Old Dog, New Tricks: Making Traditional Media Tactics Work in a Digital World
Sometimes the best digital strategies tap into the same things that made traditional media great.
I am an old-line magazine publisher making it happen in the digital age, and I don’t even understand all that is going on.
But, I can read the readership numbers and see the rapid growth of revenue.
I published 13 trade or local magazines over a 30-year period, saw the decline of print coming and concentrated resources into building a large trade show business, selling this small Mississippi empire, Oxford Publishing, for a chunk of money. The itch to get a piece of the digital action brought me out of retirement with the establishment of New Media Lab LLC which is a combination print and digital publishing group, established to support the Meek School of Journalism and New Media at Ole Miss.
We live in a small town and trying to sell Internet advertising two years ago was almost impossible—most of the local business owners are my age and were unconvinced digital platforms had readership. The launch of HottyToddy.com was in deep financial trouble until I returned to my print publishing roots and started a companion magazine. Merchants bought the magazine and we essentially gave them the Internet.
Now, in our third year, and within the last six months, all has changed—revenue from the Internet is two-thirds of our budget while print is increasingly being challenged.
We have a very small professional staff with lots of student interns. Training is a primary mission of New Media Lab, the holding company for HottyToddy.com and three other LLCs that represent new digital business concepts. Hottytoddy.com now has an audience of 1.2 million readers and in just one week, we had 2.4 million page reads. Our Internet product is backed up by aggressive integration of social media, especially Twitter and Facebook. As an old-line print guy, I sometimes do not even understand what the students and staff are doing, but I can read Google Analytics and the bottom line, both of which are growing in the right direction.
There are frequent clashes between my old-school print mentality and the new media training and thinking of our interns. They tell me not to post more than four to five items a day on Facebook. This advice is backed up by many pros but I have ignored that rule and we post as many as 25 items a day. As a result, we have a massive Facebook audience that accounts for 60-plus percent of our Internet readership.
I grew up working on a small weekly newspaper and have always felt the more names and images of people in the newspaper, the greater the success. Our approach to Facebook is to use thousands of images of people, many of them generated by our readers. Daily posts of pictures, infographics and “fun posts” are mixed with HottyToddy.com content. The result is a powerful audience of readers that have become “family” and find our Facebook page, Twitter feeds and twice-a-day headlines a primary source of news and entertainment. I have never experienced a more loyal readership.
Our advertisers love the concerted effort made daily to promote their products and programs. At least half of our Facebook content is advertiser-related content, and both our advertisers and readers seem to love it. Readership numbers are staggering for HottyToddy.com. The best small town newspapers I saw during my career concentrated on people, using any excuse to write about or run a photo of members of the community. I think HottyToddy.com is a success for the same reason: People love to read about themselves and their neighbors and when they become engaged in contributing massive amounts of content, the family of readers grows and becomes stronger and stronger.
Old dog, old tricks!