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Neal Award Finalists Offer Replicable and Powerful Examples for Other Publishers

With the Neal Awards celebration set for noon, Wednesday, June 9, I looked through the finalists to see what interesting ideas—it is Ideas Wednesday here—I could find. Well, this might just have to become a series with all of the innovative and exciting work that we’re honoring. It will definitely be worth your valuable while to attend the presentation.

Besides seeing the incredible work that your fellow AM&P Network members are doing, there will be myriad ways to connect at the Neal Awards such as: interactive networking – mini breakouts during intermissions; video booth fun with sponsor Gather Voices – create a video to share your win on social media! #NealAward and @siia; MIRO – contribute to a community-driven art piece by doodling on the #NealAward MIRO board; or just to cheer on your favorite finalists and winners.

Register here. Attendance is free. See all the finalists here. Here are some replicable and effective ideas from a few of the finalists:

Run video interstitials. A finalist for Best Single Article, Teachers Are Getting Schooled on Retirement from Informa’s WealthManagement.com begins with a powerful tale of a Long Island teacher given bad investing advice from a life insurance rep when she was just starting out. “He said he had an easy way for her to save for her retirement beyond her pension.” After the first four graphs, there’s a short video promo for a succession planning discussion they held on May 11 between contributing editor Maureen Wilke and Advisor Group (the sponsor) SVP Todd Fulks. There are ads later in the story, but that short video is a smart way to promote more good content.

Provide tools/content for our audience – part 1. Industry Dive’s Restaurant Dive is a finalist for Best Series for its series of six articles on successive Mondays with the first story titled, Mapping the Rise of Ghost Kitchens. “Dark. Ghost. Host. These are just a few of the names for the budding restaurant segment rising from the economic upheaval of the novel coronavirus pandemic,” it begins. Not only do they go in-depth, but they also created a “ghost kitchen calculator to help operators assess the financial profile and determine profitability of a ghost kitchen before developing their own concept.” We are here to meet audience needs, and this sounds like a big one. Think about what value-add you can give to an article you’re doing.

Provide tools/content for our audience – part 2. For Best Profile, American Chemical Society’s Chemical & Engineering News is a finalist for a wonderful profile titled A Day With Jennifer Doudna: Trying to Keep Up With One of the World’s Most Sought-After Scientists. It chronicles the day she spoke at the University of California, Berkeley campus. “It’s clear that being considered the Beyoncé of science has reshaped Doudna’s life. But has it reshaped how she views herself?” The article leads to a sidebar story titled Jennifer Doudna’s Tips for New Entrepreneurs. “We asked her to share her best advice for budding academic entrepreneurs,” writes Lisa M. Jarvis. One story presents the person, and the second story presents how to help their audience succeed.

Adding diversity – part 1. Haymarket Media’s PRWeek did a great job of enlightenment and outreach during the pandemic with a video series called Lockdown Life—also a Neal finalist for Best Series. You can see from the small photos that accompany each week’s video that there is diversity of all kinds: age, gender, ethnicity, activity—headlines range from TikTok Influencers Overnight? to PR Pros Flocking to Buy Chickens to 3 PR Pros Recall Their Bouts With COVID-19. Showcasing a variety of your members or audience just makes content more interesting. Oh, here’s the best episode: “Your Job Seems Too Boring” – Kids and Partners Observe PR Pros in Quarantine.

Adding diversity – part 2. What an engaging lead paragraph in DTN’s Progressive Farmer from Chris Clayton, ag policy editor, for his Neal-finalist profile titled Grappling With a New Farm – Young, Black, First-Generation American Determined to Succeed as a Farm Owner (pictured above). “Like a lot of children growing up in a small Nebraska town, Zemua Baptista remembers playing with tractors in the living room as a boy—’carpet farming,’ as he describes it.” And later in the story a quote from Baptista: “I still see it when I tell people I’m a farmer and they kind of look at me. For me, to give a face to a minority farmer is a good thing.”

Offer daily engagement. For Best Podcast, Crain Communications is a finalist for its Automotive News Daily Drive. This must be quite an undertaking to produce every day, though topics could be endless. (At least they took Memorial Day off.) They’re rewarded by a strong audience and sponsorships—on the podcast itself (the brief intro of the sponsor sounds warm and welcomed) and with ads on the site. “Daily Drive is our daily podcast series. We speak with industry experts, insiders and Automotive News reporters about events and trends impacting and reshaping the automotive industry.” These are also good avenues to amplify the voices of your editorial team.

Build creativity into virtual events. A finalist for Best New Product is FreightWaves Virtual Events. In a promo video on their site, CEO Craig Fuller says that “the idea of the FreightWaves Live Experience is to bring you into the action, make you a part of the experience—letting you see how technology is going to shape the future of our industry.” They must be successful because virtual events are planned through this year and even into 2022.

Congratulations to all of the Neal Award finalists; it’s well-deserved! Please register and attend the Neals celebration next Wednesday at noon to see the winners and some of the faces behind this amazing work.

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‘It Just Kind of Built on Itself’; 8 Ideas for Varying Your Content

“We wrote a story about a company that was making its employees come in when they were sick until they were proven to have COVID-19. It’s a $1 billion company and we were telling the story about it. We wrote about another company that went into bankruptcy and their truckers were calling into our XM radio show talking about how their cards were being cut off. Those are the things people care about.”
That’s from Craig Fuller, founder and CEO of FreightWaves, a member of our Connectiv division, in an interview with my colleague Matt Kinsman. The bankruptcy story, about the collapse of Celadon, earned FreightWaves a 2020 Jesse H. Neal Award for Best News Coverage. FreightWaves.com also won best website for its revenue category.
It’s great to see that a company like FreightWaves, which had no origins in media, now puts such importance on content. “As we started to go to market, we realized that every successful futures market has an ecosystem of news and data and that didn’t exist with freight logistics,” said Fuller. “FreightWaves was started to evangelize and inform how futures work but we also knew that if it was just about trucking futures, no one would read it. We started writing about things like Tesla, Amazon, hurricanes… and it just kind of built on itself.”
Here are 8 more ways to put good content out there:
1. Increase your emails.
The new Reuters Digital News Report said that the email daily update now 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.
2. Video is still killing it, especially if you have international aspirations.
While 67% of those polled by Reuters say they access online news video on a weekly basis, in some countries that number goes as high as 95%. So it’s a good idea to increase your video output. “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.”
3. Podcasts rising.
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 U.S. (36%). Podcasts can be five minutes or 50 minutes and in a variety of formats, so they’re relatively easy to start—even now—and people are listening more.
4. Use emotion in your copy.
“Emotional connections happen because we’re human, and we’re built for these connections, wired for them, and rely on them to live a rich, meaningful life,” said the famous “Marketoonist” Tom Fishburne. “Despite our significant advances in science and technology, human emotion (mainly our subconscious) will always be core to our DNA.”
5. Start a weekly content feature that brings people back.
Inc. launched a weekly webinar called “Real Talk.” “It’s people who have had success and are willing to give back to entrepreneurs and the small business community and answer questions for an hour,” said Scott Omelianuk, editor-in-chief. Haymarket’s PRWeek has two that they’ve started during the pandemic: Lockdown Life and Coffee Break.
6. Get your community “together” to talk content.
One of our other divisions, AM&P, is hosting virtual get-togethers on Fridays at lunchtime to either talk about a topic—diversity, alternative revenue, accessibility—or just offer each other support. Joanne Persico, president of SIPA member ONEcount, has been holding “Bold Minds Virtual Mixers” every Wednesday at 5:30 pm.
7. Experiment now.
By seeing what sticks now, you’re adding to your future. “When we come back [to live events], virtual elements will still be a big part going forward,” said Steve Barrett, VP and editorial director for Haymarket Media’s PRWeek. “We’ll still do virtual stuff because we’ve seen the potential of it. In terms of the bigger events, you have to add value in different ways than you would for a physical event… We’re all learning, there’s no playbook.”
8. Mix live and recorded content.
Barrett acknowledges that “pre-shot” content is often a safer way to go for awards and webinars. But he prefers a mix. “I think [people] do like seeing more personality” that comes from live content, he said. “All pre-recrorded can come off as a bit dry. And we’re all learning. I do think virtual events will progress massively over the next 12 months.” Jared Waters of BVR also recommends a mix of live and pre-recorded content, emphasizing that speakers often have a preference that should be respected.
People with different skills connecting together online and working on the same project, remote working and freelancing concept

Meet the New Guard: How FreightWaves Is Driving 250% Growth in Both Its Media and Data Businesses

Editor’s Note: Meet FreightWaves founder and CEO Craig Fuller at the upcoming virtual 2020 Business Information & Media Summit, Dec. 2-Dec. 4 for a session on “How FreightWaves Created a One-Two Punch with Marketing Services and Subscription Data.” Register here.  

For much of the media and information industry, 2020 has eclipsed the 2008 recession as the new standard for hard times.

But that’s certainly not the case for all, particularly those B2B information companies in the right markets with the right product mix.

Enter FreightWaves, which serves the $9.6 trillion business of freight logistics—including trucking, shipping, railway, warehousing and even digital on-demand and emerging mobility subjects such as Instacart—with a media business and a SaaS-based subscription data product that’s earned it the nickname “the Bloomberg of Freight.”

Through the first half of 2020, FreightWaves drove 250 percent growth in both its media and data businesses (with media growing even faster than data with similar margins—more on that in a bit), generating about $15 million in gross revenue and on track to do a run rate of more than $20 million by the end of the year.

From Commodities to Futures to Media

Ironically, FreightWaves’ origins had nothing to do with media. After selling his fleet payment processor business to U.S. Bank in 2012, FreightWaves founder and CEO Craig Fuller (who comes from a long line of trucking entrepreneurs) found himself dabbling in day trading commodities and exploring the idea of creating a futures market for the trucking industry.

“But as we started to go to market, we realized that every successful futures market has an ecosystem of news and data and that didn’t exist with freight logistics,” says Fuller. “FreightWaves was started to evangelize and inform how futures work but we also knew that if it was just about trucking futures, no one would read it. We started writing about things like Tesla, Amazon, the impact of hurricanes, Trump’s tweets when he shuts the borders and it just kind of built on itself.”

Launched in 2016, FreightWaves today includes digital media with FreightWaves.com and AmericanShipper.com, FreightWaves TV and FreightWaves Radio, which appears on SirusXM satellite radio, and SONAR, a SaaS-based subscription research and data service.

Selling Data in the COVID Era

FreightWaves sells SONAR to clients ranging from owner/operators of a single truck to airlines to some of the largest big box retailers.

“Logistics is 12 percent of the global GDP and it’s bigger than the financial and insurance industries combined,” says Fuller. “There’s millions of companies in this space and something like FedEx handles just 1 percent of the business. Companies use our data to make real time pricing and capacity decisions.”

The data business generates $7.5 million in annual revenue with a typical subscription at $25,000 per year but that rate can range up into the high six and seven figures for larger customers. “In the COVID era, the old data models have broken down and historic data is of no use,” says Fuller. “We’re looking at new data sets that haven’t been created before.”

While some B2B companies are starting to prioritize data over content (looking at you, Hanley Wood), Fuller sees the two as an essential combination.

“We’re creating all these new indexes and data types, but if you don’t have a way to contextualize those data sets, it can be difficult for customers to understand what that data means,” says Fuller. “We created the media business to do that.”

On the media side, FreightWaves drives one million uniques and about 2.5 million pageviews per month, with $8 million in annual revenue, driven by advertising and marketing services.

“This is a $9.6 trillion industry but the amount spent on advertising is actually fairly small,” says Fuller. “This is an environment focused on relationship-based sales but that’s gone away in a COVID world. Companies in this space typically aren’t going through agencies and they’re now trying to figure out how to get their story out and find new customers. They’re turning to us to develop their story and help their marketing.”

Fuller is quick to point out that the emphasis on content marketing doesn’t prevent FreightWaves from covering stories that matter, even with some of the biggest players in the space.

“We wrote a story about a company that was making its employees come in when they were sick until they were proven to have COVID-19,” he says. “It’s a $1 billion company and we were telling the story about it. We wrote about another company that went into bankruptcy and their truckers were calling into our XM radio show talking about how their cards were being cut off.  Those are the things people care about.”

Editor’s note: The bankruptcy story, about the collapse of Celadon, earned FreightWaves a 2020 Jesse H. Neal Award for Best News Coverage. FreightWaves.com also won best website for its revenue category. 

Fuller says he is bullish on both sides of the business. “Data is the most investable asset but media is easier to sell because the market is massive, and companies are trying to figure it out,” he adds. “The media business has margins that match the data business—70 percent gross and contribution in the 90 percent range—because frankly, there isn’t a ton of competition. We’re competing with a lot of print publishers and traditional B2B outlets that grew up in print world with a print cadence. There’s a thinking that in B2B it’s hard to do news and I don’t agree with that.”

Early Indicators of a Recovery?

Last week, FreightWaves announced that it had secured $37 million in new minority investment, putting its total capital at $75 million. Fuller says the investment will all be focused on growth, including M&A, organic product development and marketing.

While Fuller acknowledges that much of FreightWaves’ success is due to being in the right place at the right time, he says covering the freight industry gives him some insight to be optimistic about the general state of the economy.

“We happen to be far more bullish on the economy because we see the physical economy in real time and we’re seeing record activity in freight,” he adds. “Before something sells, the manufacturer is moving those raw goods and we see those goods in the market weeks before the consumer buys something. The economy is actually better than what most people think.”