Bright and early on Nov. 2, content lovers from across the magazine industry piled into a conference room to learn about “Using Audience Engagement Data to Improve Editorial Content” at the second day of the 2016 Folio: Show.
Katherine Bell, editor of HBR.org, told the audience that traffic is not necessarily the most important measure of an article’s success.
“What we’re going for is impact,” she told the Folio: Show audience. “We’re trying to make the world a better place by improving people’s work lives…That’s a tiny little change but it will have a big impact over all if lots of people make that change.”
Bell said that the Harvard Business Review was able to track the success of its articles and find correlations between high page counts, running themes, and author demographics. (Posts by women do better…)
By figuring out correlations between successful posts and an author’s gender, HBR was able to better understand the work habits — and thus, strengths — of its employees.
However, regardless of the data, quality is always priority, Bell told the audience. The editorial team has had to set up safety nets “to make sure out standards are high for ourselves,” even when click-bait can give easy access to a lot of readers.
Andy Reid, president of digital at Hanley Wood, closed out the session and showed how his company uses data to better capture their audiences. At the heart of his presentation is the idea that B2B publishers can write for their consumers by relying on a system of identifiable and verifiable data points.
By building a unified database, Hanley Wood was able to develop a unified source of actionable insights and resources, to the benefit of both editorial and marketing teams.
Later in the day, the content session switched to Q&A style conversations with top editors from throughout the consumer magazine landscape.
Matt Bean, editor-in-chief of Men’s Health, sat down with Liz Vaccariello, editor-at-large of Reader’s Digest, to discuss their morning routines, their day-to-day responsibilities, and what it means to be an EIC in 2016.
As the definition of a magazine becomes more complicated, and top editors are faced with more and more diverse teams to manage, both Bean and Vaccariello have had to prioritize which projects get their staff's attention.
Bean emphasized the importance of saying “no,” and told the audience about avoiding projects that take away from the strongest arms of your magazine.
Vaccariello told a story about her early days as EIC at Reader’s Digest, when she consolidated all of the jokes into one section. Readers did not like it. And she listened.
Closing out the Folio: Show, Samir Husni, esteemed professor and director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi, led an all-star panel including Amy Keller Laird, EIC of Women’s Health, Randall Lane, editor of Forbes, and Sara Peterson, EIC of HGTV magazine.
In a discussion about print versus digital, all three editors agreed that it’s no longer a question of which, but how to combine them effectively.
"As soon as the magazine comes out, we put it online,” Lane told the Folio: Show audience. “As soon as there’s news, we put it online. There’s no fight.”
Lane discussed using the digital properties for news, and making the print issue a special occasion.
“When the Forbes 30 Under 30 comes out in print, Twitter melts. Because when the magazine comes out, it’s an event,” he said.
Keller Laird and Peterson shared similar stories about making their print magazines both sellable and collectable, leading Husni to conclude that magazines are as good as ever.
"We don’t have a magazine problem. We have a magazine industry problem,” he told the audience.
Missed both days of the 2016 Folio: Show ? Read about Day 1 of the content track.