Produce quality content to increase ad revenues

the Hip Hop DX LogoHipHopDX.com is a popular website devoted to producing and disseminating content about the culture of Hip Hop: music, personalities and history. The site has been in operation for 10 years. In 2010, its staff included three editors, a social media manager, an art director, a developer, and salesperson, as well as freelance and staff writers.

DX approached Aha Media for help training its editorial team. The website’s leadership wanted its team to produce higher quality content to keep users on the site longer and boost ad revenue.

I began with discovery into three major areas of the company: people, process, and technology. It is by digging deep into these areas that you can understand a company’s organizational challenges and then develop a robust strategy. At the intersection of these three areas is where the magic of content happens.

A Venn diagram showing overlapping circles of people, process and technology.
Content happens at the intersection of people, process and technology.

People

We began our people-focused discovery by interviewing every member of the editorial and social media staff – about seven people in all.

We uncovered several challenges. First, there was some change coming—one long-time reporter was leaving. The rest of the editorial staff was having trouble managing the news site’s daily tasks. Most of these journalists had worked together at a different music website, and had migrated many of their old practices to DX.

Further, staff members had different opinions on how to move the company forward, including what changes would improve the site’s journalistic standards, and how to help the staff work better and more productively.

Finally, the staff didn’t buy in to the idea of content strategy—mostly because they didn’t understand it. That is common, which is why education is a critical piece of the discovery process. By talking them through some of their challenges, and describing some of the tools we could use to help them, Aha Media helped the staff warm up to the new ideas.

Process

Our process-focused discovery uncovered challenges in several areas:

  • Organizational structure – The editorial team’s structure made it difficult to communicate clear direction.
  • Time management – Every staff member complained of having too much to do and not enough time to do it. Many also complained of having to manage production issues like posting pictures or audio mixes that they felt took away from their creative writing time.
  • Lack of expertise – Team members found it difficult to execute the overall editorial vision of the site, for a variety of reasons that had to do with training and journalism experience.

Technology

During our technology-focused discovery, we found that DX had invested in a content management system that was easy for the staff to use. But the staff needed more training to maximize the advantages of this system. Specifically, they needed to know how to improve their search engine optimization (SEO) and how to enter meta descriptions. Both are critical to publishing findable content, which would help them boost their readership.

Findings

Aha Media presented a multidimensional content audit that detailed the following for DX:

  • Traffic patterns
  • Top pages by section—showing where the bulk of the audience was spending their time
  • Top content pages
  • Heat maps that showed where on the pages users were reading and interacting with the content
  • Top 100 pages by artist
  • Top news content by artist

By analyzing the content and using multidimensional content audits, we could better predict what types of content most and least interested DX’s audiences. We also built a solid business case for spending more time on creating content formats. Until then, this was a low priority for the staff.

Know your Audience

Through a workshop with staff, Aha Media emphasized the importance of really knowing your audience. We had everyone on the editorial staff imagine a typical DX reader. Each staff member cut pictures from a magazine to create an audience persona. Then, each person presented their DX persona and other members commented and critiqued their findings.

Solidifying the personas was critical, as there was some disagreement from the staff about who their target audience was. This exercise was invaluable for the team: It built consensus, creatively engaged them, and helped them come to a certain understanding about whom they were talking to on a daily basis.

We also did an intensive writing workshop. Our goal was to help the writers produce articles that conformed to the way people read online and that were engaging enough to keep people reading. We also reviewed how to use search engine optimization best practices to increase content findability.

Understand the Business Model

Before Aha Media’s training, the staff did not understand how their choices of articles and what to write about affected the business of the site. To make sure the editorial staff incorporated the new techniques, executive staff established a bonus program based on traffic and other engagement metrics. Tying employee’s performance to the business model was a critical part of what made this content strategy engagement a success.

Eleven months after DX instituted the content strategy, they saw their traffic rise by 24 percent, which contributed to a direct increase in revenue.