Try Phone, Slack and Single Focus; Overcoming Your Zoom and Gloom

“I wanted to be the band on the Titanic,” comedian Paula Poundstone said in an article in The Washington Post this weekend about Zoom fatigue. She was posting almost daily bits and “Quarantine Corner” updates through April on Instagram but stopped by late May. “But the Titanic sank faster. It just occurred to me now that that’s what was wrong with my plan.”
Lesley Harris of was kind enough to email me last week suggesting this trending topic. Funny, because she was using Zoom before most of the rest of us—holding her SIPAward-winning 20-minute Zoom on Ins over lunchtime in 2019 and early 2020. As many as 450 people were registering for her sessions. holds many courses and certificate programs, so Zoom is a staple, but Harris is trying to mix it up.
“One thing I did in my last class this spring was a Slack Live Chat…similar to a Twitter chat but private,” Harris wrote to me. “My students really liked it and what’s great is that there’s a record of it and people can continue to discuss the issues… It worked for that group of students. We’ll experiment with it further this fall.”
In an article How to Combat Zoom Fatigue at the end of April—wow, that was already a thing then!—Harvard Business Review had these three suggestions:
Try not to multitask. This is much easier said than done—I’d say nine out of 10 people have told me they are working harder since the pandemic started—but it will help. “Researchers at Stanford found that people who multitask can’t remember things as well as their more singularly focused peers.” It’s funny, if we look away on Zoom it looks like we’re not paying attention. But sometimes it’s easier to concentrate that way. Whereas when we look straight at the camera we can do other work. So it’s inherently evil in that respect.
Reduce onscreen stimuli. “Research shows that when you’re on video, you tend to spend the most time gazing at your own face.” I knew I should have shaved this morning. They say we even process the backgrounds people have—it’s true. How many Zoom calls have started with someone commenting on a background or two? I love radio and find that I listen best in the car because of the limited distractions. Some recommend not using video at all occasionally on Zoom, though that can be construed as being technology deficient..
Avoid the default to Zoom. The article suggests switching to Slack—as Harris did—or even a phone call. Remember those? The HBR author makes a good point: “In situations where you’re communicating with people outside of your organization (clients, vendors, networking, etc.)—conversations for which you used to rely on phone calls—you may feel obligated to send out a Zoom link instead. But a video call is fairly intimate and can even feel invasive in some situations.” It really depends on the situation. When I interviewed the keynotes for SIPA 2020, seeing them helped me build rapport. But other times, it does feel awkward.
A couple other ideas:
Gamify or poll. I’ve heard positive feedback about doing a quiz or trivia game, or taking a poll to break up a webinar or keynote talk. In a story on Health.comClaire Gillespie writes that “she still has weekly video chats with [her] family, but we’ve turned them into quizzes—and it’s made the experience more enjoyable and less tiring. We take turns to talk, there are no awkward silences, and when the quiz is over, we say our goodbyes.”
Adjust how your Zoom call looks. Instead of trying to focus on everyone in a Zoom meeting at once, shift from gallery view to speaker view so you only have to focus on one person, Fast Company’s Elizabeth Grace Saunders suggests. Cover up the portion of the screen showing your face with a Post-It note so you’re not distracted by yourself. And, if you’re uncomfortable with how you look on video calls, take some time to adjust your camera settings or the lighting in your house, said Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab.
Hmmm, fancy lighting or post-it notes. I must have those little yellow things here somewhere.

SIPA July Member News

Cablefax Expands Recognition for Their Diversity List; Deadline: July 10

With inclusion and fairness at the top of everyone’s minds these days, Access Intelligence’s Cablefax is expanding the recognition for Diversity & Inclusion excellence by adding 12 individual and organization award recognitions, including Mentor of the Year and The Trailblazers.

Every year, Cablefax recognizes the top multi-ethnic executives based on their influence and power within the industry—as well as their commitment to ensuring that other executives of color receive the same opportunities to grow and flourish. As always, it’sfree to nominatecandidates for the Diversity List.

QCSS Wins With a New Blog

In a new blogpost titledHow to Turn Your Customers Into Raving Fans, QCSS offers four keys:

1. Offer something unique– Highlight the skills and experience that will help your brand’s success.
2. Get to know your customers– Find the right process and focus on key data points.
3. Delight customers with your customer service – focus on great user experience.
4. Reward your loyal customers.
It’s always good to see a weekly blog on a member site. Readers know they are getting fresh content. Check all the postshere.

‘We Have Been Able to Grow Our Newsletter Audience by 8.6%’; Introducing MDM’s VP of Audience Development Kati Tucker

Connectiv member Omeda is doing an excellent series calledOmeda Asks. In June, the Q&A spotlighted Kati Tucker, vice president of audience development at SIPA member Modern Distribution Management (Gale Media).

Here’s an excerpt:

“Since I started at MDM in January, I put a lot of energy into growing our newsletter because I saw a lot of potential. There was a large gap between the number of people in our database and the amount of people receiving our newsletter. I wanted to create new email promotions and gate more of our site to increase our overall audience and those subscribing to our newsletter.

“Over the last few months, with COVID-19 and the pandemic happening, we have followed along with the strategy of some other large media publishers like the New York Times to gate all our COVID-19 related content. We created a hard gate where readers had to provide their email address. This has been great for getting more people into the top of the funnel. From there, we can push them through a marketing automation journey that encourages them to sign up for our newsletter. Through all of these efforts, we have been able to grow our newsletter audience by 8.6%.”

Industry Dive Honored As ‘Red Hot Company’; Upcoming SIPA Chapter Meetups Open to All

DCA Live named Industry Dive to its “Red Hot Companies” list, which recognizes the region’s fastest-growing and most exciting companies.Industry Dive first made the list in 2018.

Earlier this year, DCA Live also named Industry Dive’s VP of marketingRobin Reto the “2020 Star CMOs” list. Their event was supposed to take place at DC’s Audi Field soccer stadium in March. I happily recall meeting Robin at a SIPA Washington DC Chapter Meetup a couple years ago.

Speaking of which, SIPA has a virtual DC Chapter Happy Hour Thursday, July 21 – register here.

It is open to all SIPA members.

Ace Infoway’s Powerful Blog

Ace Infoway has an excellent blog. This article titled,10 Google Chrome Extensions for Front-end Developer, caught my attention.

“You have been using Google Chrome for years now, it’s time to make the most out of it productively. Google Chrome Extensions has brought everything on a palette board, just pick elements and play with it, making it simpler to discover the details of the web page elements at a glance.”

CSS Viewer, Responsive Web Design Tester, WhatFont and Code Cola are just a few highlighted here.

Farm Equipment Editors Announce the 2020 Dealership Minds Summit Will Be Held Virtually, August 3-5

Pivoting to virtual events is a theme of these last few months for everyone. But it’s interesting to see the strategy different organizations employ.

When Lessiter Media’s Farm Equipment announced that their 6th Annual Dealership Minds Summit will be pivoted to a virtual event, they also announced that the event would be expanded to three days, Aug. 3-5. And they will be adding free benefits for attendees such as dealer-to-dealer networking and extended access to sessions, videos, Facebook groups and VIP Membership .

“Rest assured we will continue to deliver a quality program; retaining all of the originally scheduled sessions along with live roundtable participation while also adding valuable additional learning opportunities for attendees,” says executive editorKim Schmidt.

Send News In!
If you have any news, hirings, transactions, awards or anything else you’d like fellow members to know about, please email me Thank you and be safe.

Build Trust and Show the Breadth of What You Do to Keep Readership Bump

Not that they ever went out of style, but newsletters and subscriptions seem to be peaking again. Bloomberg Media’s Justin Smith has talked about their stickiness and comfort at a time like this. Industry Dive is up to about 22 different newsletters now in 19 industries. And Digiday ran an article last week titled How Substack Has Spawned a New Class of Newsletter Entrepreneurs.
“We’re coming in with an opportunity-focused mindset,’ said Substack co-founder Hamish McKenzie [whom I interviewed three years ago], fresh off raising $15.3 million last summer. “‘During the first 20-30 years of the internet, in terms of information distribution and media, the innovation has mostly come around an ad-supported model. There’s a whole 20-30 years of innovation to come that more fully innovates around a subscription model.’”
Here are some ideas on keeping the new readership—newsletters and beyond—that many publishers have received during the pandemic:
Use this time to build trust. “We strongly believe that in 5 years there will be a very obvious critical mass of people who will pay for content from writers who they trust,” McKenzie told me three years ago. “And it will be a mainstream, accepted part of the ecosystem… People are learning how good an experience it is to be subscribed to an independent writer you love. We’re really focused on building that relationship.” Said a recent Inc. article: “Trust is the end result of having a lock on your customers’ desires.”
Expose your new audience to the other coverage and products you put out. “When you have those moments, when people are intensely interested in your content for a very specific reason, everything feels changed,” Jeremy Gilbert, director of strategic initiatives at The Washington Post, told us recently. “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… We’re thinking very deeply about what are the things, the products, the tools that we can offer our audience 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.”
Look at what else your new readers are clicking on and spending time with. “What [is it] about the relationship that [feels] important,” Gilbert continued. “Why did the audience turn to you now so you could continue to make that valuable? Many of the people taking our subscription offers today are taking them on an annual plan. So by April of next year, we would have had to make the case to them that their subscription is still valuable, even if we are in a happier, healthier position by then. So how do we transition people? If you are one of the almost a million people who subscribed to our COVID-19 email newsletter, what are the other newsletters that may be valuable to you? What kinds of coverage did you click through from the email newsletter and how can we use those interactions with our site or native apps to get you to stay?”
Engage in dialogues. Use your social media and analytics to figure out places to increase healthy give-and-take between you and your new customers. Are there special tips you could be giving them? Wrote Inc.: “Check in with customers not just on a preset cadence but when users signal unhappiness or disinterest. The faster you can jump in when a user has stopped opening your emails, for example, the higher your chances to save a subscriber.”
Get them hooked on a podcast or blog. Wrote NiemanLab last month: “Podcasts are interesting for publishers because they are much more likely to attract younger audiences, since they can be accessed conveniently through smartphones and they offer a diversity of perspectives and voices. The deep connection that many podcasts seem to create could be opening up opportunities for paid podcasts, alongside public-service and advertising-driven models. In our data this year we find that almost four in 10 Americans (38%) said they would be prepared to pay for podcasts they liked.”
Meet your audience’s needs. “And so if we can keep the needs of our audience at the forefront and not just think of our audience as consumers who buy our products but also people who need our news, we’re going to have a better experience,” Gilbert said.

Building a Revenue-Producing Paywall

It was reported this week by The Information that Reuters would become one of the last free news services to implement a paywall. “The current plan… envisions putting all articles coming from specific coverage areas—such as energy, sustainability and its opinion content Breaking Views—behind a paywall by next February,” the site wrote.
Then today Folio: reported that Skift, the B2B media company serving the travel industry, just launched a digital paywall called “Skift Pro,” an annual product priced at $365 per year or $595 for two years.
A report came out last year from the Shorenstein Center at Harvard and Lenfest Institute titled, How Today’s News Publishers Can Use Data, Best Practices, and Test-And-Learn Tactics to Build Better Pay-Meters.
(Matt Skibinski from the Lenfest Institute will be delivering a webinar for us on July 23 titled Understanding Editorial Economics and Turning Content Producers into Revenue Generators. Register here.)
A key takeaway from the report is to craft a better welcome message. It says that 30% “of onsite digital subscriptions originate from ‘welcome’ messages that provide an introduction to new readers and ‘warn’ messages that serve as reminders as the reader approaches the meter limit.” In fact, I just received a welcome message from Jessica Lessin, founder of The Information. It’s well-written and it’s long—SIPA marketers would be proud.
Here are more of the report’s key findings:
Stop more readers to force conversion. The report urges having a high stop rate—that is the percentage of all digital users who are ‘stopped’ by a subscription prompt, a paywall or a meter limit. It is calculated by the number of users stopped by a meter or paywall in a given month over the number of unique visitors during that period. Organizations that are stopping more people have stronger digital businesses.
Test multiple strategies to determine the most effective marketing messages. “Browser overlays and customized warnings have proven effective, particularly those that underscore meter limits for individual users and offer customized options for unique subscriptions based on the reader’s profile and viewing history.” It added that there are no “hard and fast” rules for paywalls. “Instead, ‘intelligent access’ evaluates data continuously to create different access control rules for different behaviors.”
Lower your meter limit. A majority of publishers set their meter limits at 5 articles per month or lower. This number has gone steadily down since 2012. Some publishers used to set the paywall as high as 25 articles a month. “As publishers have experimented, and readers have become accustomed to digital subscriptions, meter limits have tended to decline among the publishers studied and within the industry at large.” Also, readers can often circumvent by using different browsers.
Increase reader opportunities to encounter the meter. Is the meter simply the articles a reader clicks on, or are there more factors involved? You might lower the meter rate for more editorially-intensive content. Their limit might be increased if they do other things with you. For those with an ad blocker, a subscription message might be customized to invite the reader to subscribe or turn your ad blocker off to continue to read content before the average meter stop.
Refresh as much as possible. “Effective publishers tend to help create ‘habit of news’ among readers” and content that readers want to refresh and read regularly. “The most engaged subscribers expect daily and often hourly materials… While wire stories help a publisher furnish regular content, wires tended to leave an audience impression of low quality of content. Publishers should prioritize customized, frequent coverage that address a community’s particular needs, concerns and interests.”
Quicken your load times. “Page load times represent the largest difference between successful publishers in the top percentile and 50th percentile of publishers studied, with a median load times of 5.76 seconds.” Avoid advertising overload—probably easier in 2020—use real estate to drive readers to subscription options, and encourage content discovery through customized recommendations and infinite scrolls.
Be clear and make it easy. “The most effective stop messages include a single clear call to action, offer attractive introductory trial rates and include buttons that make clear the location(s) to click to advance the offer. Others include content-specific messages that link to the specific articles or sections the readers are pursuing.”
Again, you can see the whole report here.

Attendees ‘Were Not Flying Off Early.’ After Initial Letdown, There Can Be Much to Like About a Virtual Event.

“We would’ve exceeded 2,000 people in New Orleans—we already had more than 1,800 signed up,” said Bob Moore, executive director of the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians (ACOFP), still with a bit of a sad tinge in his voice, even though they pivoted their March annual conference very successfully to virtual. “We would’ve broken records.”
As it was, they still exceeded 1,000 attendees. But that sentiment sums up much of what’s happening now with events. Many organizations were experiencing huge successes with them and knowing the inevitability of having to pivot to virtual this year carries an obvious letdown. But we are seeing more and more virtual wins as the platforms get better and we are getting more, dare I say comfortable, with the virtual experience.

This is kind of a part two from a previous article this week about VentureBeat’s virtual pivot. That was more about sponsorships and networking during the event. While Moore took us through what led up to their pivot, the registration options and the content and feel of the event.

Here are some takeaways:

Decide early. Moore saw back in January what was happening in the world with COVID-19. They have a lot of academic members and the institutions were starting to enact travel bans. Of course now, things are more obvious. The sooner you make your decision to pivot, the better—for cancellation fees, getting space in 2021, booking virtual platforms for this year (really), and for your audience to get used to the idea.
Offer a virtual discount (but maybe not that much). ACOFP already had 1,800+ people registered. But what they then offered could still be a blueprint for planning an event this fall—a 25% discount for staying registered. More than 50% of the registrants took that deal. Just over 44% asked for and received a full refund. And 100 people deferred their registration to the 2021 conference. If you can provide similar value to your attendees from the in-person event, then don’t be shy about pricing it that way. Remember, attendees are saving huge dollars on travel costs.
Keep to one track. ACOFP chose to focus on one track. Moore said that it was just easier to stick with the schedule they already had. “Otherwise, we would have had to remarket, reconfirm speakers, reconfigure time frames. This way we already had the speaker commitments and everything built into our mobile app.” He did say in the future that he would shorten the 45-minute sessions and the 8 am to 5:30 pm days and add more breaks.
Enhance the virtual experience. “Polling is the most interactive of the various Zoom features,” Moore said, because it gets everyone easily involved. The Financial Times is hosting a series of online events called “Digital Dialogues.” In the first one, of the 4,600 who watched live, nearly 4,000 people responded to polls during the session.
Keep it as simple as possible. As mentioned, they used Zoom’s webinar platform and kept the conference session schedule intact. Their sessions were in a recorded format via the learning management system of Blue Sky. (If you do this, try to have live Q&As.) “There are great technology partners that can be leveraged to help host your meetings, moderate and so forth,” Moore said. “…we partnered with PSAV to have one of their staff be there for extra help. It was a huge win for us.”
Have some fun with it. Moore praised his board president for showing up as Elvis and lightening the mood. He would be a little “more intentional” with fun next time, maybe karaoke between the breaks or showcasing some talented members.
Spread it out. This seems to be a common sentiment. VentureBeat expanded their annual conference into spring and fall sections. Moore said he will spread content out over two weekends for the next event, providing more opportunities “to reach our audience.” Their March conference went Thursday to Sunday and he marveled that for the first time, people attended the final Sunday morning sessions! “They were not flying off early.”
Post the content after for registrants and refer to it often. It’s one thing to post webinars and conference content after the event ends, but it will get more attention if you remind people it’s there and actually use it yourself in articles and other content. (And even more if it counts toward some type of certification.) Not only will ACOFP ’20 virtual registrants have access to the content, but the recordings will also count toward the most coveted level of continuing medical education credit.
Think virtual—there will never be a hard stop. About nine months ago, Moore “implemented a staff reorganization that added a few senior staff positions to a traditionally flat organizational structure. [They still only have a staff of about 17.] Being technology savvy was one of the key attributes I looked for in these new hires.” While in-person will come back, the virtual aspects will not go away. There’s just too much greater-audience potential in them.

So what does hybrid look like? Moore said he could definitely see hybrid in-person/virtual events in their future. “We would stagger the content based on time zones. We would lean in more to the experience, offer on-demand content earlier in the day if people want that.” The mid-day content would be the topics “that we think will have most appeal so it translates over both mediums. We would imagine more ways for our content to lend itself to the virtual environment.”