From April-June, I partnered with Broadcasting &Cable to see if we could increase the performance of one of their blogs. I’ll start at the end, here are the results:
A few things this chart tells us:
- It took a single month to double page view metrics.
- It took another month to establish this as a reasonable benchmark.
- By the third month, page view metrics were more than triple where they started from.
The blog we focused on was Fates & Fortunes, authored by Paige Albiniak, contributing editor for Broadcasting & Cable. While Fates has been around since December 2007, Paige only began blogging for it this year. She wrote the Beyond the Box blog for years, and has been a consistent contributor to B&C in many other ways.
In March, I spoke with the B&C team – Ben Grossman, Melissa Grego, Joel Topcik and Stephanie Robbins about their blog strategy and ways that we can support a blogger such as Paige. We ended up with a three month plan to partner with Paige and see what could be accomplished with a concerted effort. The lessons below describe our approach from both a strategic and tactical level.
In the past three months this is what I have learned:
- It Takes a Team
Broadcasting & Cable is an incredible team of journalists, and the best part of a project like this is to be able to work with folks like Ben, Melissa, Stephanie, Joel and Paige.
But their time is precious, which is why we tried to establish clear roles in the beginning. Everyone was involved for the initial strategy discussions – Melissa shared topic ideas, Stephanie worked on the marketing strategy, etc. After the project was underway, Joel and I tried to focus on tracking the blog’s progress, and individual team members lent a hand when needed.
The team also enlisted the help of Ashley MacDonald of RB Interactive, who was instrumental in creating a newsletter to support this effort, as well as other web operations needs.
The division of labor seemed to work well, leveraging a broad set of resources, without taxing anyone unnecessarily. And let’s face it, Paige did 99% of the work!
- Everyone Loves a Schedule
Joel, Paige and I created the following schedule which we stuck to pretty closely:
- Kickoff meetings, as mentioned above.
- Bi-weekly: Joel and I spoke about progress, ideas and stats. I would try to pull metrics twice a month and send them around with comments.
- Monthly: Joel, Paige and I spoke to discuss metrics from previous month, elicit feedback from Paige who is really in the trenches, and brainstormed potential opportunities and tactics for the next month.
All seemed to work well from Paige’s perspective. She feels that every blog needs an editor, and was really enthused that the brand was so supportive of her. Overall, I think the key was to find a way that we could be helpful, without being in the way.
- Have Goals
This sounds simple, but it is often overlooked. There is a temptation to feel that because you are making an effort, because it is hard work, that in fact, you are going in the right direction. But without measuring results, you are flying blind.
We let Fates & Fortunes create it’s own benchmark, seeing how it did after the first month, then the next. The fact that page view metrics doubled so quickly and sustained this was a good sign.
In each monthly meeting we discussed what metrics could be possible in the following month, and things that can be done to give them a bump. Some of these spikes can be luck (a hot news item), but bloggers can also create their own luck by creating really great content and marketing it well. That’s what Paige focused on.
- Just Show Up
Update frequency is a critical component to blog success. The first hurdle Paige went after was to post consistent high quality content. She hit her rhythm pretty quickly, and was able to sustain this as she understood more and more what worked for her and her readers.
Because of the frequency, Fates became a bigger presence within B&C and readers had more opportunities to discover and find value in it.
- Use Best Practices for How People Read Online
Over the course of the pilot, we often discussed topics, headlines, images, formatting, and other best practices attuned to how people read online.
- Create Content Types
The Fates & Fortunes blog could be very dependent on the news of the week, so we discussed ways to supplement this with evergreen, useful posts.
We considered why people read the blog and related topics that would serve the needs of her readers. As Paige puts it:
"You need to feed the beast, but still post high quality content, not just every thought that enters your head. Over time, you get better instincts."
She also created "roundup" posts to cover smaller news items in an efficient manner. This is how she described the post types she settled on:
- Standard employment switches or job changes.
- Deeper profiles and things that people are doing other than job changes.
- Commenting on slices of life stuff, which can include celebrity news.
- Bloggers Need to be Marketers
The B&C team integrated the Fates blog into their other products, and marketed it through newsletters, the web, etc. Paige leveraged her network through social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook. She has 705 Facebook friends, which means she’s cooler than you and me combined. It’s like High School all over again!
A profound change in journalism is that content creators now need to take an active role in not just creating an audience, but interacting with them as well. Call it branding, call it marketing, call it community – but either way, it is serving Paige well.
- Tie it to Business Opportunities
B&C’s Publisher Larry Dunn and Associate Publisher Louis Hillelson were instrumental in combining the success of Paige’s blog with a related product launch: Television Careers. This brand launched on July 27, and includes a section of the B&C website that provides job opportunities, as well as a newsletter that will feature Paige’s content. Louis brainstormed the idea to marry this with job classifieds (thanks Mark Abbott!) and content from the Cable & Television Human Resources Association. A win-win situation.
- Always Have a Plan
We ended the three month pilot by analyzing what we have learned (see above), and discussing the next three months.
Joel, Paige and I have reviewed the next 90 days to consider what we can expect in terms of benchmarks and goals. For this blog in particular, the Television Careers launch will have a big affect on performance. We also talked about things from a process perspective to see if we can tweak things to better support Paige. And of course, Joel and I also talked about spreading this model to other B&C blogs.
A HUGE thanks to Paige, the B&C team, and colleagues in RB Interactive and RBI who are responsible for the growth of this blog & and tying it to larger business strategies.
For more ways to improve your blog, check out these posts: