Justin Barton's career in data analysis stretches back well over a decade, in which time he has headed up operations at Viacom and The Daily Mail. Justin is now Vice President of Audience Development at iHeartMedia. As a trusted business leader with over 10 years experience specializing in digital analytics, strategy, and finance in the media and product industries, Justin works with agencies, publishers, and networks to analyze, optimize and develop innovative ideas to increase business performance.
Ahead of his presentation at the Digital Publishing Innovation Summit this July 17-18 in New York, we sat down with Justin to talk all things digital publishing, from vanity metrics to video content.
In your view, what have been the biggest challenges for digital publishers in the last few years?
I feel the biggest challenges in the publisher space has been distribution and monetization. On the distribution front, it revolves around which platforms your content should live on; Facebook Instant Articles, Google AMP, Apple News, YouTube, etc. Monetization challenges revolve around how you can gain or exceed the revenue numbers you would normal obtain on your O&O site from these distributed platforms.
How do you get your content noticed?
I’m a big believer in taking the time to test the content your company produces. Not everything works on Facebook for example. Its algorithm favors certain attributes, once you discover what those attributes are you can limit the amount of content you push socially and only provide the best content to your audience.
‘Vanity metrics’ are a tempting way of assessing social media success, but how can publishers ensure they’re measuring what matters?
Publishers should focus on measuring the metrics that drive results. Clicks, Shares, and Comments. The soft touch metrics of Likes and 3 Second Views are nice to have in bulk, but it really doesn’t mean that people are engaging with your content.
Is video content something all brands should be looking to make, regardless of budget?
While platforms like Facebook still favor video in its algorithm, it makes sense to produce more of it. Video on digital is where people are consuming the most content. A co-worker of mine always says 'the internet always wins!' We see the funniest and most compelling things on the web. Producing more video also allows digital publishers to shift TV ad spend to digital which should be the main goal of everyone in digital.
Which company are you in awe of when it comes to content?
I like what LittleThings.com is doing, by having several Facebook Live shows and producing multiple hours of live video content per day. I think it’s the first step towards moving to OTT and producing a skinny bundle TV network. Cheddar, founded by Jon Steinberg, is already trailblazing in that space with financial news.
How can traditional content producers stay ahead now ‘every brand is a media brand’?
Traditional content producers should stay true to their core competencies, but be willing to take chances and take risks in the digital space. Working in the traditional radio business, we have been able to take risks by focusing on what at the core radio is; music discovery, great story telling and a trusted companion coming from your speakers. We’ve been able to translate these same core competencies over to the digital space.
What audience development tactics have you found to offer the best return?
Testing and iterating. Trying multiple things, not being afraid to break a few eggs, and once you discover what works, iterate that process.
How much does data influence your decision-making day-to-day?
Coming from an analytics background and running digital research teams at two top end publishers, data and metrics are everything to me. It allows me to make decisions and optimize strategies in real time.
Which area of the industry to you expect to see the most rapid growth in over the next two years?
I expect to see continued growth surrounding digital video as a replacement for cable television. Even though I think we will still be in the golden age of television in terms of scripted dramas two years from now. I also think low cost digital content will be just as compelling as the millennial and centennial audience continue shun standard cable.
What will the audience take away from your presentation in New York?
I hope to show how publishers can take advantage of posting strategies on Facebook to drive engagement of their posts. It takes a little effort but the payoff can be enormous.
You can hear more from Justin, along with many other industry leading digital publishing executives, at the Digital Publishing Innovation summit taking place this July 17-18 in New York. To see the full schedule, click here.