Linus Birtles talks content and social at the Digital Publishing Innovation Summit

The Digital Publishing Innovation Summit earlier this month brought together key influencers and leaders from across the publishing industry. Our managing director, Linus Birtles, joined the panel discussion “What’s the Driving Force Behind Online Media – Content Monetisation or Audience Engagement?”.

Joining Linus on stage was Alex White, Head of Digital Product & Publishing at BBC Worldwide UK, Priya Kumar, Head of Content & Social Media at Jack Wills and Fiona Dent, Group Managing Director at Time Inc. UK.

The first topic up for discussion was social. The chair, Heide Myers from Meltwater, asked the panellists: “How do you use social to engage with your audience?”

With 20 million Facebook fans for its Top Gear brand, social is as important as web for BBC Worldwide. Curating the content for its Facebook page is a big job, but when the Top Gear controversy broke in early 2016, social channels erupted with chatter. “What’s important to remember”, said Alex White of the BBC, “Is that social is a massive echo-chamber where the loudest voices reverberate off each other. However, once the ground-swell disappears, it very quickly reverts to business as usual.” As Alex pointed out, the important thing to consider with social media is that opinions can change very quickly; don’t get distracted and ensure you focus on creating great content.

This led onto a question about the role of content creators. The chair asked: “Is it the publisher’s role to report or entertain?” The panellists agreed that both are equally important. As Linus pointed out, in B2B technology the subject matter can be very dry: “When you’re reporting on the latest chip technology, an enjoyable read doesn’t immediately come to mind. That’s why with our publication, The Register, we took a different approach and ensure all our articles have a liberal dose of wit and irreverence. We use tabloid techniques for broadsheet content, but we take our role to entertain very seriously. It’s hard to do well, it’s about finding clever journalists”.

At Time Inc., Fiona Dent says being a content creator is about “fuelling passions” and with over 60 media brands Time Inc. believes it has something that floats everyone’s boat. Including Yachting Monthly. It doesn’t believe that reporting and entertaining are mutually exclusive, as Fiona describes, “Even new recipes from Nigella are considered news to some.” The panellists agreed, entertainment and reporting come hand-in-hand, what’s important is engaging your audience.

Situation Publishing prides itself on an engaged audience and the next topic was all about content engagement: “What does content engagement mean for publishers today?”

Linus kicked off the discussion: “The real question is how do we measure engagement? What is the best measure and is it correct?”. Alex of the BBC chipped in “Clients think it’s about dwell time, impressions and click-throughs, but clients lose sight of what is important to their brand. Clicks, likes, etc. are not the best measure of engagement.”

Fiona of Time Inc. added: “My heart sinks when brands come to us and say they want to grow Facebook Likes. The real metrics are there, but don’t get used. We need to tap into attribution modelling – where did people come from, where they go, did it result in a sale.” Linus concluded the conversation: “Engagement means different things to different people; however, clients and agencies are often chasing clicks or impressions. To maximise return on a campaign it should be a true collaboration with the publisher. Not just pre-campaign, but refining and improving the campaign through its lifecycle. After all, the publisher knows its audience best.”

The discussion then moved onto ecommerce, integrating mobile into campaigns and how to keep your audience happy with native advertising. We will pick this up in our next blog.

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