“We give people lots to do in the [virtual] experience, and that’s how you need to think about it,” Mark Bornstein, VP of marketing, ON24, told us in a webinar on webinars a few weeks ago. “What can I enable my audience to do, besides just watch my presentation?”
GovExec thought this way as well and started focusing on how and where they can produce high-level video content. “We constantly in our production were drawing on examples of TV network and news networks saying, ‘Oh, what if we could do stuff like that,’” said Haley Berling, senior manager, digital programs and events, GovExec.
“If there’s one thing to take away, it is the theme of evolution and constantly having to change. We realized very quickly that translating live events to digital events is not a one-to-one translation. It is actually a completely different language you start to speak.”
Fortunately for SIIA, Jenny Baranowski, managing director for SIIA’s CODiE Awards, speaks that language well. In planning the 2022 CODiE Awards Virtual Winner Announcements Celebration for Business Technology and Ed Tech—set for this Wednesday and Thursday at 4 pm ET—she will be giving finalists, colleagues and other interested parties across the globe a unique virtual experience. (You can register here for free.)
Since 1986, SIIA’s CODiE Awards have honored thousands of software, education, information and media products, leaders and teams for achieving excellence. They will be achieving their own excellence by staging this state-of-the-art, virtual, metaverse-inhabiting, engagement-filled celebration that can be enjoyed around the globe.
This will not be your older sibling’s virtual event. As Bornstein and Berling, said, times have changed. Pre-Show Networking with fellow technology leaders will take place in the NewSkyXR rooftop metaverse. No worries over whether to hug, shake hands, or elbow or fist bump. SIIA lifetime achievement award winner Feyzi Fatehi will discuss his recently published book Democratizing SaaS. The SIIA policy team will also be there to discuss the issues that matter most to your business. And a Gather Voices video booth can capture guests’ red carpet moments.
At 5 pm, the winners will be announced as networking continues with a live chat throughout the event. There’s even a virtual After Party at 6 pm to congratulate winners and create winner thank-you videos using the Gather Voices platform. There will also be an Innovation Showcase, featuring 10 entrepreneurs bringing innovative learning technologies to the education market.
All in all, it will be a good window into the latest possibilities for a virtual event. (A welcome video will help you navigate.) As you enter the metaverse, you’ll be taken through a wizard to create your personalized avatar. You can either start with a picture of yourself or select a starting avatar which you can then customize. Check out the clothing tab before you finish to put your best look forward. There will also be exclusive meet and greets, and special terraces to “gather” that can hold up to 20 people at a time. Signs will guide you to the right places.
It’s very cool when SIIA can practice what experts preach.
“We created a new virtual experience,” Berling of GovExec said. “We incorporated things like virtual and customer sponsor resource pages with interactive chat features in downloadable assets for our clients. We created a virtual press room and editorial resource library for our editorial staff. And then we built a simple theater digitally where users can easily consume the content within very intuitive, easy login experience and [more] chat…
“As a living resource hub of content of all types, and then a place where our VIP community could come and interact with us and each other, it was more of a digital experience. Over the course of the next six months we partnered with some fabulous partners and actually built and developed that event site into our own internal virtual event platform that we could easily deploy for multiple events.”
Welcome to the brave new world of virtual events. Again, come check us out Wednesday and/or Thursday by registering here.
It has been encouraging to see that news hubs—so popular during the pandemic—have continued to take center stage, with many focusing on DEI. The three finalists in the EXCEL Awards for Best Microsite present inspiring examples of hubs that offer information and resources to their audience and should inspire more loyalty and engagement.
During the pandemic, we saw many organizations act quickly to create coronavirus news hubs with free resources and articles. Almost every publisher I interviewed at that time said their hub has brought excellent engagement—and goodwill because most were paywall-free. I wrote at that time that “the success of these news hubs could provide a blueprint for future hubs around socially important and societal-impact topics.”
“When you have those moments, when people are intensely interested in your content for a very specific reason, everything feels changed,” Jeremy Gilbert said at the time. He is currently the Knight Chair for Digital Media Strategy at Northwestern University’s Medill School, but at that time was director of strategic initiatives at The Washington Post.
“We need to think how we can make our news and information [continue to be] relevant, but especially how we can make people aware about the width and breadth of coverage we can do… and how can we bridge [new subscribers] from caring about the news in the time of the virus to caring about the news when things are going better.
“You need to think, ‘What is it about the relationship that felt important?’” Gilbert asked.
Here are some of the accomplishments of relationship-building microsites from the American Chemical Society (ACS), American Institute of Physics (AIP) and Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB).
Provide helpful guidelines. The ACS Inclusivity Style Guide “aims to help American Chemical Society staff and members communicate in ways that recognize and respect diversity in all its forms.” General guidelines include how to involve diverse people in the creative process, avoid labeling people by a characteristic, and asking people how they want to be described and respect that language. It also tells you when and how to mention age: Use “adults aged 55 to 60 years,” avoid “the middle-aged”; use “octogenarians, centenarians,” avoid “the elderly, aging dependents.” (I just saw a letter to The Washington Post complaining about their use of elderly for 65 and up.)
Be aware of what you ask for. This came up in our webinar on talent recruitment, when it was noted that some organizations were giving far too many requirements for certain positions, especially internships. The ACS Guide includes a section on Forms. “Ask for only what you need, consider your audience, disclose who has access, allow for multiple responses rather than a single choice, where applicable.” AGB’s site on Board Fundamentals: Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion begins with key questions for your Boards to consider: “How diverse is your board? What perspectives are missing from the table and how can the board be more inclusive? How are potential new board members identified?”
Provide resources. AGB provides an Inclusion Toolkit with multiple resources within that. There are FAQs, a podcast on Strategic Board Leadership, and articles galore such as When an Institution Is Named After a Slave-Owning Founding Father. ACS gives numerous tip sheets, practice exercises, a training video, and topics to come. One “additional topic under consideration” I like is “How to respond when you make a mistake.”
Talk about well-being. AIP’s #BlackInPhysics Week 2021 Essay Series focused on burnout, “a critical topic as Black physicists confront systemic racism both within and outside of academia.” “To strengthen community building, we’ve augmented our social programming, which includes a cooking class led by a Black mental health therapist who is also a chef and a virtual painting class led by the members of a Black-owned art studio.” It adds gravitas to an organization that cares about its audience like this. They commissioned a “collection of articles written by Black physicists that covers burnout from different perspectives… co-published by Physics Today and Physics World.” ACS advises “when and how to mention someone’s health” and “avoid using disability-related terms to describe something negative.”
Be careful with your images. ACS includes a section on diversity and inclusion in images—“stereotypes in images, captions, editing photos, how to choose images.” One of my biggest pet peeves with stock images is that whenever just hands are used in a photo or image, they are usually male and white.
Please also check out our own hub/site titled SIIA’s Commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
An article last week on Medill’s site reported that “regularity is more important than intensity” when it comes to subscriber/reader retention. Analysis of millions of page views by digital subscribers of a business weekly for 6 months in 2021 showed that “having readers who read more often is 10 times more important than having them read more articles.”
“This research is significant because it shows the key to success in keeping readers is building habit, whether you’re a general interest metro daily or a weekly business publication with a more upscale audience,” said Tim Franklin, senior associate dean and John M. Mutz chair in local news at Medill. “The formula is the same. Do things that regularly lead readers back to you. Why is that important? The cornerstone of the new business model is reader revenue. That means reader retention is paramount.”
Arvid Tchivzhel, managing director of digital services at Mather Economics, said that the findings make sense for the industry. “Habit is more important than intensity,” he said. “I’d rather have someone read one article a day and come back than someone who reads six articles at a time and doesn’t come back for months.”
This may not be breaking news, but it’s still vital to note. Last year, Tara Lajumoke, managing director of FT Strategies, said that “if 2020 was ‘the year of subscriptions,’ 2021 [was] ‘the year of the light readers.’ It’s therefore worth investing in big drivers of engagement for loyal and casual readers—on the homepage, via newsletters and recommendation engines—and developing non-news propositions, so that those who come for the headlines will stay for the podcasts, or the crosswords.”
In what they called Project Habit, The Wall Street Journal also found habits to be crucial to reader retention, especially during the first 100 days after a reader had signed up. They found that “playing a puzzle had a more dramatic impact on reader retention than other actions the team had been promoting.” You start to understand why Wordle was worth so much to the New York Times.
Here are more findings from the Medill study:
Learn what topics drive your most regular readers. Stories about commercial and residential real estate resonated most for this business weekly. Second place went to a long-time political columnist. They were surprised that healthcare stories came in third, said the publication’s publisher, calling it a “something of a revelation. We know this is a big healthcare market, but we didn’t have a lot of data around how many subscribers are there because of that.”
Build up and market your popular writers/columnists. That columnist is “worth his weight in gold,” said Medill Spiegel Research Center research director Edward Malthouse, and brought in many subscribers that the analysis termed “political junkies.” Not surprisingly, they just hired a second politics writer. The finding “affirmed some of our hunches and gave us more confidence about doubling down in those areas,” the publisher said. “This will help us refine some of our audience strategies around more casual readers. We know they like our content, but we need to figure out how to get them to be more engaged as paying subscribers.”
Shift your strategy to keeping those regular readers engaged. Medill advises downplaying breaking news for “a balance of content that attracts your most loyal readers, the ones who will subscribe… Put the big photo and headline on the content that serves most of your readers.” Add a newsletter to address the specific, high-traffic niches, they urge.
Take advantage of synergy. Use “teaser” links to related content at the bottom of stories. Most links at the end of articles will take you to similar topic articles. Today for instance, I was reading about yesterday’s Nadal-Djokovic match in the NY Times, and links at the end took me to other articles about the rivalry. But Medill recommends that for this business publication’s loyal political junkies, links should also go to “real estate or healthcare news because of the synergies between those readership areas.”
Experiment with additional content areas. The publication also runs occasional reviews of restaurants and cultural events. “The analysis found that articles about restaurants and dining ranked in the top four areas of page views by prospective readers, those who visit the website but aren’t yet subscribing.” (The Washington Post Weekend section has gone all in on restaurant coverage.) Tchivzhel said that makes sense because it’s an affluent audience. Experiment with additional content areas—there’s nothing to lose. “We’re really trying to use the data to see how far we can expand our audience outside of traditional business,” the publisher said. “We see some potential opportunities if we put more resources behind those areas.”