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Outside-in editorial approach puts customer needs at forefront


I’ve spoken at more than a few media and publishing conferences around the world (in Vietnam, Hong Kong, Philippines, Middle East, Denmark, Canada, Australia, and Ukraine). One of the topics constantly discussed and debated at these encounters is how publishers and media owners should be re-purposing their content to connect with consumers at large.

Across most legacy businesses where print content is still thought of as king, the most common practice across the industry is for editorial head honchos (who see exceptional value in their stories) to rush head-long into fashioning these into topical Web sites and branded apps.

I term this the “inside-out” approach, which stems from the fundamental belief that our content is so well researched and written that consumers are just waiting to lap it up no matter what shape or form it comes packaged in.

When editorial content is re-purposed from the inside out, there is usually very little consideration as to how well readers will take to it; the assumption is that it will always be received well. Formal testing and research is rarely done to assess subject matter relevance and projected consumption levels.

You can almost hear the editor: “If our stories are good enough for print, they should be good enough for the Web, radio, out-of-home digital screens, tablets, and smartphones. I can’t see why our readers shouldn’t like what we put out.”


You need only drill down a layer or two below this thin shell to realise that, although the material is exactly the same, the way it is read across platforms and devices can be vastly different!

It is not difficult, even without embarking on any formal study, to acknowledge the fact that a lean-forward act of consuming information off your monitor screen while you are seated comfortably in your office or home is dissimilar to reading it off a small-form platform such as a mobile device while you are commuting or in transit.

Re-purposed content needs to be aligned to the prevailing environment. The person reading a story on his laptop will usually have time to take in long-form content versus the occasions when he is using his smartphone.  

The other consideration that needs to be factored in is how content is delivered across segments of the day. In our less-sophisticated past, a common set of information was delivered across a slew of platforms as and when they become available.

Today, publishers carefully track usage patterns by media type 24/7 so they are able to maximise the impact value of their integrated suite of products, which include Web, mobile, tablet, radio, television, and newspapers.

Traffic peaks across a work day, which includes segmented blocs such as home (in the morning), travel (pre-work), work, travel (post-work), and home (in the evening), according to intel on how media can be effectively be planned and published on an integrated schedule.

In many parts of the world, research has shown that newspapers tend to be consumed primarily in the morning, at home. Tablets and mobile devices, on the other hand, are accessed voraciously during the morning “travel” commute period. Short-form Web hits a high just before lunch time, whereas long form peaks round about 4 p.m. and again at 8:00 p.m.

For what it is worth, media owners are leveraging this type of information and using it to advise their advertisers on how they can effectively reach out to a host of audiences by time of day and location.

With such sophisticated understanding of consumer behaviour, advertisement sales teams are now more equipped to customise their clients’ cross-media requirements to help them maximise on each and every individual touch-point.

On the flip side of this, editorial folks are also now more knowledgeable when it comes to crafting content to achieve maximum resonance with their audiences.

Now coming back to the inside-out syndrome: With the proliferation of social media and our obsession for sharing opinions, views, and reviews, pushing content out across a one-way communication channel to those people who you believe are your readers just does not cut it anymore.

User-generated comments are now very much the order of the day. Given this, content amplification is better achieved through an “outside-in” approach by getting into the thick of things and finding out what the customer wants and then packaging these to appeal to our valued clientele.

It is gratifying to see more and more media companies around the world embarking on Big Data and other forms of research (this includes “live” digital metrics) to understand what today’s modern consumer is looking for and subsequently using these findings to develop more targeted Web sites, mobile apps, and games.

With the rise of “social,” publishers are quickly incorporating earned media into their communications infrastructure and encouraging their communities to post and share comments, views, photos, and more.

The level of expertise the content owner has is no longer the only factor fueling a compelling application. The contribution from fans and friends are vital to your success.

Some industry people call this the 360 spectrum, a holistic, multi-media template that gets total buy-in across all stakeholders. Over and above these considerations, media owners are also utilising geo-location capabilities and contextual understanding of their audiences to serve up news and advertising at the most appropriate times and in the most relevant fashion.

Outside-in also involves providing the customers the best experience possible by configuring your product to satisfy their every requirement.

And, since we are on the topic of customer experience, I had the privilege of visiting a leading Singapore bank’s group customer experience (CX) facility recently and was enthralled by the amount of attention the company places on ensuring every touch-point is researched and enabled via a user-centric design interface that delivers total delight.

Whether it is a customer walking into a branch, filling out a loan form, or engaging in Internet banking, OCBC Bank Singapore’s CX department is responsible for making it the most pleasant encounter possible.

Think about this: If businesses focus more on delivering superior customer experience on the front-end, then the amount of service recoveries at the back-end must surely diminish!

Media owners the world over can afford to take a leaf out of OCBC bank’s customer experience book. It is obviously not good enough for content developers to feel gratified with just dishing out its wares. They must also be acutely conscious about aligning them with the expectations of their readers and viewers.

Even Steve Jobs realised this when he said, “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology – not the other way around.”

With this, I rest my case!

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