Building the future of journalism: analyse, atomise, amplify, archive

That’s why media companies should focus on flexible, agile and adaptable content to unlock long-term audience growth and to monetise in multiple ways. Here I offer four steps that will get your team ready for the future of journalism.

Step 1: Analyse

Let your teams try to get a holistic perspective on the audience they’ll be writing for. Analyse first, write later: At the Ebner Media Group we start by building personas; that is: a precise description of a specified audience group, with a name and a photo. We try to fully understand why, how and what for they will use our content. By content we mean news, reports, event content, webinars, apps, newsletters, features and – the king of our company – evergreen content

Content attracts audiences and personas define the tone of such content. Why? Because content for a young marketing manager is very different from the same story written for a marketing vice president. Not only is the tone different, the format will change, too. Every persona has their own preferred channels, formats and topics. 

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So, what tools do we use? 

We go to SEO tools like Searchmetrics to look for topics that have a high annual search volume and low competition scores with predictable conversion metrics. Google Trends will help us to add trend patterns while Buzzsumo gives us the same perspective from a social media angle. We then reconfirm the keywords by checking against Google Adwords to see the ad prices and environments. Once we’re confident that we’ve found a new topic we’ll build large universes with thousands of keywords. While the daily news routine then takes into account single keywords and smaller groups the yearly content plan will focus on uber topics and many keywords. 

This “analyse” strategy delivers constant, predictable and scalable audiences. 

From a staff perspective it works best to split the tasks into two groups: data and content. 

• Our audience development team handles the data part, like persona building, SEO research, social media analysis. This team is educated in management, marketing, analytics, big data, development or ecommerce. 

• Our transaction editors handle the content part of the procedure. They create the schedules, reconfirm keywords on social media, take into account what influencers write and know what other sources to tap into to enrich the content analysis. A good idea is to look at Amazon or ecommerce platforms, apps, forums, whitepapers, and similar channels to really understand what content or products the audience might be looking for in the near future. Predictability is the core essence of content success.

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Step 2: Atomise

Have you ever thought about the many content dimensions of a video? For example:

1. Text, generated through transcription

2. Photo slideshow from still images taken from the video

3. An audio podcast from the sound on the video

4. Illustrations that have been used and can be shared as separate images on social media

5. Great quotes or important facts that can be isolated and turned into new content elements

If your team thinks of videos as mini-evergreen content universes, then suddenly your video library really is a resource with thousands of content elements that can generate a large evergreen content database. Whenever I think about a video I now think about at least ten ways to turn that one video into many content elements. 

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But how does your content team implement such a strategy daily?

Let’s assume you have published an article about the future of British banks and financial institutions after the Brexit. You might now have updated that story right with new facts based on the US election. 

Now you can break your story apart to use all the minimum information units of your content to maximise the impact throughout the next weeks. Your story about British banks may consist, for example, of the following items:

1. Headline

2. Intro

3. Several paragraphs (let’s say 10)

4. Four photos

5. One video

6. One interview

7. One infographic

8. One list of several key facts/bullet points

Let’s say you have written 2,000 to 3,000 words altogether. Your story has since been published on your relevant website and printed in your newspaper or magazine. Your team may have shared the link on social media and in the daily newsletter as well. Your impact thus was on four or five channels during two days.  

But let’s break your content apart with our “New Ebner” transformation programme and create a list of potential what we call “Minimum Information Units” (MIUs). We then would have:

– An MIU each for headline, intro, all 10 paragraphs

– An MIU for each of the 4 photos

– Five MIUs for the video (video, audio, screenshots, text, key quote)

– Four MIUs for the interview (full text, 1 abstract, 2 key quotes with photo)

– An MIU each for the infographic and bullet points

We thus have 27 MIUs, plus your full post. So, for each photo and the video we already have 13 channels each and five MIUs (one video, four photos). That’s a content impact score of 13×5=65. Let’s presume all MIUs will have 10 channels each, the result would be 27 MIUs x 10 channels = 270 touchpoints to maximise the impact of just this one story about British banks. 

Step 3: Amplify

Amplification is a planned effort to maximize the impact of every MIU. This is in my experience best done by creating a touchpoint matrix of all the channels each MIU can be shared on (refer back to step 1 of our strategy above, because you’ve analysed every channel your audience uses). 

For example, a photo MIU can be published on Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, Instagram, your website, print, a forum, an external blog, a PR portal, and maybe four more channels; all with a link back to the full story. This would result in a total of 13 channels. 

The video can be published on Youtube, Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, Instagram, your website, a forum, an external video partner site, a PR portal, and maybe four more channels; that’s also a total of 13 channels. 

With this amplification strategy you can turn your editors into content marketers: by amplifying an excellent evergreen across multiple touch points, the editor will not only promote your brand, but will elevate his/her persona and lead to increased reputation for the whole team.  

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Amplification can also be used for converting your readers to e-mail newsletters. We oftentimes use tools like a welcome popup that shows up after two seconds on our website, then launch a scrollbar that’s permanently on each post. Some of our teams also use exit popups. These are linked with our automatised newsletters driven via RSS feeds. 

For monetisation we use Magento as our e-commerce platform together with WordPress for the websites and the Salesforce Marketing Cloud for trigger campaigns via e-mail. We’ll offer free downloads and other engagement products to keep our readers happy. Paid items will follow later through the same methodology. 

Amplification is monetisation on steroids. Want an example to take home to your team? Here’s an event package. 

• Let’s say this is an event about the future of British banks. The event video consists of the full video stream, the audio file, a written transcript of what has been said and screenshots from the video. That’s already four different content pieces. 

• The event video can then be repackaged as short clips with key messages, one version without sound but with subtitles (great for social media) and another with sound (for your website and partner sites). 

• You could further summarise key messages such as an infographic that’s published together with the full transcript of the video. The infographic will also be shared across all social media platforms and your newsletter. 

• And the full video and full audio (as a podcast) will be turned into premium content for paid subscribers.

• All the content pieces combined can be packaged as “The future of British banks” on your website, mobile app and tablet version, enriched with summaries and opinions by your editors. 

At Ebner such packages work great with subscribers who were not able to come to the event but want to read about what’s been going on as well as how this potentially impacts the industry or their business. 

We typically charge €5 to €20 for such digital packages, sometimes more for the print versions. And that’s only your event content package! Let’s say there were 20+ more great speakers and industry experts at the forum, amplified across 5+ channels: that makes 100+ content pieces for engagement from one single event.

Step 4: Archive

When your team publishes an evergreen the life of that piece of content has only just begun. An evergreen has to be updated many times per year – every 90 days is a good way to do this –, with new information, new photos, videos, important facts, relevant details and other elements that will make users want to read, like, share or comment the content again. 

And every 45 days your team will post the link to every story on all relevant social platforms. To do this continuously and in an efficient way, content needs to be archived smartly. Any CMS will let you do this if you know how to get the basics right. 

What your team needs is a CMS that will be able to not only archive full posts and stories but also all their MIUs as separate items, plus an asset management system with all rights and trademarks associated with the photos, videos, audios and infographics the staff uses. 

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Then, either through direct implementation, plugin or external service, the MIU should be linked with a scheduler and a tool that distributes them as set in the schedule. All of this generates meta information that in turn needs to be archived together with the content in the CMS.

The simplified final formula looks like this: Archive + MIUs + Schedule + Amplification = Success.

What are your thoughts on the future of journalism? 

Connect with me on Twitter @dominikgrau 

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