Future started its rebranding process internally in January and is gradually rolling it out with a brand new visual identity featuring an new logo and will also be unveiling an extensive refresh of their corporate website. The company says the rebranding represents the continued expansion of the company, driven by strong revenue performance in ecommerce and events, supported by a large investment in digital assets.
***Julian March will be at the Digital Innovators’ Summit to explain how Future approaches the “coming of age of digital”. Registration for DIS 2018 (19-20 March in Berlin) is now available. You can still save hundreds of euros on the registration price when you book by 13 March. Secure your place here.***
At the sharp end of the digital innovation, managing director of Games, Music and Entertainment Julian March manages a massive portfolio. Gaming and entertainment brands span PCGamer.com, gamesradar.com, PC Gamer magazine, kotaku.co.uk, Official Xbox and Official Playstation magazines, The Edge, Retrogamer and Games TM, as well as events such as the The PC Gaming Weekender, PC Gaming Show at E3, and the Golden Joysticks Awards. These brands alone attract more than 17 million monthly website users, reach more over 25 million followers on social while print magazines still manage circulation figures of over 200,000 a month. Then there are a large range of technology titles, music titles, photography and home interest titles and the added responsibility to create videos in support of a bulk of these titles.
Technological adeptness within a company is very important to drive digital innovation and growth, no matter how large the portfolio, says March. This is why an important element of the Future’s technological advance strategy was to build and own their own proprietary systems. “We have our own publishing system, our own ecommerce system and we’re developing our own ad technology stack, all of which are optimised through a rigorous process of hypothesis-based evolution to continuously use data to optimise our performance.”
“Hypothesis-based evolution,” explains March, “is a process in which they embark on cycles of hypothesis, continuously testing and monitoring the results to adjust the hypothesis and correct the system. If data is used correctly within these cycles it can be used highly effectively to aggregate marginal gains in functionality.”
“One example that immediately came to mind when putting this system to practice,” says March, “was with the launch of our own video player on our websites. Apart from the obvious advantage that we could take control of how we publish and monetise video, as opposed to via Youtube, we could also employ this principle to be able to “stay on page” to offer the correct suggestions for more views to each specific user.”
These suggestions are, however, not only limited to the user profile but also to the device they are using. By optimising the discipline of hypothesis-based evolution we can create the best optimum experience specific to the user AND the device they are using.” Should a user be on mobile, for instance, the system would not want to drain page loading times by making too many demands. But the opposite can be done if a user is on PC.
Future’s video player is a mixture of click to play and autoplay, and they are creating over 200 original pieces of honest, useful and relevant brand-safe video content every month.
The commercial value of content
In a similar way, by utilising data, it has become possible to truly understand the value of various forms of content. Everyone knows that not all forms of content are created equal. The creation of articles traverse a wide scope – from news to reviews to buying guides – and each of these types have a different value. While, in the past, everyone knew that a guide had a longer shelf life than a news report, they can now pinpoint the value of each piece of content.
“In this way we are now starting to understand the balance of content types we need to create for each of our different websites. This assists us to understand the earning power of each piece of content to optimise the commercial yield from the effort we put into our creative processes.”
By merging data analytics to this approach, Future can theoretically determine the return on investment, so to speak, of every single piece of content they create, but for practical reasons they rather apply trends to content types. This improves efficiency within the entire content creation process, from writing, to graphics, to video.
Search, search, and more search
Data, says March, is also being used to improve search functionality, not only to ensure that users find the information they are looking for on Future’s websites, but also to ensure that content is specifically created to supply answers to user’s future searches.
“It is important that all our digital content creators are literate in analytics and search. It’s a vital part of our digital literacy. We also pay close attention to what search terms our users are using to look for the information they want. When people search for specific information. They need to find it on Future websites.”
But that’s only one part of the strategy. “We also use data to embark on a continuous process of discovery to make sure we are creating content specific to search terms. This means that where we do not have the content already, we need to create content to match future searches.
“We are looking not only to what people are searching for to arrive on our site but also what people are searching for at large. This enables us to tailor our future content. With this kind of research we answer the question: ‘what should we write about?’ ”
This is important, warns March, because “we need to be very careful that we diversify not only our revenue streams but also our traffic sources. We cannot become overly dependent on specific traffic referral sources”.
More about Julian March
Julian March started his career with Future in September 2016 as managing director, Media, before becoming MD of Games, Music and Entertainment a year later.
He was previously senior vice-president Digital at NBC News where, among other achievements, he launched the world’s first cross-platform newsroom collaboration tool. Prior to joining NBC News in January 2014, he was director of Online at ITV, where he established digital as a profitable business unit for the broadcaster.
Julian spent 11 years at Sky News as executive producer of the channel’s output on TV and digital and then as head of Digital. He also spearheaded the newsroom’s transformation to a multi-platform organisation.
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