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Independent Media finds the road to reader revenue

By Shelley Seale

Austin, Texas, USA

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Independent Media launched several digital innovations during the COVID-19 pandemic, including digital magazines and content marketing.

Everyone came along on the journey, from print legacy teams to the commercial and sales teams, marketing, and accounting, according to Lance Witten, chief audience officer at African News Agency and editor-in-chief at IOL Independent Media in South Africa. This philosophy of building together is an important ethos at the Independent.

Having the right tools and training are crucial before beginning the journey.
Having the right tools and training are crucial before beginning the journey.

“We run a very lean structure and very lean team, which forces us to work smart,” Witten said. “There are two core competencies we really focus on.”

  • Training: People are everything: “We take care of them and guide them along every step.”

  • Tools: “We acquired the right tools for the job that are most suited to our needs and can help lighten the load.”

Witten advised companies to build the tools they can’t buy. For example, the Independent created its own data analytics dashboard called Mr. Jones, which informs the content strategy.

“So, how do we win along this journey?” he asked. “How do we create content that supports our reader revenue journey that we are on?”

A relentless focus on data has played a big role in Independent Media's success.
A relentless focus on data has played a big role in Independent Media's success.

Marrying data and content

He shared two important rules his team embraces:

  • A relentless focus on data: Tracking and measurement is everything; there is open access to all data and tools, and data is involved in all decision-making.

  • A single-minded focus on content: A clear identity through content will attract the desired audience. Be sure it is original, media-rich, and sparks conversation.

Witten offered three goals his team aims to achieve with all its content:

  • Emotion: Make the reader feel something.

  • Utility: Be useful and teach the reader something.

  • Relatability: Give the reader content that resonates with their lived experience.

Independent Media offers tips on how to win the reader revenue game.
Independent Media offers tips on how to win the reader revenue game.

When it comes to the team, Independent puts key people into key funnel points. In acquisition, that’s social media and SEO. For retention, it’s UI/UX and video/podcast roles. For conversion, it’s UI/UX and CRM team members.

Choose the right tools  

To play the reader revenue game, Witten said a company must have the right tools, train and mentor its people, know who they are and what audience they want to attract, give the audience content they can’t get elsewhere, and be data-driven.

“That has really been the focus of our reader revenue journey,” he said.

About Shelley Seale

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