The core of any media company company is developing content that resonates with the audience. “Develop” doesn’t quite capture the scope of the modern editorial role given the growing importance of user generated content, community building, curation and aggregation. But so much attention is given to WHAT content is delivered that sometimes the HOW gets short shrift. By how, I’m talking about the means by which content is served up to the audience – beyond the obvious need for great usability – and the hooks that get people engaged. Here are a few ways to do the “how” and I welcome thoughts on other ways to make it happen.
1. Create Debates
There are always hot button issues that people feel strongly about one way or the other. Points of contention are great ways to rally people on both sides and engage an audience. Even in the business world, there can be heated debates over topics like Brazing vs. Welding – the best way to join metal. And in the Financial Services industry, one raging issue now is Social Media: Compliance Nightmare or Client Development Opportunity. Media companies often write about contentious topics but what if they held debates and let people duke it out through one-on-one discourse? Here’s an example. And here’s another very different execution.
Video debates might be even more powerful.
2. Vote and Predict What Your Peers Think
Many web sites do some kind of audience polling. But there’s an opportunity to take polling to the next level. Take Scoople, an iPhone app that lets people “play the news.” After reading an article, you can vote on the topic, try to guess what others think and see how well you can predict people’s feelings on current topics. It’s fun and engaging. And think of the PR and revenue opportunities that could result from a media brand becoming the authority for what decision makers and influencers think.
3. Award Educational Credits
Much has been written about gamification, which Wikipedia defines as “the use of game design techniques, game thinking and game mechanics to enhance non-game contexts.” Examples of gamification abound in consumer apps and web sites. Four Square features badges, Klout’s offers perks and the user’s incentive is typically about collecting points or achieving a certain status level for community recognition or bragging rights.
But what about gamification in business media? Business is based on achievement so it likely will have a role to play. Here’s a very practical application for some business media brands: give educational credit for reading the content. Educational credits are a “point-based” model with practical benefits. It doesn’t apply to every industry, but has big potential for ones that require certifications, licenses or a certain level of continuing education.
MedPage Today does this in the healthcare field. Each article alerts clinicians to breaking medical news, with summaries and actionable information enabling them to better understand the implications. When people read content on their site, they can actually get continuing medical education credits at no cost. Most content is gated and requires a registration, so they collect valuable data from their audience.
With all of these concepts, what’s critical is understanding the audience. It’s about having some insights or hypotheses and testing them out in agile ways that will ultimately lead to success in digital media. Because when it comes to commanding an audience’s attention, HOW to hook them can be just as important as WHAT to focus their attention on.