YEAR OF THE READER:
Who they are, What they want and Deepening the Experience
Q1 - Know
Q2 - Retain
Q3 - Grow
Q4 - Deepen
Why is this the year of the reader? The answer is quite simple. While we have amazing content that has steadily improved, and an amazing Sales team that has broken records every year, we have been basically polishing the apple and not innovating as the web has grown, readers have moved around and our lovely sites have slowed significantly in their engagement with our audience. While we've sold on our reputation and audience size, which has taken us a decade to accomplish, as we've focused intently on growth and internal process (very challenging) we've become disconnected in fundamental ways with our changing readership, to the point where we do not feel we confidently know who they are and where they are. In short, our success has also led us to become disconnected, we are feeling the signs of it in audience softening in 2016 and 2017 is now our time to turn it around.
I am not surprised. Staying on top of the reader in this environment is a hero's job.
We will become heroes this year. We need to push hard against our legacy and habits to develop new muscles and intelligence that will inform our path forward so that we stay true to our Vision:
We help the many people achieve a "good life" through helping them build a beautiful, organized and healthy home.
To do this we need to place our reader as our absolute #1 focus. We need to point our Editorial, Aud Dev and Product teams squarely at the collaborative goal of building, measuring and learning for and from our readers.
Product needs to take the lead in a brand new way and pioneer "record breaking engagement with our audience" from a technical perspective. Product should lead the creation of a community functionality that we have long wanted to build and which will be a crucial differentiator and supporter of our core audience. They need to build the Community foundation that will support all of our Editorial and Sales goals. Product should then continue to lead in creating a web experience that is truly amazing for our readers and work closely with Editorial to help them package their content into "consumer products" that are best in class and easy to find.
Editorial needs to work closely with Aud Dev to plan and measure their editorial hunches so that they know they are writing WHAT our readers find useful and inspiring and that it is distributed WHERE they are going to read it.
Aud Dev needs to provide feedback to the whole company about WHERE are readers are coming from, WHAT they are most engaged with and HOW we lose them. This is the basic science of acquisition and retention, and the audience lifecycle. We have never focused on knowing our audience this closely.
Aud Dev also has the additional task of fine tuning our distribution skills so that all of our arrows are aimed in the right direction and hit reader target 100% of the time, both for Editorial and for Sales. They become the masters of knowing WHERE our reader is 24 hours of the day.
Sales will benefit tremendously from all of this work and hereby be able to promise and deliver record breaking engagement with our audience for our clients. It will no longer be hit or miss, but a confident science which will pay a high premium.
Additionally, Sales will work closely with Product and Editorial to sculpt and prove our ability to develop audiences within our audiences that return tremendous engagement for our clients because we KNOW them well and know what they WANT. Sales, as well as Editorial & Product, should be entirely dependent on placing our readers as #1 and knowing them well. As Editorial & Product conquer a bigger and bigger share of the growing Millennial generation - because they stick to it like glue - Sales will reap what they sow. They have already proven that they can break records when our connection to our audience is weak, imagine what they will do when it is strong.
Finally, Operations will support every department so that every employee can get out of the weeds of unprofessional process and busy work to focus on the Reader. However, in doing so, they will also be the finest role model we have, for their successful efforts in paying attention to us and strengthening our inner connections to one another will not only energize our work, it will allow us the clear mind to see our readers and connect to them. Only through connection to one another can we connect to others.
So, the starting gun has gone off. Our Objective for the year is powerful, big and not easy. It will not be easy to capture this slippery reader in 2017. It will not be easy to keep our focus as a group to win this prize. It will not be easy to build the muscles that we will need to have to climb this mountain.
But I have no doubt that this talented, alive group, with the addition of a few other key members that we will bring onboard in the following months, can achieve the task. It is both a 50/50 chance and I am OPTIMISTIC. Beyond that I am excited. This is a crucial coming of age year wherein we renew our vows that began over ten years ago when the job was so much smaller. This is a year where we will have the opportunity to AMAZE our readers who already love us and prove ourselves to the world in a way we've never done.
This is the year we really take up the mantle of becoming the most influential and forward thinking digital media company on the web, a journey that will lead us on for years to come.