Friday, April 15, 2011

Connecting the Divide Between Broadcast & Digital in Public Media

This quote from Politico today struck me as being very analogous to digital media strategy and investment in public media:

Obama 2012 is building a volunteer network with the audacious goal of contacting every single person who voted for him in 2008, as part of a reinvented voter outreach that will be as focused on smart phones in 2012 as it was on text messages last time. Strategists plan to customize videos and other messages for the iPhones and other mobile devices of targeted voters. They also envision "virtual networks" among supporters' friends and families, so that millions of people will feel a personal connection to the campaign..."It's additive, not a replacement," one top adviser said. "A huge chunk of voters still listen to the local evening news."
This type of thinking mirrors the best sense of digital strategy in public media today. While there are some voices that are calling for their own tea party moment (think 1773, not 2011) with digital, the better approach is a how the various platforms work together to increase "positive consumer behavior", such as loyalty, tune-in, membership and recency.

The challenge is getting a more sophisticated strategy & implementation than just having multiple platforms running at the same time, but rather having a 'theory of conversion' (if I do this, this will happen, do that, and that will happen) that improve the user experience, increase the value of the public media content versus the rest of the market and help guide people towards mutually desirable outcomes, such as membership.

And that takes a couple skills that do not seem to be currently at the forefront of our work:

  • A Culture of Goals - we need to increase our industry's use of key performance indicators (KPIs) to clarify and focus our mission and business goals. And then these KPIs need to be connected to their digital space to clearly point to how digital platforms enhance the fundamental business. (I will readily admit that I do not have a perfect view into this issue, but over two years I have been asking about the use of data I have rarely come across a very aggressive use of mission/business goals in public media.)
  • A Culture of Conversion - if you do not have a 'theory of change', of how a person moves from being a viewer, on whatever platform, to a sustaining member, you might as well just rely on "hoping for the best!" It is essential that we map out the myriad of ways in which we encourage people to become more involved in public media to then even, potentially, becoming supporters. At the NY Times they wanted to move people from "being readers to users and from users to contributors." It is essential that we think about how we convert people online from casual to regular users of our content, and then onto supporters.
  • A Culture of Analytics - there is a vast quantity of data that comes from our digital presence that can be freely accessed through Google Analytics. However, it is all worthless if you don't then that data into measurable results that match against the station's mission and business goals (KPIs). I am not sure why anybody should care how many 'reTweets' a station gets, but they would care about how far the station's message (not just impressions) is being carried out into the community.
  • A Culture of Experimentation - finally, if one does not succeed, try, try again. Especially the digital world our users are a river of data flowing through our platforms. If we have goals, a sense of conversion and a good strong use of analytics, you can begin to see how you improve results by changing a few things. "How about we add a picture to this page?", "What if we changed the page layout a bit?", "Hmmm...how about a bit of a more prominent link over here?" I know that this takes resources, but if we tie those outcomes to fundamental goals that drive value in our work, the attainment of our mission and the increase of our supporters, they are well-worth a modest effort.
Where to start? I think that one of the best framers is Avinash Kaushik, who has written a set of great books, Web Analytics: An Hour a Day, and Web Analytics 2.0, as well as the great blog Occam's Razor. His blog and the An Hour a Day are great starting points.

At the moment, the digital media play in public media is just like that 'senior official's' goal in the quote above, that our online and mobile platforms are fantastic ways to be additive to the broadcast experience. But we need to go beyond that though. The opportunity is to use digital media to enhance the consumer experience, especially in direct relationship to the broadcast. This includes hard-core outreach via digital platforms for programming, using online and social to connect people to the content and promote engagement and then preserving the content for the future.

Our future is bright and the more we can pair our broadcast strategy with our digital platforms the easier it will be for us to navigate that future. Onward!

1 comment:

Tim said...

Good points. One opportunity to improve public media's ability to track and optimize conversion of users to donors and the respective KPIs is new constituent management systems. Moving from today's tools which were architected mostly for direct mail to modern ones that leverage social media, site login, email etc.