Southern Comfort at the Mega-Conference in Atlanta

I touched down in Atlanta, Georgia, USA last week, excited to take part in the highly anticipated Key Executives Mega-Conference, hosted by Inland Press Association, Local Media Association, and Southern Newspaper Publishers Association.Mega3

My strategy for this conference was to observe and soak in all that I could about the U.S. news media business.  The crowd was large and diverse, more than 700 attendees this year, ranging from the rural weeklies to the daily metro giants.

After three full days of learning and networking, I wanted to share the top three takeaways from the conference that the news media industry should take note of:

Redefine the balance between digital and print
Highly animated and energetic speaker, Jason Taylor (East Group regional president for Gannett), shared his insights on developing digital without hurting print.  As we’ve been talking about for quite some time, it’s no longer about selling a product, or products, it’s about selling engaged audiences, marketing tools and integrated marketing experiences.  mega4News media companies need to uncover information about their audience to identify what kind of news they consume, where their interests lie and what social networks they spend their time on.  It’s about targeting this audience through specific tools and services like email, video or niche publications, and most importantly, it’s about leveraging industry expertise to set objectives, build strategies and execute across these active channels (beyond just print). The reality is that in a growing digital world, publishers need to re-imagine what their local news media company can be and invest in data (most of which is incredibly inexpensive or even free), social media, digital and mobile.

It’s why news media publishers need to leverage the power of PressReader.  It’s the only platform out there that truly builds audience. PressReader is used by over 30 million consumers and reaches an additional 250 million people that have sponsored access to the platform at 15,000+ hotels, libraries, airports, cruise ships and cafes around the world.  It’s a no brainer.

Making Video Work
This session was led by the very entertaining and engaging Christy Oglesby (managing editor, audience growth at Cox Media), formally a reporter at  Christy is a dynamic presenter whose captivating session described the current landscape of online videos and how they play (no pun intended) an integral role in helping publishers reach new audiences, engage with a younger generation and become leaders in the digital space.  MegaRight now, 57% of all internet traffic is viewing video content and it’s said to increase to 84% in the next five years, making video integration a top priority for publishers today.  She coined a great term that empowers publishers to really focus on titling their videos appropriately, to capture the attention of the audience.  She called it “going HULK with video headlines”, an important takeaway for publishers that are sitting on video gold, wrapped in a brass title.  She challenged publishers to be brave with video messaging, and closed the session with some words of wisdom when determining what videos to post: “Videos should always be visually riveting and emotionally evocative, if not, they will never be The Hulk, just plain old Bruce Banner.”

It’s clear that multimedia is imperative in the digital space, which is why it’s time for publisher to look at PressReader technology to enrich their digital editions.

Powered by HTML5, PressReader transforms flat, PDF-like digital replicas into immersive reading experiences that attract and retain the interest of today’s growing population of “digital natives”. PressReaser’s enhanced digital editions seamlessly integrate multimedia to enhance your readers experience through videos, audio, graphics, image galleries and real-time translation.  And, it easily allows publishers to leverage powerful social features like social logins, sharing, commenting and personalization.

BuzzFeed and Quartz are getting serious
It wasn’t surprising that Jay Lauf (publisher and president, Quartz) and Eric Harris (chief business operations officer, BuzzFeed) would have the prime time slot at the Mega-Conference.  The crowd was fairly quiet for one of two reasons: 1) they were counting down the minutes until the cocktail reception, or 2) because the subject matter of the session was somewhat frightening to publishers. mega2Moderator and industry expert, Ken Doctor, spoke with Jay and Eric about how these two new-media giants are having a tremendous amount of success monetizing content in new ways – a scary reality to most legacy publishers trying to find their own way in the digital space. It was intriguing to discover how much investment and resources both companies are allocating to journalism. Their strategy: to emerge from this period as pre-eminent media companies, creating premium, high-caliber content competing one day with The New York Times.  Even from an advertising perspective, the digital giants are operating like full-blown integrated ad agencies, creating brand films for clients, in-depth native/sponsored articles and visually engaging adverts.  Very impressive!

Lucky for publishers, they have a leg up on the likes of Buzzfeed and Quartz – unparalleled, high-caliber, credible journalism.  But for them to really win at monetization, they need to adopt innovative tools like PressReader’s Reading Map and SmartFlow technology – sophisticated real-time tracking to monitor time, engagement, content selection and other consumption behavior.

SmartFlow technology monitors the reading behaviors of all 30 million PressReader users, across all verticals, in real-time and uses that data to continually modify the newsfeed of stories that gets presented to new readers – this is discovery of content curated by the crowd.

Going beyond Google Analytics, Reading Map analyzes reading patterns throughout digital editions (whether they are read online in a browser or through any PressReader-powered mobile apps) giving publishers valuable insights into how well every article, advertisement, cartoon, column and image in the publication retains readers’ attention.  Knowing what engages readers is extremely helpful to editors trying to maximize the ROI on every page of a publication.

All in all, Mega-Conference was a great event to kick off 2015.  The organizers put on a fantastic show.  I’m looking forward to the next one.