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The Economist has caught the eye of late, with notable successes in creative programmatic and experimentation with social platforms.
I caught up with Heather Taylor, Director of Content Strategy at The Economist, to ask a few probing questions.
What does content strategy at The Economist entail? And is it easier or harder doing it within an organisation so well known for great content?
I work on the Content Solutions side of the business so I create content programs for our sponsors.
It’s just as important for me to understand how our audience consumes The Economist as it is for the editorial side.
I'm looking for what content and ideas have most value to our readers, while creating value for the brands we’re working with.
I’m really lucky to be working at a brand like The Economist. We have editorial guidelines and standards that help us maintain a trusted relationship with our readers, and allow us to maintain the quality of content our brand is known for.
That’s why brands and agencies want to work with us. We value transparency.
Our relationship with our readers comes first - and that ends up serving our clients very well.
I think in this age of sponsored, native and branded content, publishers still must stay true to themselves. If you erode your brand, you lose your value and the trust readers have in it.
To what extent is personalization a priority, across the website and your contact strategy?
Personalization is important, but not at the price of showing an entire story.
On the ad side, we have cookie-based targeting that allows us to show content to readers based on their interests and what they’ve read.
We also create program pages that surface content based on a user's entry point or base it on what content they tend to consume more of.
So for example, if they keep watching video, we’ll surface more video content in the mix, or if they come from a social channel, we may surface shorter-form content to start.
At all points, we’ll allow them to go deeper into stories but help bring to light the content topics and types they engage with more.
But technology is just a set of tactics. From a strategic point of view, we need a deep understanding of our audience in order to serve them.
Personalization is just one way we can do so, but we have to create the right content in the first place for that approach to even happen.
What's The Economist view on ad blockers?
Let me give you my take on ad blockers. People are going to block ads. They have been doing that for a very long time.
But people block ads because the targeting isn’t right, the frequency of placement is intrusive, and the ad gives no value.
The programs we do with clients are about digging into new research, new POVs and new results that can actually help our readers with their day-to-day business decisions.
We make any portal into those programs be something engaging and enlightening, so even if that idea isn’t applicable, our readers are not thrown off by it, or think it’s out of place.
How important is video in your content strategy?
Videos used the right way are very key. We are visual creatures. I think videos can help us get a quick understanding of a topic or it can be used to move us.
Videos that go viral tend to have an emotional hook, because people like to get that thing that makes them feel good and to share it so others can feel the same way.
Also some topics and ideas lend themselves better to video, especially those that help make better sense of complex issues.
But video isn’t the be all and end all. I think video is a part of a bigger world of content - especially when your audience has specific needs.
When we conducted our Missing the Mark research we actually found a high percentage of business leaders looked more to long form text when researching a business idea, or looking further into a business-related matter.
Video is a great way to grab attention and pull people into deeper content, but you still need a healthy mix, especially when you’re looking to communicate more than a sound bite.
Part of The Economist's Missing the Mark research
We've seen The Economist experimenting with a variety of social platforms. Do you foresee content being consumed more & more away from economist.com?
Yes. But that’s what’s happening across the entire industry.
More and more, individuals are using social channels as their portal to the internet so they look to consume everything there.
It’s about being where the readers are, and understanding that it’s not about page views on one site, but the consumption and engagement of content everywhere across the web.
We know how to communicate especially well with people who like The Economist. We can find people like that everywhere.
How much testing do you do around subscription selling on site? How do you hold back & not make the site too distracting while maximising conversion?
This is not specifically my area but I know that we do a tremendous amount of testing and have learned that engagement with our content is the key to selling subscriptions.
Our marketing is true content marketing in that the content is both our marketing and our product.
For more on The Economist, why not read the following: