Smart stuff to start your thinking about #collegemedia verticals/channels

You can call them “verticals,” or you can call them “channels.” They are called both in this super-smart Nieman Lab interview with Mic publisher Cory Haik. I saw it in April, made myself a note to go through it with a highlighter aaaaaand found the note this week while cleaning out my Gmail inbox. Better late than never, I hope, here are excerpts and bullet points with college media in mind. And if this is up your alley, I strongly encourage you to read the Nieman interview.

The interview came just after Mic redesigned its website and its approach to news around nine “verticals.” They are:

  • Slay (feminism)
  • Payoff (personal finance)
  • Out of Office (food and travel)
  • Strut (body positivity)
  • Navigating Trump’s America
  • The Future is Now (tech)
  • The Movement (social justice)
  • Multiplayer (gaming)
  • Hype (entertainment)

Haik said the verticals were chosen after study “within the social sphere of where our audiences are and figuring out stories, categories, and topics that they are most passionate about and that our journalists were best to engage with them on.”

Instagram, in particular, we dove into over the summer and found some microcommunities within body positivity and feminism. We created some new teams to spend their time doing daily journalism on this beat within Instagram specifically: original motion graphics, photo illustrations, animations. Editors and story producers connected on these specific topics within Instagram and then really built out these communities.

For example, Slay grew out of a feminism Instagram channel and an email newsletter.

The thesis here was that we were connecting the audiences that we were growing organically within social and were doing our journalism and original storytelling around and then connecting that back to our own site and making those connections explicit with our audiences — so they could follow Slay, engage with Slay, read and watch our Slay journalism on whatever platform really suits them — but also to connect the dots so they know we have a very 360-approach to how we’re doing our journalism across the landscape.

Each vertical uses only the platforms where Mic thinks there’s an interested community. So the personal finance vertical Payoff launched as a podcast and an email newsletter but without an Instagram channel. Payoff also is the example Haik used to talk about making money from a vertical.

Discover sponsors Payoff across all of these different platforms. There’s sponsorship within the podcast, the Payoff newsletter, and on the channel itself — on our site, you see that. Across all the different platforms and the mechanisms by which we’re producing our journalism, there’s also accompanying sponsorship for that brand. There’s a way to really tie it across platforms for the advertiser, which is appealing because they get a very digitally focused innovative way to integrate with the channel in a way that’s not just one node on our site.

Full disclosure: Your humble blogger does not think video is the answer to all journalism problems. He thinks there is a lot of bad video out there. But he’s very proud of his Georgia Southern University students’ video operation and he has to sit up and take note when he sees this:

One of our reporters did a written op-ed that did okay, and then he did the same op-ed in video format and it reached half a million people in just a couple of hours. … if your video reaches 500,000 people, the degree to which some of them will convert to a newsletter subscriber of that columnist is pretty high. They’re interested.

More on leveraging viral success to build brand loyalty:

We are thinking about a lot of ways of connecting our very viral moments to our direct to consumer products. It’s working. Facebook has been a very good lever for us to grow our Navigating Trump’s America newsletter. Whenever there is a big story about Trump and we promote our newsletter, we can get hundreds to thousands of email subscribers. That’s a pretty great funnel.

Lastly, a branding question I suspect will be important for media college media editors. Interviewer Joseph Lichterman asked, “Going back to the channels for a minute: I’m curious how you balance their individual identities versus the overall identity of Mic. How do you want readers to think about them within the overall structure of the publication?”

Mic really is the network of all these other brands. Mic itself is actually a channel as well — that’s really our core news channel. … I don’t know that there’s a ton of crossover between Strut and something like Navigating Trump’s America. There might be. People are interested in politics, obviously, and can be interested in fashion, but we would be perfectly happy if someone just followed our Instagram channel or followed our Facebook page for Strut. We’d view that as a success. We’re figuring out how we bolster these channels on their own, but we do want people to know that they are part of the Mic family. They’re all supported by the endorser brand of Mic.


About adviserdavid

Student media director, Georgia Southern University

Posted on November 22, 2017, in Design, Digital/social, Leadership, What to cover. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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