Wick Communications

The digital difference

In Online media on 5 Dec 2013 at 5:46 pm

npr

Does your website merely mirror your print product? Do you post headlines and links and little else on Facebook? Do you ignore platforms like Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and Pinterest?

If, in all honesty, you can only answer, “yes, yes and yes” to those questions, you are actively aiming to lose the digital revolution.

This week, a smart guy named Alan Mutter (you can read his blog here) noted how one news outlet is taking a much more sophisticated approach to audience development and retention. I wish I could say the focus of his praise was a newspaper, but it’s NPR.

On his blog (in a post that was later reprinted in Editor and Publisher), Mutter notes that the first step for NPR was noting the different demographics that responded to differing platforms. He says that NPR’s average radio listener is 49 years old, while the average reader of the website was 40. It skews even lower for the podcast. The average podcast downloader is 36. That may seem relatively insignificant, but it’s not if you want to truly tailor your product to your audience.

NPR – which has always provided only a survey of the vast world around us – works hard to appeal to each separate demographic with appropriate platforms.

Whether you know it or not, your demographic split is probably somewhat similar. Some of our newspapers have recently done nonscientific surveying that shows newspaper readership is in its 50s and above. Nationwide research suggests newspaper readers are 58, on average; news website readers are 49, or there abouts. I think it’s reasonable to assume your readership follows that pattern. …

Here’s what you can do now.

Think visually: There is a raft of empirical and anecdotal evidence to suggest younger people transmit information through photographs. You know, a picture is worth a thousand words! Don’t think so? Ask yourself why Facebook spent $1 billion for Instagram, or why that same social network and Google both reportedly offered even more than that for Snapchat.

You can respond by seeking and offering more photos and videos yourself. Solicit reader photos and run them prominently on your website and social media. Run photo galleries with outtakes from the newspaper. Start an Instagram account. At the Review, we publish old photos from Review archives on Instagram, using the #tbt – Throwback Thursday – hashtag. It takes three minutes and I do it simply to be more visual.

Change things online: This is one I need to focus on. Don’t just copy and paste your newspaper story into the website a day later. And don’t do the reverse either. Why would you buy a newspaper when the same stories were available online days earlier … for free?

I know, I hear you. This isn’t possible with each and every story. But when possible, rewrite leads, take a different angle, tell it in pictures.

Understand the platforms: If you have simply tied your Twitter account to your Facebook account and run nothing but dry headlines and links on any of these platforms, you are not using them properly. Facebook is a perfect place to start conversations. Ask questions, post pictures, solicit sources, boast of your print and online successes. Twitter users respond to wit as well as breaking news. Don’t just post sports scores every two minutes throughout the game. Give us some color. Who got a technical foul? What’s going on in the crowd? Create a hashtag that others might use in a viral way. If your print readers are older, what implications does that have for font, point size, etc.?

Think about your segmented audience. It is not monolithic.

Clay

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