Editorial experimentation on the fly isn’t necessarily sexy

People always ask what advice would you give a younger self, and I think one of the things that I’ve learned over the years working is that so much innovation is simple experimentation and execution. It’s not particularly sexy, but in the end, it works. And success is infectious.

In the past few weeks, I’ve learned a half dozen things that will help me make help ideastream, my current employer, make better decisions. We are trying things and testing them rigorously with data.

Here are just a few things that we’ve learned:

  • We don’t have the biggest Facebook following in the world, and we’ve stopped boosting posts because we’re not comfortable with Facebook labelling our journalism as political advertising. Like everyone else, this has impacted our reach and to a lesser extent our referral traffic. Facebook Lives are helping us with organic reach, especially Lives that tap into the networks of those we’re doing the Lives with. However, viewing length isn’t brilliant. Facebook video audiences are still a mercurial bunch. They don’t stick around for long, but we got a lot of good engagement with the Lives so we’re going play around with them more. The next nut to crack is to get test ways to get people to spend more time with us.
  • YouTube is an interesting space for a public TV broadcaster to play in. This isn’t breaking news, but people do watch longer form content on the platform. And we’re mining our prodigious archives to engage YouTube viewers with that longer, lean back content.
  • And for the first time in a full-time position (I did do this with clients and loved it), I am working with our marketing department, and we’ve been testing YouTube ads. This has been really interesting because it’s helping us reach people we haven’t been reaching. Our video audience tends to skew older and, in terms of digital, more to desktops. With our YouTube ad campaign, almost 97 per cent of the audience we’re reaching is mobile and tablet based. And it’s cost effective for us.

This is just what I’ve learned in the last week, and in this position, I’m able to do this kind of experimentation all of the time. We try little new things and get better with them every day. As I said, it’s not sexy, but as anyone working in innovation and succeeding will tell you, execution is a large part of the game.

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