A mobile strategy for a local media company

If I were to outline a mobile strategy for a local media company here is what it would look like. What am I missing?

Product approach

  • Provide a unique experience
  • Focus on a strong brand, good performance, good design and provide easy to use services
  • Define business objectives
  • Be transactional
  • Make it fun
    • Gamify local news and information if you can

Audience approach

  • Recognize mobile users are task driven and formulate everything around that
  • Know what users are doing on mobile devices in the market
  • Sharing+Location+Socializing

Mobile content strategy around local news and information

  • In general
    • Define what’s in and what’s out. Don’t be everything to everyone.
    • Adhere to the business objectives
  • News
    • Daily flow of information for just mobile users
      • You picks
      • Community’s picks
      • Traffic/weather/breaking news
      • Easy submission tools where content goes live immediately
    • Quote of the day with some context
    • Events to go to right now, later today, tomorrow, next week
    • Daily poll
    • Social flow of local news, information and people
  • Sports
    • Information unique to mobile users
      • Scores
      • Video highlights
      • Games, player recaps
      • Best of local personalities/bloggers
    • Best sports performance of the week
    • Athletes/games to watch this week
    • Events
    • Social flow of local/national/collegiate sports news, information and people
  • Search
    • Local search for things to do right now
    • Local business directory of places to eat, drink or get service right now

Business model

  • Location based opportunities based on preferences, behavior
  • Coupons
  • Deep discounts
  • Virtual goods
  • Buy photos


  • Measure the quality of the interactions
  • Measure real-world interactions
  • Reward influence in real-time

Some links I referenced for this post:


Every business and brand is a publisher and vice versa

I find the new media discussion on personal branding and whether its ruining journalism to be one big waste of time. But it has been entertaining.

That shift actually occurred about three to four years ago when, in my view, skills like community management, content strategy and content marketing became more well known and part of normal business practices. It’s time to move on.

The one glaring problem that maybe the example between Steve Buttry and Gene Weingarten proves is this: Traditionally, media companies and journalists haven’t viewed content as a business asset, while other industries outside of publishing have embraced it.

Journalism has an ethic of “objectivity” that pushes us to pretend we are objects, not people. And you can’t develop a personal brand without being a person and being seen as one. – Buttry

The truth is every business, person, brand or journalist with a blog, Twitter account or Facebook fan page is a brand and a publisher. So is the guy sitting in his mother’s basement uploading videos on YouTube.

Of course, the problem with the whole argument here is that Weingarten is a brand, and he kind of knows it. He even says as much in his own way.

When I was a hungry young reporter in the 1970s, I thought of myself as a superman, an invincible crusader for truth and justice — even though, looking back at old pictures, I now see that I resembled an emaciated weasel in unattractive clothing. My goals, however, were unambiguous, and heroic: 1) Get great stories that improve the world. 2) Get famous. 3) Get doe-eyed young women to lean in close and whisper, “Take me.” – Weingarten

Two must-read content strategy links

Came across two posts Sunday night that really define and provide clear tasks for any content strategist out there.

Corey Vilhauer provides a detailed methodology to content strategy that is the most comprehensive list of tasks and approaches I’ve seen to date.

We all want a methodology – a guide to doing what we are going to do. We want it for us. We want it for our clients. We want to take the amorphous blob that is content strategy and define WHAT THAT MEANS on a task-related level. – Building a Content Strategy Methodology in Several Thousand Easy Steps

The second comes from Ahava Leibtag who lays out how following the money is one step a content strategist cannot ignore.

Our job, more than any other, is to understand our clients’ business model, so we can apply what we know about how the numbers at the bottom grow fat and green to the planning and publishing of content. – The 3 Unbreakable Rules of Content Strategy

A local, social-first approach to the bin Laden story

I’m still a bit out of it from a lack of sleep but it’s worth sharing a few notes about a local, digital approach to covering the announcement that Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. special forces on Sunday.

I had a unique perspective since Sundays are the day I’m responsible directly for online content updates – which feed mobile – user submissions and the conversations that occur on social channels for brands associated with a local newspaper and television station.

I first learned that President Barack Obama would give a major national security address via Twitter shortly after watching the Tampa Bay Lighting defeated the Washington Capitals in overtime, 3-2. (As a Penguins fan who knew the night was going to get any better).

I turned on CNN and the first thing Wolf Blitzer said was that the announcement would not be on Libya. My gut reaction was bin Laden is dead, which makes it a relevant story for just about every American, and that was soon confirmed.

My first thoughts from a local news perspective likely aren’t surprising. Information is spread on social networks faster and with more emotion than any news site. Some go as far as calling it a people-first approach.

I immediately turned to Facebook and Twitter. My thinking from a local perspective was simple: What outlet allows me to reach the best audience and add the most value? It helps that our followings are strong. The TV branded Facebook page has more than 19,300 fans and the newspaper brand has more than 7,500. Twitter followers are 5,400 and 3,400, respectively.

It started simple with a social update that Obama will give a major address on national security and answering questions from people wanting to know what’s happening. The second update was the confirmation and opportunity to interact with others on the news while giving access to more opportunities to consume information as it happened.

At this point, once the news was confirmed and I had access to an Associated Press update I then posted a story, photo and links on the two news sites.  That was immediately followed with a social push asking for our local community’s reaction and offering a place they could talk to one another.

And the night and early morning hours progressed in similar manner between content updates and conversational opportunities on social channels.

My coverage wasn’t perfect by any means, and I know of at least three opportunities I missed.

Here are some of the things I learned. What did you learn?

  • I read every comment on Facebook and every response on Twitter to direct questions that I posed. It helped me learn the next move and what content updates may be useful.
  • The audience on Facebook and Twitter changes so much hour-by-hour that the amount of responses and engagement stayed consistent.
  • I could feel people’s emotion via the comments on social networks, which was a better gauge than any online metrics could provide.
  • People from the local community were more apt to click on link to value-added and analytical information than the latest news update.

By the numbers

  • 13 Facebook updates
  • 437 Facebook comments
  • 17 Twitter updates
  • 28 Twitter responses

Online editing is changing at news organizations

Jonathan D. Woods

The role of online editors at news organizations is evolving but I don’t think people are paying close attention.

Information, engagement and marketing around digital brands on multiple publishing platforms have led to this movement of newer skills and tactics as audience habits changes and more channels open.

Good journalism, without doubt, remains the driving force, and the online editing skills in Ryan Thornburg’s presentation are vital to the role. I take nothing away from the online editing tips offered by Joe Marren. They are still valid today and offer a sound base to get started as a digital news and information provider. Grammar, style and communications skills are a given.

The evolution of the role today, however, is rooted in skills like content strategy, content marketing, analytics measures and community management, and that’s where I’m focused.

“Combine a content strategist, a journalist and a marketer, a salesperson, a touch of Walt Whitman and you’re halfway there,” says content marketing strategist Joe Pulizzi.

So how did this transformation happen? As media companies are moving from playing baseball (traditional, slow and often predictable) to playing hockey (lots of action, unpredictable and success comes by skating to where the puck will be) so too goes the evolution of redefining the role of online editors.

Online editors are now being asked to define and implement strategies to build stronger brand followings on Facebook and Twitter. Storytelling is more complicated and strategic for online, mobile, social outlets and apps because the audience demands it. That little thing called revenue cannot be ignored either.

“If publishing is focused on the monetization, engagement and delivery of its content, it needs to know that it’s not just about making content work for you, it’s about transforming publishing and how it approaches content,” says Marisa Peacock.

Here are a few examples:

  • Online editors are going from being attached to newsroom to being part of product teams focused on audience.
  • Online editors once copied and pasted newspapers stories and broadcast scripts and video to the web, but now need to be content strategist with keen knowledge of the audience.
  • Online editors used to rely on in-house promotional opportunities, but now need to be versed in content marketing techniques.
  • Online editors were use to pushing news from a big megaphone in a one-way manner, but now must engage in real-time interaction, be authentic and transparent in all they do.
  • Storytelling used to be limited to posting text, photos, video and a few links in a package, but now involves tone, voice, imagery and a call to action.

So why are these new skills needed? Well, a teenage said it best recently.

“In a world where attention is a scarce resource, your definitive content needs to stand out from the crowd and be worth the time spent consuming it,” says a teen with the handle Fryed7 in an amazing post called ‘The Definitive Guide to Awesome Web Content’. “It must be remarkable in order to have conversation about it. It must also be jaw-droppingly awesome so reactions and remarks are positive.”

What other skills are now needed for online editors at news organizations?

Resources used in putting this post together

Information and content are not the same thing

I found this video today but it’s been around since February 2009. It’s one of the more amazing and insightful three minutes I’ve spent in recent months.

I have to credit Kristina Halvorson and Mellisa Rach via Twitter for helping me find it.

Intro from Mickey McManus

“Information is a slippery idea, all too often we confuse information with the form that it takes. We confuse the medium for the message. To help explain what information really is, we’ve created a short film, take a look.”

An audience-first approach

I want to nudge the conversation in what I hope is in a healthy manner, and hopefully along the way spur a five minute strategy session, even though that has become a dirty word it seems.

There is a lot of talk, actions and decisions being made at the media company I work at in Iowa because of the tactical and organizational approach of separating content from product.

The vision that spurs the strategy of the company is clear. Organize and act for speed and flexibility. We want to reach people where they want, how they want and when they want. We want to enable users to tune a device of their choosing to find information and engage with communities. We must play a focal point in the local information ecosystem, and a key part of that is creating and participating in many nodes within it.

The network is not one of stages but of tribes, and this is a better metaphor for new media. Tribes have leaders (or many leaders), and it is the leaders themselves, not their stages that give them authority. – Terry Heaton, March 2009

I am in no way implying that separating content creation from product development is a faulty approach. Quite the opposite. Collecting content in the first instance with key elements tagged to easily find relationships that can contribute to the nodes is one tremendous step in the right direction.

Information architecture for news by Stijn Debrouwere

But I want to nudge the conversation toward  a newer focus: collecting content for audiences. For example, media company A wants to participate and engage with audience and community B. How can the entire organization take a high level solution view to use our resources, skill, technology and the known and unknown platforms, products and devices to accomplish that goal? (Read a few lessons learned from an audience-first approach.)

But that’s only one piece, I admit. We ultimately want to have fun and make money, right? So we must look from the enterprise level at content as a way of doing business.

What would happen if a content strategist, content collector or information designer, user experience guru, influence marketer and product manager all got in the same room to tackle the example above? Five skilled people spending five minutes and are empowered to make decisions who then deploy, listen, adapt, deploy, listen, adapt, and so on.

Now that would be fun.

What do you think?

It’s time to change the rules

Maybe it’s just me but it seems in these times success is harder to recognize. But one message within that statement I want to make clear is that success is certainly nothing to stop striving to accomplish.

Two conversations that are ongoing right now which get me excited and appear as essential elements to successful business objectives and profitable products are the ones taking place on content strategy and context.

Both philosophies are quickly gaining momentum with smart and passionate people behind them who are engaged in meaningful conversations.

Context is information that informs your understanding of the world, literally allowing you to derive more meaning from an experience. Context is primary. You actually need context before you can make much sense of what’s in front of you. – Tristan Harris

Content strategy isn’t a bunch of tactics. It’s a plan. It’s a well-founded plan, fueled by your business objectives and user goals. An achievable plan, created with your current business reality, content assets, and limited resources in mind. A future plan, for what’s going to happen to your content once you send it off into the world. And, most importantly, a profitable plan, where your measures of success ultimately have impact on your organization’s bottom line. – Kristina Halvorson

What’s proving to be equaling as exciting is seeking the intersection of both those disciplines and applying them in smart ways. I actually believe that neither context nor content is king. I have to believe it’s somewhere in the middle combined the values that users bring to the table that are recognized by brands and publishers.

I wrote about 10 months ago that it was time for the full-court press. I reread that post recently and realize I haven’t done enough to push the envelope or challenge norms to reach the intersection I describe above. I keep worrying about the rules instead of redefining them. I wasn’t part of the Cult of Done.

I wrote then about how relentless effort and the fearlessness to work in unconventional ways leads to a better chance for success. Along the way, I image, some of the rules are rewritten as some risks reap rewards and lessons are learned from failures. That’s the avenue I now see clearer.

I recently had a conversation with online content team members I work with that focused on moving forward. The talk was all about ability, urgency, content development and having fun. The talk was really about new rules.

Here are some of those new rules. I hope you comment and add your own.

The article page is dead: The old building block of journalism — the article — is proving to be inadequate in the current onslaught of news. I’ll argue here that the new building block is the topic. – Jeff Jarvis

Brands are still alive: Consumers are actually more receptive and actively engaged with brands than ever before. According to our study, nearly 40% of consumers report having “friended” a brand on Facebook and/or MySpace and 26% have followed a brand on Twitter. – Garrick Schmitt

Packaging without an engagement strategy won’t work: Indeed, we are programming the social web around our brand hub, which requires a consistent flow of engaging and relevant social objects. Social objects are the catalysts for conversations — online and in real life — and they affect behavior within their respective societies. – Brian Solis

Content strategy is the next big thing: It’s a way of thinking that has direct impact on the way we do business. And the way we do business must include a clear focus on how we create, deliver, and govern our content. Because more than ever before in the history of commerce, content has become one of our most valuable business assets. – Kristina Halvorson