a somewhat reliable indicator of audience size will be hard to come by, let alone comparable between papers.

Perhaps then newspapers will be left once again with but their strongest suit to deliver them advertising dollars: their ability to tell (or spin) a good story – this time about their reach, audience, and influence. Legacy and trustworthiness may help too, but only for so long.

Content writers and editors need to step up their game to keep up with free-flowing information from digital mediums.

It’s time for a new metric.

Jane Pratt at SXSW: Show your editorial hoo-ha

SXSWi 2013

Jane PrattWomen who climb to the top of the editorial ladder aren’t as uncommon as they once were but they’re still rare and, typically don’t reveal how they do what they do to just anybody. So we were excited to hear Jane Pratt—the woman behind JANE and Sassy, and more recently—talk not about how she got to where she is but what works and what doesn’t.


Specifically, we always want to know how to make great content and how to get an audience for that content. Below, our recap of Pratt’s advice (caution: private parts are mentioned, as is alcohol abuse).


“Surround yourself with people who are even freakier than you”

Here’s how Pratt described the people she works with: “Sometimes they get incarcerated, sometimes they get institutionalized,” but you shouldn’t let that stop you from hiring someone far different from yourself. In fact, Pratt’s rule of thumb for putting together a writing team for a new venture is to choose people who have completely different personalities from one another. Ideally, she wants “one person on the staff who the readers are going to love, one that they are going to hate, and one that they are going to fall in love with.”


“Use your hate for your boss to fuel your venture”

Back in the day when Pratt was working for Teenage, she would often find herself stomping back to her desk after a meeting with her boss. Her distaste for that magazine’s editorial style propelled her to become the editor of a national magazine (Sassy), at age 24. Pratt says: “Ignore anyone that says you might be underqualified for something.”


“Torch your bridges”

“If someone is asking you to water down your vision, you’re at risk of losing your passion.”


“Don’t be drunk all day”

What else do you need to say? Although Hunter S. Thompson might have sneered.


“Nobody likes you”

Pratt is always responding to reader comments. In fact, back in the days of Sassy she made it policy for writers to respond to all fan/hate mail received. In the digital age, her engagement with readers has only increased. Her advice for dealing with haters: “Always responding, validating what they’re saying and out some flaw in yourself.” Her example: “I’m sorry I forgot to take my antidepressants today,” which can turn a bitchy comment into an “OMG me too, I love you!” response.

Pratt says, “You should only feel like a failure if you’re not pissing off a lot of people.”


“Show your metaphorical vagina”

Compelling, meaningful content is created when there are no barriers between the writer and the audience. Pratt’s aesthetic is all about “showing your whole self in a very real way…going beyond transparency [can be] more naked than nudity.” How she gets her writers to do it? She challenges each of them “to try showing, one time, something [about themselves] that they have never shown anybody before.”

As for publishers going after clicks, likes and retweets, Pratt says, “I feel like they could put some of their time into figuring out what they really want to say and saying that.”


“Honey, I’ve been lying to you for the past 20 years”

Circulation numbers are bunk. Journalists know it. Publishers know it. Advertisers and readers do, too. The digital age makes it very difficult to lie about readership numbers so why try?

“Getting away from it being about sheer numbers” is what Pratt wants. “What I care about is how deeply the readers are invested.”

xoJane’s reader investment metrics include: comments per post, comment likes per post, and site visit duration. “The comments to me are the story.”


“Leave your toddler alone in the bath for as along as possible”

Ignore the anecdote about dying people supposedly regretting spending all that time in the office. If you want to build an empire, Pratt said, you need to devote the time and energy (hence forgetting your child in the bath).

HuffPo’s Soni: “Web publishing is as important as good reporting”

AOL Huffington Post Jimmy Soni

Photo courtesy of Jimmy SoniOutside of managing roughly 400 newsroom staffers at the sixth most-trafficked U.S. news site, 27-year-old Jimmy Soni recently found time to publish a biography of ancient Roman politician Cato the Younger and has caught the attention of publications like Forbes and AdWeek, who named him to their respective lists of media people to watch.

The former speechwriter talked to Ebyline via email about the Huffington Post’s direction, the future of news and what younger journalists need to focus on. His answers have been edited lightly for brevity.

You’ve been the managing editor of the Huffington Post Media Group for about a year now. What are the most important things you’ve learned in that time?

Among the many things I’ve learned, two stick out. The first is that, in the process of changing itself, the news business has invited a range of people who may never have considered themselves journalists into the tent. One of my closest colleagues at HuffPost—and one of arguably the smartest people who works there—used to be a social worker and play in a rock band. We have developers who write poetry and publish on our site. Our deputy managing editor started her career in real estate development. With the conventions of the news business changing, the people who make the business happen change too. I think that’s a good thing. The diversity enriches how we cover the news, and it challenges all of us to think differently.

The other thing I’ve learned is that we have a second-to-none team at HuffPost. I would put them on par with Twitter or Facebook in their understanding of the internet, and I think we rival any major news outlet in the country in how we cover breaking news and current events.

HuffPo has moved from being primarily an aggregation news site, to one that produces Pulitzer Prize-winning work. How do you see the company’s news coverage evolving?

We’ll always provide a mix of aggregation and original reporting to give our readers the best of what’s out there… I think going forward you’re going to see us do more innovative things with video—HuffPost Live being the foremost example here—and on mobile. We’ve launched a range of innovative apps and are about to re-release our core news apps.

What do you use as a benchmark for measuring success at the Huffington Post?

We use editorial impact, broadly defined. Have we shaped the national conversation about an issue? Do millions of people know something they didn’t know before, or have they had their preconceptions challenged or opinions reformed? Did people laugh? Did they cry? Of course we use data to inform these efforts, but data is only one component. We also think about whether we’ve been able to move, engage, and inform people, which is a high bar, of course, but I know we meet it more often than not.

What advice can you offer to younger people looking to write, edit, or manage digital media?

I’m a young person myself, so any advice I have should be taken with the requisite grain of salt. I would say that it’s important to learn that web publishing is as important as good reporting in the age of digital media. And when I mean web publishing, I mean understanding how content operates on the internet and how readers discover and consume content online. Anyone looking to break into the news business these days should give serious thought to how the web has changed people’s news consumption.

If you weren’t managing the Huffington Post, what else could you envision yourself doing?

Here’s the crazy thing: I’m one of those lucky people who has their dream job. Steve Jobs has that line in his Stanford commencement speech about running to work every day? I don’t run (it’s New York, after all, and one doesn’t want to show up to work sweaty), but I do walk briskly. I grew up a news junkie, a computer nerd, and a lover of history – I feel like I experience all of those at HuffPost, so there’s a genuinely no place in the world I’d rather be. If I were forced gun-to-my-head to do something else, I suspect I’d be trying to scratch out a living writing political biographies. That, or teaching high school American history or English…I was lucky to have great history and English teachers who led me to pursue my interests in those fields. I hope you’ll forgive a small but well-deserved shout out to my fifth grade teacher Mr. Baar and my high school teachers Mr. Palmquist and Mr. Nesbitt.

Patch co-founder describes success factors in hyperlocal profitability


When it comes to running a hyperlocal news site, Patch co-founder Warren Webster said it’s best for business to keep the locals in charge.

In a Fireside Chat panel with interviewer Jeff Bercovici from Forbes at the Street Fight Summit in New York, Webster explained that at the AOL-owned network of hyperlocal sites there’s “less decision-making in New York, but more decisions made in towns across America.”

Now at 903 sites, with AOL is growing, and at an incredible rate. In his chat with Bercovici, Webster revealed that 100 sites for Patch are profitable, and seemed pleased with that number.

“We couldn’t be happier with the trajectory,” said Webster.

Webster explained that for the sites that are profitable, “a major factor is tenure.”

He described how many of the longest-running Patch sites have proven to be the most profitable. Other success factors include a stronger staff in certain Patch communities, the difference in the type of community offering coverage, and the size and health of the community within a Patch location.

“The most encouraging sign is tenure,” said Webster. “Most have gone on to profitability.”

Webster revealed that national advertising played a small part in Patch’s success. Instead, Webster credits the regional sales reps for the site’s achievements.

“It’s really just local supporting local,” said Webster.

Webster went on to say that Patch has merged about 25 of the Patch sites, but the decisions were made by the people who live in those regions.