Navigating the digital disruption, again

by | Jan 20, 2016

The other day I read on Tech Crunch how “those in the media space, are probably closer to the head of the pack” in addressing issues related to a traditional industry’s ability to navigate the digital disruption. We in media have been in navigating this for over 15 years so yes we can easily echo that sentiment. We’ve had websites since the 90’s, we’ve been social since Facebook opened up to businesses in 2007. We all ran out and bought the first iPhone so we could understand where our audiences were going. It is now SOP that our journalists report from the scene with their phones. We have mobile editors now since mobile has taken over as the device that news is consumed on. This is all par for the course for today’s traditional news organizations. Remember Apple’s ad for the iPod you’ll have “a thousand songs in your pocket” well this has translated into tens of thousands of anything in your pocket. You can turn down your homes’ thermostat, read a magazine, pay your bills and book a vacation from your phone. This device has changed habits not just for news consumption but everything from retail to banking. So what does this navigation look like?

Content is king Yes, content is king and as traditional media, we’ve been doing the content thing for a while. Overall newspapers have been reporting, editing and publishing for quite some time, some of the oldest newspapers date back to the 1600’s. Those basic functions of content production are pretty core to a news organization, it is the processes needed to create our product. However, in this digital era what has changed are those core functions. The functions of reporting, editing and publishing are different now than it was even five years ago. Our audiences’ changing reading habits are driving the evolution of these core functions.

Once upon a time, we used to report the stories we thought were the best. Now we report the stories that our audiences think are the best because social media has given our audiences a voice and we learned to listen. In fact, listening has become a core function, we staff 3 shifts a day for social listening, it’s not an exclusive position but so extremely important that we must drive focus on it. If you’ve spent any time in digital marketing or around digital marketers you’ve heard the term “search authority” or “search engine ranking authority” which essentially means search engines are ranking you higher than others because you cover the basics. The basics being relevant content, people linking to you and actively searching for you.  This editing process is built into our daily content production. Every single story is looked at through the eyes of a Google user. These core functions of creating content have evolved and continue to evolve as we navigate the digital disruption.

Investments in technology

Legacy technology is a challenge that has hindered many of our efforts. We actively build strong roadmaps to eliminate as much legacy technology as we can but elements remain. In media, where a traditional workflow still exists and need to be maintained while building new digital workflows we often run into challenges. We have to run multiple applications and get them to talk to each other as seamlessly as possible.So we invest in software engineers to build and maintain these applications. It is vital that we review applications frequently and get new functionality on a roadmap as often as possible. We experiment and encourage new ideas, not to throw things against the wall but to encourage a culture of progressive thinking. Our technology, marketing and content teams work more closely than ever to achieve mutual goals. Silos of the past cannot exist.

Investments in talent

We strive to build our teams with talent from more progressive industries. We value digital skills over experience when applicable. We can bring up our teams in the knowledge about our industry, we let them learn and then let them lead in digital. It’s important that we surround ourselves with millennial mindset leaders – I didn’t say a thing about age – we focus on mindset more than an age. “Becoming is better than being” – Carol Dweck.  We treat digital as an opportunity for all staff as we continue to execute our transition plans. It’s important to include the big picture and show the staff how they get to be a part of it. We lead with digital examples, yes I realize some of us are over 40, but we are active on Snapchat. We constantly share relevant industry news centered around digital and encourage open discussions. Investments in planning

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” 

There is not one simple solution to the digital disruption but hundreds of small ones. Sharing our content on Facebook is not the grand savior of an idea. We step back and look at every element then bring them all back into one cohesive plan. I’m sitting here at my desk looking at a 120-page document that will be used to execute a new consumer feature on our main brand. This document is only one element in a yearly digital growth plan. “Know your numbers, know your business” We invest in data analysis. We know who is reading, when they are reading, where they came from and why they left. We dissect our digital audience into actionable elements and we watch it daily. If we notice a dip in audience traffic in a specific segment we look it over and create a plan to correct. We estimate and make goals around our analytics. The navigation of digital disruption is an ongoing process, technology, and audiences change and evolve constantly. This keeps the work we do interesting as we are constantly working to keep pace. As I finalize the 2016 plan I’m eagerly looking forward to executing it and starting work on 2017.