Twitch: Publishers hop onto gaming channels for audience and insights into commenting

Final Intel Extreme Masters World Best Gamers League Of Legends – Campus Party Brasil, by Camila Cunha/indicefoto, Wikimedia

TGIF! In my newsletter today, one of the featured stories was a piece in Digiday about how and why publishers are experimenting with Twitch. Gaming is one of those hugely popular pursuits that seems to sit just outside the mainstream while also being solidly mainstream in terms of numbers and adoption.

Twitch is something that as a non-gamer punches into my feed every once and while just in terms of its size and its popularity. One of the best ways to understand Twitch for a media professional is that it’s a platform for live streaming eSports. Its stats are phenomenal, as one would expect from a platform that taps into the Attention Economy equivalent of a highly addictive drug that operates at the intersection of gaming and video.

  • More than 15 m people watch Twitch daily, according to stats from April 2019.
  • More than 404 hours of content have been streamed in the past year.
  • “The most popular streamer, Ninja, earns at least $100,000 per month from Twitch alone.”
  • It currently ranks as the 26th most popular website in the world and the 13th most popular in the US.
  • Amazon bought Twitch in 2014 for a cool $970m, and its current value is $3.79 bn.
    Source: 99Firms.com

Digiday’s Kerry Flynn looked at why publishers are flocking to Twitch and their strategy on the platform. For eSports or gaming publishers, the move makes perfect sense. BuzzFeed Multiplayer, the digital publisher’s gaming channel, has some of its content available only to paying subscribers. The engagement for the content has some pretty staggering statistics, especially when you look at the amount of time that people are spending with the content. “One of Multiplayer’s most engaged streams was gameplay of ‘The Sims 4‘ and garnered more than 35,000 unique live views with more than 3,800 viewers watching for the entire three-hour stream and more than 4,300 viewers watching at once, according to the publisher.” Eeep.

But for publishers not working in the gaming space, the work is more experimental in nature. I recently watched a bit of the Washington Post’s video of one of their reporters playing a video game and interviewing Democratic Sen. Cory Booker, who also is one of the 25 members of his party running for president. It was a bit surreal for me, but I understand the Jedi mind trick of it. You get gamers to engage with political issues while a young-ish candidate plays video games. I would have to be well rested to talk about tax policy and play a video game.

But apart from tapping into this huge flood of attention, publishers are finding the comments on Twitch can be good. The Washington Post said that they found viewers asking some great questions about the Mueller report. It makes me think about whether there is a way regional publishers and broadcasters like the one I work can tap into this or if it’s just a place for national publishers who can get guests with a national profile. Lots of questions.

Well, this week is a wrap, almost. Hello to the new subscribers to the newsletter this week. If you aren’t a subscriber, you can get 10 media stories from around the world in your inbox week daily with very brief context by going to my Nuzzel profile and signing up. And if you spot a good story, let me know on Twitter, @kevglobal.

Helping your newsroom fall in love with spreadsheets

Closeup of Excel Spreadsheet template to track printouts, by Texas State Library and Archives Commission, from Wikimedia

Topping my media newsletter today is a piece about how the digital transformation team at the New York Times helped their teams embrace (maybe love is too strong a word) spreadsheets.

It’s timely because it came on a day that I was helping my colleagues in public broadcasting learn how to do data journalism. Top tip from my webinar yesterday: Use Google to find spreadsheets with the data you want by adding filetype:xls (or xlsx) to your search.

Former New York Times digital editor Aron Pilhofer once told me that he could teach any journalist 80 percent of everything they would need to know about data journalism in a day. I’d agree with that, and if you can unlock the magic of pivot tables, you’ll feel like Harry Potter. It’s just magic.

But if you’re a journalist and the actual ease of use doesn’t win you over, Lindsey Rogers Cook with the Times makes this argument:

While journalists once were fond of joking that they got into the field because of an aversion to math, numbers now comprise the foundation for beats as wide ranging as education, the stock market, the Census and criminal justice. More data is released than ever before — there are nearly 250,000 datasets on data.gov alone — and increasingly, government, politicians and companies try to twist those numbers to back their own agendas.

How We Helped Our Reporters Learn to Love Spreadsheets, Lindsey Rogers Cook, Times Open

As with the training that I do with data journalism, they use Google Sheets. It’s approachable and the interface is simple while having most of the features that Excel does. Moreover, I’ve found that when working with journalists from multiple organisations that if I use Google Sheets, I can be assured that we’re all working on the same version of the software, unlike Excel. I also find Google Sheets much less daunting than the open-source versions of spreadsheet software.

At the Times, the class meets for two hours each more for three weeks. They work on projects that are directly to their work, and they also train the reporters’ editors.

I have found the most successful data journalism courses that I’ve done actually bring together people from reporting, design and even coding or development.

I’ll let you read the rest of the post, but one key thing I’ll highlight, the Times has actually released their data journalism course materials to the world on Google Docs. Wow. That’s impressive and useful.

If you have a story you think I should include in my daily media newsletter, let me know on Twitter, @kevglobal.

How The Economist is using data-driven interactive Stories to grow its Instagram following

Topping my media newsletter today is a story from my friends at Journalism.co.uk on how The Economist is using interactive data Stories on Instagram to grow their following on the social media platform.

Financial publications such as The Economist and The Financial Times have long understood the power of data visualisation to engage social media audiences. This tweet by the FT in 2015 – an animation of a graphic showing the erosion of middle class income in the US – was its most popular that year.

And my friend Mark Jones with the World Economic Forum told me that by simply including a chart or a graph in a social media share that it performed 400 percent better than a simple link share.

I see this more of an evolution of a trend and a new data point that emphasises something that we already now, but it is definitely something to emulate if you are already working with data visualisation.

Thanks again to my subscribers, and if you have a story that you think should be included in the newsletter, share it with me on Twitter @kevglobal.

How BBC Good Food is using voice search analytics to develop its Amazon Alexa skill

Unboxing my Amazon Echo. An Amazon Echo and its accessories.
My new Amazon Echo unpacked, by Brewbooks, Wikimedia Commons

Today, the newsletter featured a story about how BBC Good Food, one of the several magazines published under the BBC brand, gathered voice data to develop its Amazon Alexa skill.

I think that Marcela Kunova on journalism.co.uk makes a good point in writing about the process: Smart speakers are still an evolving space and that user behaviour and the technology itself is still a moving target.

I’d go one step further. I think that voice interfaces are still in their infancy. I swear a lot at Alexa and Siri, and the voice eco-system is still in its infancy. At the public broadcasting group that I work at, we have already had issues with getting our work to audiences on smart speakers. Reaching audiences on Alexa is mediated through NPR, our national network, and TuneIn, one of the several audio discovery services. TuneIn’s process for managing our stream has been opaque and very informal for such a critical distribution service.

At the moment BBC Good Food is using what data it can get. The report mentioned that of the 90 m searches done through its website, “only a few hundred users who access the content through Alexa skill.”

But they are using some of the same statistics that they use for web search to guide the development of the Alexa skill: “volume of use, volume of completion, drop-off rate etc,” according to Hannah Williams, head of digital content at BBC Good Food.

Apart from how they analytics that they are using, the other thing I found interesting in their process is how they are trying to get information about anonymous users of their digital services by pushing users to other digital content through their skill.

Williams said that people looking to develop an Alexa skill shouldn’t focus on creating a perfect product because one doesn’t exist yet. She said its more important to invest in analytics to improve the product as user tastes and engagement with smart speakers change.

Most read this week

In the past week, here are the stories that subscribers to my newsletter have been reading the most:

Have a great weekend, and if you have a good media business story, especially from outside the US and Europe, please send it along to @kevglobal on Twitter.

Podcasting: Lessons from an award-winning pod about pot

Cannabis Station, Denver, Colorado, a medical marijuana store. The sign says, "Fill Up on Diesel $30 ⅛'s."
Cannabis Station, Denver, Colorado, by Jeffrey Beall, from Flickr, Some Rights Reserved

Readers of the newsletter will know that podcast audiences and advertising are growing, well at least in the US, where podcasts can break up the long drives Americans take (and I say that as one). In today’s media business newsletter, the top story is a pithy Q&A about some lessons from a podcast on the pot industry in Massachusetts.

Pot content is not necessarily new, especially as more liberal marijuana laws have swept across the US. The Denver Post had a marijuana critic for a while and a vertical focused on the subject called The Cannabist. (Sadly, the critic and a video show were victims of the well-covered cuts at the newspapers. Indie newspaper Westword said that journalist Jake Browne was to be “replaced by bots.”)

The podcast, Mass Marijuana, “a show about the growing pains in the newly legal cannabis industry in the state of Massachusetts.” Mass is a clever pun both in terms of legal marijuana use coming to the masses and also Mass being an abbreviation and nickname for Massachusetts.

Unlike a lot of professionally produced podcasts that have grown out of public radio in the US, this one is produced by a local TV station in the Boston area. Lead producer Dalton Main said:

As cannabis became legal, we were covering stories constantly. My job was to take the interviews and stories created every day and weave them into a larger overarching narrative. I got to read between the lines and connect the dots of the daily news pieces. It was very fun.

Mass Marijuana: What Broadcasters Can Learn About Podcasting from An Award-Winning Show About Cannabis, by Seth Resler, Jacobs Media

The two lessons that stood out for me were, one obvious one, that they tapped into an identifiable, and I would argue a well-known niche. A niche focus is important, if not critical, in several digital media formats whether that is a podcast, newsletter or blog. Number two, they tapped into a wealth of coverage that they are were already doing. And three, they also mined their own archives.

Keep those suggestions coming to me on Twitter, @kevglobal. As the newsletter grows subscribers, sharing international media stories with me and others will make it even better.

Newsletters: How to launch a successful one

Man Reading Newspaper, by Mike Prince, from Flickr, Some Rights Reserved

This is going to a very meta post because I’m writing about a post from another newsletter about newsletters from the writer of another newsletter.

A couple of days ago, I spotted this very good newsletter from Poytner about journalism tools, and today, Ren LaForme offers up praise for a morning newsletter that he gets from Buffalo, New York, a place where he hasn’t lived more than a decade ago.

It’s both informative and interesting. It’s packed with voice — from individual reporters on the top stories and freelancer Brian Meyer on the roundups, with the occasional edition from Max Kalnitz (a fellow Spectrum student newspaper alumnus) — without losing its institutional authority

In praise of the morning newsletter, by Ren LaForme, Poynter

It’s a great summary of what makes a great newsletter, and being a newsletter about journalism tools, he also links off to a brilliant post by solo businessman Paul Jarvis about newsletters, which are critical to his business. Reading Paul’s post makes me wonder if newsletters are the new blogs – a personal publishing vehicle that helps a person build a professional profile.

Paul has a lot of pithy advice about newsletters, and it’s really useful. He lists three styles of newsletters that are successful, although I’ve seen others list more. For Paul, most successful newsletters are either long-form writing, the roundup (which is my newsletter) or news.

To be successful, he says that you first need to remember that you have to write, and I’ll say that I started doing my newsletter more intentionally to get me back in the habit of writing. I was offering up too many excuses and letting my perfectionism get the best of me. I felt like I needed something weighty to say to write, and slowly over time, the barrier to what was substantial enough to write became greater. Writing a quick summary of my newsletter, lowered that barrier, and it got me back in the habit of writing. The momentum now feels self-sustaining.

I also like this formulation that Paul has about the magic of newsletters:

Newsletters are interesting because they’re the only form of communication where 1:1 and 1:many exist in the same place.

My newsletter approach, by Paul Jarvis

As he says, writing a newsletter needs a cadence. I’m quite surprised that I have been doing this thing almost daily now since last autumn. I have had to flex how I do this as my work schedule changes, but I’ve been able to commit to it more as I got into it more and got more subscribers.

Paul has a great list for how to start your own newsletter. I’ll highlight just point number two:

Where do those people who should be on your newsletter currently spend their time? Who do they currently read? Who has these people as part of their audience already?

All in all, if newsletters are part of your work or are on your agenda, then you’ll want to bookmark Paul’s write-up of his approach.

Right, I better get back to prepping for my newsletter launch at work next week. Thanks for reading, and if you have a story that you think should be in my international media and journalism business letter, please drop me a link on Twitter, @kevglobal.

Chartbeat’s 2019 lessons for publishers who want more subscribers

On target, by viZZZual.com, from Flickr, Some Rights Reserved

Occasionally there is an article that really stands out from all of the other media business intelligence, and today, the top story in my media newsletter today is one to bookmark. Nancy Lee, a senior product manager with Chartbeat, summarises 400 hours of research the analytics company did on subscriptions.

There is so much in this post and so many times that I was agreeing violently, but I’ll just highlight some of the points that really stood out for me.

  • Publishers’ infrastructure is still focused on advertising-led businesses and have not kept pace with the shift to reader revenue.
  • Email is still a neglected and overlooked channel for many publishers. “The energy behind email’s return is that it remains the most cost efficient way to test conversion and retention strategies. There’s little risk and plenty of reward for readers to opt-in to newsletters and other distribution lists.”
  • The point that really leapt out at me was how editorial thinking and content strategy are now being married to product thinking. And they touch on the cultural issues that can arise in that shift in thinking. That’s an entire article on its own.

This post is a great conversation starter, and it’s so economical in its communication. I will definitely be using it when we have some of these conversations in my shop.

As always, if you’re not a subscriber to the newsletter yet, click on over to my Nuzzel profile page. And if you have a story that you think should be on the site, let me know on Twitter, @kevglobal.

What a veteran journalist learned in launching and scaling a digital start-up

Business launch. An illustration of a man in business casual clothes holding a flag as he stands on a rocket. By Mohamed Hassan/pxhere.com
By Mohamed Hassan / pxhere.com

I often say that in the disrupted media businesses that journalists are all freelancers now, or to put it another, more positive way, we all have to be much more entrepreneurial than we have been in the past. That being said, making the move from being a jobbing journalist into an entrepreneur or business owner can be a major shift.

That is why the top story in my international media newsletter today is an interview with Jeff Kofman, the CEO of Trint. Jeff sums up his journey best:

As a reporter with 30 years in the field as a foreign correspondent, as a war correspondent, I just had no experience building a team, raising money, managing a company. It was an incredibly steep learning curve.

Jeff Kofman on how AI can empower newsrooms , from the Global Editors Network

The service uses AI to automate the laborious process of transcription while also adding searchability and discoverability. I like services like this because I often say that I would rather outsource tasks like this to robots rather than treat journalists like robots. It frees journalists up to add value.

The biggest challenge for media leaders is choosing where they think their journalists add value. This is important in creating a content strategy when we’re trying to determine how to make that value exchange clear so that audiences will become paying members or subscribers.

And in building his company, he has learned this important lesson: Even if you’re competing with much bigger competitors – in his world Google and Microsoft – that there is value in focusing on one task and doing that task incredibly well.

Today’s newsletter is truly international with stories from Europe, Asia and Africa. If you haven’t subscribed yet, please visit my Nuzzel profile page and click on the blue subscribe button. And if you spot a story that you think should be in the newsletter, let me know on Twitter, @kevglobal.