Eslang is an offspring of the Vocento Media Lab, the innovation unit at one of Spain’s largest media groups. Launched in alpha-beta mode in December 2015, the site is an innovative editorial experiment to cater content to the young, smart, and well-trained Millennial market.
The goal was to create a digital media brand that offers engaging stories for new generations of Spanish-speaking readers. Within six months, Eslang.es had reached 100,000 fans on Facebook; and by the end of the first year had attained nearly 2 million monthly pageviews with an engaged and loyal audience.
In January 2017, an Eslang reporter captured the defacing of a new Donald Trump wax statue in Madrid, by a FEMEN activist. The resulting images were used by Storyful, Vice News, and La Sexta. The viral results of this story helped us to learn several things about our audience and reader engagement strategy.
It’s not audience-first; it’s tone-first
Focusing our strategy as audience-first was not extremely helpful when targeting Millennials. To begin with, the label is one that few people in the target group actually identify with. We learned from listening to the founders of Elite Daily that the Millennial crowd had to be broken down into sub subsets of group identities — yet this can be polarising.
It was Mic.com who taught us the “brain factor.” We needed to focus on our town and the nuanced, targeted framing of content, rather than defining our audience. To Millennials, ideas matter — and they like it smart and funny. The key task for Eslang’s first year was thus to identify the right tone, shape, and topics of our stories.
How should we address the political tensions in Spain during two heated general elections, held successively in December 2015 and again in June 2016? Should Eslang become an activist brand, remain distant and apolitical, or instead focus only on a humorous, cynical approach to political events?
Creating the content
Finding and A/B testing for the right tone became a central part of our editorial alchemy during the early phase, with the goal of obtaining a blend of narratives that would differentiate our voice from the competitors.
To do this, the traditional written article would not reign supreme. Instead, we moved toward producing long-form, data-heavy pieces such as this one about the top-10 bots publishing on Twitter. We also published lighter, playful pieces like Playbuzz’s tests, and mobile-enhanced formats on topics such as illustrated indie music.
Eslang readers of the Instagram era love drawings and illustration, like our #BeautyFails feminist satirical series. First-person testimonies also work very well, whether on controversial and racy topics such as sex, or user-generated civic pieces like this testimony of harassment in the Madrid underground, which was actually Eslang’s first viral piece on Facebook.
With Eslang’s audience of 80% mobile and 50-70% social media users, readership is so mobile centric that the desktop homepage comes last, if at all. When creating the right product for this digitally savvy audience, the term “mobile-native” captures the product paradigm that new editorial projects should be based on.
Eslang’s beta Web site is a responsive, light site in Wordpress, with a broader redesign in the works. Quick testing of new functionalities can be easily done on other platforms, such as Twitter Moments, Instagram Stories, or Facebook Messenger. But the focus of product development should be kept on the editorial unit that has the highest engagement with the Millennial audience, which we have found to be the article page.
The home page should be kept nice and very simple; your minimum viable product is in fact simply a repository of the content that this audience reads and shares.
Original branded content works
With a goal of creating a revenue stream with Eslang, this first year of beta testing helped us validate our target audience. In year two, we will focus on validating our revenue hypothesis. Eslang is already generating advertising income, and our goal is to achieve sustainability sooner rather than later. The display ad model is not efficient in this type of product, and so our model is based on branded content.
We want “eslangers” to feel part of something larger: not just a media brand, but a social movement. Branded content blends in natively when stories are created by the newsroom. A number of high-value brands, that are not necessarily interested in general news advertising, come to Eslang already to run such customised branded content campaigns. Our readers like it.