Reader-first tactics for managing content streams

At an ASBPE forum, three B2B publishers and editors share how they get the most out of content across print and digital platforms.

Hallie Busta
Hallie Busta

By Hallie Busta

Managing multiple content streams can be a challenge for editors who are pressed for time and other resources. At a July 25 program at the ASBPE 2014 National Conference, held in Chicago, three B2B editors and publishers shared strategies for packaging—and re-packaging—content across digital and print platforms.

“Do it once, deploy it multiple times,” says Keith Larson, a group publisher and vice president at Putman Media in Chicago, who argues that sponsored content can be crafted as editorial. He encourages the turning of lead-generating products created for B2B clients—such as surveys, topical reports, conferences, and whitepapers—into “gated sponsored content.” That’s a category that includes webinars, Web landing pages, digital newsletters, and other advertorials.

Keith Larson

“It’s another way to give that content legs and to get it out into the market,” he says.

In other instances, advertisers take longer to bite at a sponsored opportunity. Such was the case for Farm Journal Media’s Legacy Project, which was a lone editorial venture for one-and-a-half years before netting a $4 million, three-year sponsorship from seed producer Pioneer Hi-Bred International in 2010.

The Davenport, Iowa-based editor of Farm Journal Media’s Top Producer magazine, Jeanne Bernick, explained that the succession-planning “institute” began as a series of editorial columns, offering advice for farm-owning families that face a generational leadership shift. The column generated more questions than it could answer, she says, prompting more stories and an annual report. Soon after, the editorial beat developed into a reader-centric tool, encompassing a workbook and workshops. The creation of a microsite, a weekly digital newsletter, and social channels to aggregate and disseminate information followed. To add depth to its coverage, the Farm Journal Media team embedded reporters with three families for three years to cover the issue from a new angle and to output their findings via video through the publishers’ TV channel. The creation of the Legacy Institute, which invites families to participate in intensive, hands-on planning, capped the project.

Jeanne Bernick

“[We were] reprocessing and reusing,” she says. “Taking bits and pieces so that not everyone is stuck doing the same story and can pull from each other.”

A less-extreme alternative to the Farm Journal Media approach involves maximizing the use of social channels and video to help readers navigate the growing gap between the look and feel of print and digital content.

“Take the temperature of your audience to find the platform they are using … [and be there],” says Tudor Van Hampton, deputy regions editor, at McGraw Hill construction brand Engineering News Record (ENR).

ENR uses social channels and video to engage with its 200,000 online readers who spend most of their days on a jobsite with a smartphone or tablet in hand. The brand takes advantage of its highly visual industry—think sleek glass buildings and gritty infrastructure projects—to output jobsite videos and in-person interviews with industry leaders.

Tudor Van Hampton

Meeting readers on social platforms requires a bit of study. Van Hampton and his team use surveys generated by Survey Monkey to determine what social media spaces readers frequent and how they engage to determine how his brand will approach the platform.

A continual content push isn’t likely to ingratiate brands with their audience. So Van Hampton recommends the so-called “4-1-1 rule”: For every four editorial content pushes, include one industry-related push or engagement, such as a re-tweet or ‘@ reply,’ about the company and one about the industry.

Other tips the trio recommended for merging content streams included adding QR codes to print—though, Larson says, it’s important to have mobile-friendly material on the other side of the code. Additionally, multimedia components such as videos, slideshows, and audio clips should be conceived as a co-product, rather than a by-product, of an article conceived for print but that will ultimately be featured online.

Hallie Busta, a winner of ASBPE’s 2014 Young Leaders Scholarship, is with Hanley Wood Media, writing for EcoBuildling Pulse, Architect, Residential Architect and Architectural Lighting.