How News Corp is growing its digital audience

Content curation is challenging traditional social media marketing for publishers and triggering a rethink at the media giant around audience engagement

The new content-heavy digital age is pulling publishers away from traditional, marketing strategies towards building strategic and highly targeted communities using their own channels.

Like many others in the media sector, News Corp has been a victim of traditional tunnel-visioned approach to social media strategies as well, said its general manager of consumer products and technology, Stuart Waite.

Traditionally, the publisher/newspaper paradigm was that a consumer would have to buy the newspaper in order to get the news, he told CMO. But the Web has completely changed that. Today, news is part of a large pool of digital content that the audience consumes on their terms via their device.

“The media sector has been obsessed with trying to attract the audience into the network, and holding them there at all odds. The Internet has broken those barriers down and where the conversation is going on is happening outside of our network,” he claimed.

“We’re now just one in a very diverse and fragmented ecosystem. Working inside that ecosystem is very challenging for an organisation like ours. This is because the fragmentation of the audience is a fragmentation of the message. I think we’re a victim of this, as are a lot of media companies – the kind of scattergun, sporadic approach to marketing is hugely challenged right now.

“It needs to be even more targeted than ever before. It’s almost down to the individual.”

Keeping the conversation going

While publishers like News Corp need to embrace social media and have conversations with their audience on those platforms, Waite said publishers also need to provide a real value-add to that audience to bring them into their own networks in order to continue the conversation.

“That’s the real challenge,” he said. “The expectation that our audience will just come is gone. We need to provide really great experiences, really great initiatives and custom value propositions to ensure they do come into our network. “There’s no overarching reason for people to come to our network every day, unless we provide a really strong value proposition around that. This means we have to go out to where they are, talk to them in a way they are used to – and then aggregate that conversation back within our network.”

In order to achieve this, News Corp recently engaged real-time social curation company, Livefyre, to integrate its aggregated content tools on almost all of the publisher’s sites. This strategy offers new ways of leveraging the 24-hour news cycle, allowing News Corp to share breaking news and cover key events like sport in real time while encouraging user involvement through hashtags, photo sharing and live comments – all in one place.

News Corp is also working on implementing a Livefyre live blog feature, which will curate all social content across its sites.

“For me, it is about fishing where the fishes are, so we have a massive audience across our network, but it is not the only audience,” Waite said. “The audience is everywhere – and the conversation is ongoing everywhere on social media. That is why we are using tools like Livefyre and our own CMS platforms, and are training our people in a different way, to make sure they can have a similar conversation with our audience, regardless of where that audience is.”

A personalised real-time experience

Waite said there is added pressure to build a personalised experience within News Corp’s overall strategy, which is to deliver the live experience, the local experience and the personal experience.

“That is incredibly challenging in this hugely fragmented space,” he said. “For the marketing team, it is even more difficult, because they are used to having a handful of marketing messages to a very well thought out and organised set of marketable customer segments.

“Today, this is fragmented, very competitive and people are collecting data around individuals in vast quantities. What you do with that data changes the way you engage with those individuals.”

CEO and founder of Livefyre, Jordan Kretchmer, said the biggest problems facing publishers today is that most still don’t have a distribution channel for their content without using Twitter and Facebook.

“The problem with those channels is that they’re extremely noisy,” he said. “And because they’re noisy and because Facebook actually filters out content that is not paid for, publishers need their own tools to create a distribution channel where they can send content directly to their audience, to their mobile device, or even just email their audience directly.”

One of Livefyre’s products is a personal activity feed, where a user can follow topics, editors and different people around the site the same way they can follow people on Twitter.

“The difference is this is just within the one publisher’s site,” Kretchmer explained. “For instance, as a publisher creates breaking news or covers a sporting event, the tool notifies the user directly that there is new content they should take a look at, without having to go through Twitter or Facebook. So this is huge. This is the future of content distribution for publishers.”

Measuring audience engagement

According to Kretchmer, what brands and publishers need to realise is that the management of their own community on their own site is what should be measured, rather than simply tracking traditional social media management.

“Measuring how many users are converting to registered users is the most important metric, so the more forward-thinking brands and publishers are starting to take the resources they have and focus them on engaging with the audience on article content in order to show that there is a real community centre there,” he claimed.

News Corp has also been looking at aligning the Livefyre tool with its core strategy for users of particular products. For example, Waite said the publisher is looking at a product called rolling coverage, or live breaking news, which implements some of Livefyre’s core capabilities around particular events breaking in real time, and then aggregates the conversation happening around those particular events.

“That is part of our over-arching strategy from a product and technology perspective, and from an editorial experience perspective,” Waite said. “We never know what is going to happen day-to-day and we need to know how to act quickly. We need to both aggregate our own content and what our opinion writers and journalists are saying about a particular event, as well as aggregate the conversation around that particular event from social media.”

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