Image Via Creative Commons

Content Marketing Interview With Rachel Globus

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how fast media changes. Over the last five years specifically, technology has changed the way we consume and access content — whether it’s an article, video, or other interactive element or graphic. This evolution of media, the internet and gadgets like smartphones and tablets have made content more accessible and dynamic than ever before. As a writer, editor and content strategist, it’s been such a fun time to work in media. It’s my job to understand and get creative within these ever-changing mediums for a variety of audiences.

Anyway, this led me to write about the intersection of content and marketing. I wrote a blog post for social media company TINT, called, “Content Marketing: Don’t Sell Your Brand, Tell Your Story.” While researching this piece, I had the opportunity to reflect on what I’ve learned during my career in digital media and think about the talented people I worked with over the years. I decided to tap their knowledge of content marketing for my post. And, their responses to my interviews were so great, I had to publish them.

First up, we have Rachel Globus, who is a Sr. Social Media Strategist at E.W. Scripps Co. She is a unique source because she’s worked in print, digital and social, and she takes a very academic approach to learning everything she can about each medium and then she creates practical applications of what she’s learned to engage readers, while also optimizing the content she develops and produces. She’s pretty much a rock star, but I’ll let her speak for herself below.

Q&A With Rachel Globus

Christa Fletcher: How has online content changed over the course of your career?

Rachel Globus: When I think about how content has changed, the term “web extra” comes to mind. That’s what we used to call content that would go on the website because it wasn’t good enough for the magazine, back when I was the editor of a national trade. The term encapsulates an entire worldview of online content: inferior, inconsequential, extraneous.

Now—to users’ great benefit—content producers develop it natively for the online experience, which means that the best content goes online first, produced for online formats, and with interactive elements. These days, when I get the Sunday New York Times, it’s a rehash of all the best articles I’ve already read over the week. The new “web extra” is the “[insert legacy medium here] extra”!

Another major change is in the meaning of the word content. Nobody used to use the word “content”—you created articles or stories. I’ve always had a great distaste for the word because it implies a false equivalency to all written text. A Facebook post is equivalent to a New Yorker profile is equivalent to a Wikipedia entry: It’s all content. I think it reflected a lack of true understanding of content on the part of engineers and ultimately online entrepreneurs and businesses. On the other hand, it reflects a democratization of content creation that has enriched all of us. Now, as users have gotten more discerning, all content providers have had to step up their game, and that’s a good thing.

Lastly, discovery mechanisms have completely changed along with the dominant mediums. You used to package content to grab eyes on covers and front pages. Then, producers moved to accommodate the search-driven content discovery model, so we wrote for Google. Next, we developed content and wrote for social discovery, which drives us both to cover different topics and package them in a different way. Now, we’re on the cusp of a sea change as users age out of Facebook and Twitter caps out its userbase. What we’ve learned is to be agile—the trick isn’t to be good at optimizing to drive readership via the platform du jour, it’s to be good at optimizing.

Fletcher: Have these changes affected how you write content? Or how you market it to readers? If so, how?

Globus: Absolutely! If you’re not writing with an eye out how your audience will discover your content, and the environment they will experience it in, you’re not in the game.

In terms of marketing content, it’s still all about optimizing for social discovery. Where I currently work in the TV industry, they used to reach the most people through on-air commercials for key content pieces. Now, it’s not uncommon for more people to see one Facebook post than some of our newscasts, so we produce mini-packages for social platforms that are specifically designed to drive engagement and reach on social media. Facebook is still a marketing juggernaut for publishers. No other platform has anywhere near the reach.

Fletcher: Has social media changed how you write content?

Globus: Social media changes how we produce content in two key ways. First, it changes the topics we cover. Second, it changes how we package it.

When I was at eHow.com, I analyzed tens of thousands of pieces of content to determine what resonated on social media, in order to inform content development. For example, we typically planned to produce food basics for eHow Food, such as “How to Cook a Turkey.” When I looked at the social data, I found that content associated with relaxation and partying, especially drinks and desserts, performed better socially (e.g. How to Make No-Bake Chocolate Oreo Ball Cookies), so we built that into our content strategy.

In terms of writing, people now use content to identify themselves in their digital life, the way they use clothes and accessories in real life. So give them a way to talk about themselves by talking about you. For example, five years ago this slideshow we did would have been called “10 gorgeous photos of San Diego.” Now it’s “10 holiday photos that could only happen in San Diego,” which I specifically wrote to allow our audience to humble-brag about their city! Buzzfeed has taken this type of content to a true art form.

Fletcher: Has technology changed your writing style?

Globus: You have to understand the environment you’re writing for. I once had an editor tell me to start each paragraph with an unusual word, to grab readers’ eyes as they’re scanning down the magazine page. Interestingly, I think the old swimsuit rule (make your story long enough to cover the subject, and short enough to be interesting) applies now more than ever—it’s just that, as with swimsuits, the hemline keeps rising.

Fletcher: What do you think about content marketing? Has the shift from brands as publishers been positive or negative for digital publishing?

Globus: Since I’m a marketer who comes from content, I’m a huge believer in the power of content as marketing. I think the industry needs to get better at tracking how all touch points in the sales funnel lead to purchase, so we get away from a last-click attribution-only model.

Brand publishing is a positive for all content producers. More competition pushes us to be better.

Fletcher: Are there examples of brands who publish content you enjoy? Hate?

Globus: LOVE: Mic, Vox, Verge, Buzzfeed. Note that first three in particular all have great user experiences. Publishers forget that your digital presence is the club you’re inviting your audience to. If it doesn’t have a cool vibe, they’re going to leave.

HATE: Upworthy.

Fletcher: What are some best practices you’d share with a writer or marketer who wants to get eyes on good his/her content?

Globus: Don’t just take what you do and push it out on a channel. Create content that is authentic to that channel. The prototypical example I’ve seen working in the news business is the TV station that posts every car crash to their Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/etc. account. If you can’t create content that makes sense for that channel, the channel doesn’t have your target audience.

Bake the discovery mechanism into the content development process. I.e., if you’re not thinking about how your piece of content is going to look and feel on Facebook or how you could play it out on Instagram, as you’re developing it, it’s going to fall flat.

Build your own list. Social media isn’t an audience—it’s a means to reach and convert an audience.

Test and learn. Respond to what your audience wants.

Don’t forget story.

Google Thinks I’m Gay

My Gmail account thinks I’m a lesbian.

You see, I’d be totally cool with a human mistaking my sexuality because it’s not a big deal, but the fact that Google gave me ads targeted to a presumed sexuality is disturbing. Since when is my sex life remotely relevant to the internet?

I mean, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised since Facebook has given me fertility and baby advertisements since I changed my status to “married.” And, since Gmail doesn’t know I’m married, but I have Google alerts for “sexism,” “feminism” and “women’s issues,” the email provider made a generalization that I have sex with women.

So being a feminist makes me a lesbian? Does that mean all lesbians are feminists? Wow.

You know, it’s too bad you can’t be a person concerned with issues that affect women without being forced into gender roles, sex and other labels. Why should anyone define themselves by their email usage or Facebook status? Targeted ads are another form of stereotyping.

Let’s be honest, these personalized ads are totally sexist. Why are my sexual habits even coming into play? When men change their status to married, do they get fertility and baby ads? I mean come on, as if my age, family and heterosexuality aren’t pressure enough to have kids, I have to deal with Facebook giving me tips on becoming pregnant, or Gmail encouraging me to come out of the closet?

So what if I have a Google alert for “sexism.” Yeah, people laugh when they hear that, but it’s informative and I need to know exactly what people are seeing, saying and hearing about the topic.

The truth is, both men and women should care about equality whether they read the news, set Google alerts, or pay attention to these subtle cultural niches, because in the end, it will affect them in the work place, at home, in public and in their families — if they are so inclined.

I understand ads are generated by calculated algorithms and these links pay for the free services I use, but there’s a big difference between sponsored ads based on my searches and ads that make assumptions about my personal life.

I don’t want anyone to be defined by their gender, where’s that preference in our Google account settings?

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Flashing Forward: Women in Media

Recently, you may have noticed less posts on my blog. Sorry for the lack of writing, but I took an Adobe Flash animation and programming class and had some visitors that took up my free time. Since taking the course, I’ve learned how to animate graphics and create interactive content, but I also thought a lot about women’s  roles in media and technology.

It all began that morning in Flash class when I entered the computer lab at CUNY‘s Graduate School of Journalism. To my surprise, the class was filled with women editors, writers and publicists. In fact, everyone was a woman except for our instructor.

Given that this was “Flash for Journalists,” a course offered by Media Bistro that gives a basic knowledge of a technical skill, I felt proud that these women were defying the convention of two male-dominated industries: journalism and technology.

Even at lunch many of us commented on this unique situation that is contrary to what we know about the status of women in the U.S. workforce. We asked our instructor, the Director of Digital Media at Columbia University, if this was typical. He said men rarely take Media Bistro classes, no matter the topic.

Interesting.

Did you know that “women held only 25% of all new media jobs created from 1990 -2005,” but they made up 65% of all journalism and mass communications students?

And, according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT): “In 2008 women earned only 18 percent of all Computer Science degrees.

Preposterous!

The fact that there are so many intelligent women out there, yet so few in journalism and computer technologies is insane.  While some may believe women aren’t interested in these fields, I think the problem lies in a lack of encouragement, not disinterest or a lack of talent.

The NCWIT supports women in technology because it will increase competition, innovation and create a more stable workforce with diversity. They promote outreach, retention, curriculum reform, research, and leadership programs among K-12 students and at various companies. And, the organization is partnered with Microsoft.

I completely agree with the organization’s sentiment and goals, connecting young women to new industries where they’ve historically been limited is the exact thing we should be doing.

The fact that we can put robots on Mars, but cannot achieve equality in the workforce is just silly — this isn’t rocket science. (Speaking of which, we should get more women engineers too!)

I get so tired of seeing men dominate as journalists, running media companies, or as the leading technology experts. I guess that’s why it was refreshing to meet talented women in my Flash class. Maybe, with women like Arianna Huffington, Co-Founder of the Huffington Post, and Jehmu Greene, the President of the Women’s Media Center, leading the way, we’re moving toward some progress.

For those of you interested in women tech bloggers, articles and other websites at the intersection of the two mediums, below is a list, please add more in the comments!

The journalist picture above is Najahe Sherman, a reporter for NBC Action News and member of The National Association of Black Journalists and the Native American Journalist Association.

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Eight Ways To Cope Without Internet

Over the past week and half I haven’t had internet in my apartment. One morning, we woke up without a signal and Time Warner Cable didn’t have any open appointments until this morning. The time during our outage really affected me. I never realized how much I use the web until I couldn’t check my email, blog, update Facebook, or even look up directions to restaurants and museums.

What’s funny, I consider myself an organized person, but without my internet connection, I felt lost and disoriented — like part of my brain was disconnected. Once I understood why I felt so weird, I was horrified!

Am I really that dependent on websites and my email? Turns out the answer is “yes.” However, if I’m going to learn anything from this experience, it’s how to feel connected without my high-speed wi-fi. So, I came up with a few things to remember for next time…

Brooklyn Museum
Image via Wikipedia

Last weekend I wanted to look up how long it would take to get to the Brooklyn Museum from my house so I could meet up with a friend for the free events on Target First Saturdays. Without a web connection, or even a Smartphone, which I ditched in the recession panic of 2009, I had to guess how long it would take to get there since I’d never been there before.

The result? I showed up to the museum about thirty minutes early and sat outside enjoying the sunshine. No biggie! In fact, it was quite nice and I got a little Vitamin D.

This little anecdote brings me to my first tip for coping without internet:

1. Be free with your time by arriving early for an appointment and enjoy a moment in the real world.

Often, I get caught up — filling my days to the brim, being efficient with my time and always rushing to the next thing. When you’re without internet, or simply taking a break from technology, give yourself time to find your way about town with real maps or ask someone for directions. Make your day an adventure, rather than a to-do list to check off. Sometimes it’s nice to only have a few things planned in a day and then going where the day takes you.

2. Read a good book, magazine, or the newspaper!

I’m sure we all read a good ol’ paper back when we get the chance, on our subway ride to work and on vacation. And without internet, I found I had so much more time on my hands. No 20 minutes on email here, or hour on Facebook there — that’s a lot of time to walk to the library to finish those items on your to-read list, or catch up with your favorite glossies from a local newsstand.

3. Chat with friends and family.

Though it’d be better to do this one in person if you can, talking on the phone is good too. I bet the number of texts and minutes on my phone will surely increase this month. Instead of sending emails and posting on Facebook at night and on the weekend, I was texting, leaving voicemails and even having lengthy conversations (I’m not usually one for liking the phone).

4. Save a copy of important dates, phone numbers, maps and addresses on your computer.

There were a few times I wished I had some information which I have stored in my Gmail account. Lesson learned, save stuff to my desktop.

5. Use free time to cook a delicious meal from memory or use a real cook book.

Many nights I’ll quickly type ingredients into the Google search bar and find a recipe lickety-split. Well, this week I went solo and cooked a few meals from memory, by taste or referred to an actual cook book. It was fun!

6. Take a lunch break.

There are times that I admit, I do not take a lunch break at work. Well, when your internet is out, take a lunch break and follow up on personal stuff for a few minutes, then step away from the computer! This is good practice even if you aren’t experiencing a connection outage at home.

7. Use snail mail.

Everyone appreciates getting real mail. Write a handwritten note to someone you care about. I know my pen pal will be happy I haven’t had internet. Must remember to mail her letter tomorrow…will I set an alert on my Gmail? Nah, I’ll remember…

8. Get over the fact that the online world will continue moving without you in it.

I know, we all like to stay on top of the latest YouTube videos, witty blogs, our friends’ silly status updates, movie reviews, etc. but without internet, you’re not going to see them, so don’t worry, they’ll be there and there will always be more…

Alright, that’s my advice. Hope your future internet free moments are liberating, rather than stressful.

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