by Ronn Levine
I’ve been watching a lot of author talks since the start of the pandemic. On Tuesday night I observed and listened to Megha Majumdar, author of a thrilling new book titled A Burning, speak in a live discussion on Instagram with a bookstore proprietor in Oxford, Miss. “It’s a novel that’s set in India about three people chasing big dreams while society takes this dangerous turn towards extremism,” she said.
It was the first substantial discussion I’ve watched on Instagram and it worked well. But in the hot-off-the-presses and publisher-insightful Reuters Digital News Report, I found out that I am once again not on time to the party when it comes to our new content vehicles.
“Another big change in the last few years has been the growth of Instagram which popularized visual formats like ‘stories’ and short videos via IGTV. Instagram now reaches more than a third of all people (36%) weekly and two-thirds of under-25s (64%). Instagram reaches 11% across age groups, almost as many as use Twitter for news.”
Those are big numbers. Taking a random look, I see that the The Meeting Professional has an active and popular Instagram page (8.974 followers) as does the American Planning Association (8,501 followers). Both feature a cavalcade of diverse faces and links to events, videos (though more on APA) and other programs. With in-person events mostly on hiatus, the more links to content and news on our Instagram pages the better, says Reuters.
The Digital News Report is 112 pages but, of course, not everything applies to association publications staffs. Here are four key questions for those staffs based on some key findings in the report:
1. Are you emailing enough?
I was speaking to a very successful publisher yesterday and he told me that they send their audience two emails a day seven days a week, 365 days a year. And for the people who engage with them, it's not too much. But he also said they do more campaigns now, so for 3, 4 or 5 days in a row, there will be a theme, “building that case over a number of days. It has worked well for us.”
The Reuters report verifies email’s acceptance. The email daily update accounts for 60% of all news emails and it is generally well-received by both news lovers as well as daily briefers. The reasons that this is such a popular product are: simplicity, finish-ability, curation and serendipity. Globally, close to half (44%) of all respondents say they do read most of their news emails.
“In the United States one in five (21%) access a news email weekly, and for almost half of these it is their primary way of accessing news. Publishers have been extending the range of formats, increasingly offering ‘pop up emails’ on subjects like coronavirus and the 2020 presidential elections. Emails have proved effective in attracting potential new subscribers, as well as encouraging existing users to come back more frequently.”
2. Do you have a podcast and if so, how are you marketing it?
From the report: “The underlying [podcast] picture remains one of growth. Our data show an overall rise in podcast listening to 31% (+3) across a basket of 20 countries [including] the United States (36%). About half of podcast users listen to a news podcast in the U.S., where the market has developed furthest. Podcast users here say that the format gives greater depth and understanding of complex issues (59%) and a wider range of perspectives (57%) than other types of media.”
"I feel like synergy in an association is overlooked a lot when it comes to marketing podcasts," Blake Althen of podcast-producing company Human Factor told me last year. "At least with associations I've done work for, the magazine/newsletter department might be doing their thing, the email people might be doing their thing and the events people are doing their thing, but there's not a lot of synergy. And we tried to close that gap [on projects we work on] and have done it really well.”
He cited NACS’ Convenience Matters podcast where the magazine often pumps up the volume of the podcast—like showing the podcast team sitting down with Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs. In return, the podcast often promotes the magazine.
3. Are you doing enough video, especially if you are an international association?
While 67% of the people overall polled by Reuters say they access online news video on a weekly basis, in some countries that number goes as high as 95%. So especially if you are a global association, you should be increasing your video output.
And, of course, it’s important to get that output on a wide variety of platforms. “Across countries, over half (52%) access video news via a third-party platform each week, such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, with a third (33%) accessing via news websites and apps.
“The popularity of social networks and video platforms in Asia, Latin, America, and Africa seems to be stimulating video consumption at the expense of text—even if most people consume a mix of the two." Many publishers throughout the world have stepped up investment in video formats.
4. Have you embraced the new platforms and technologies?
The consensus is in that as much as we all make light of our Brady Bunch Zoom chats and other virtual technology, it will all be a part of our professional lives post-COVID. So we need to get comfortable with it, get good cameras, fix our lighting, attach headphones, and you get the picture.
“New digital behaviors have emerged in this crisis that are likely to have long-term implications,” the report says. “Many have joined Facebook or WhatsApp groups for the first time and have engaged in local groups. Young people have consumed more news through services like Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok. Video conferencing has emerged as a new platform for personal communication but has also changed the face of [organization outreach]. The media have embraced these new technologies in terms of remote working,but also in terms of the production and distribution of content.”
Ronn Levine is the editorial director of SIIA.