Ahead of his well received presentation at the Digital Publishing Innovation Summit in San Francisco, on December 5 & 6, we sat down with Vince Errico, Chief Digital Officer at Trusted Media Brands to discuss digital publishing.
Vince is a global executive with more than three decades of digital strategy and management experience and currently serves as the Chief Digital Officer for Trusted Media Brands, a visionary, brand-driven multiplatform media company, home to iconic brands including Taste of Home, Reader’s Digest and The Family Handyman. Previously, Vince served as SVP and General Manager of Lifestyle properties at Everyday Health Inc., a leading publisher of digital health and wellness information, working on brands such as South Beach Diet and What to Expect. He held global strategic planning, product development, and marketing roles at major financial services companies including American Express Company, Visa International and Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. In addition, he has extensive experience in advising digital startups. He earned his MBA from Columbia Business School and has a Bachelor's degree from the University of California at Berkeley.
How has the rise of social media impacted the way content is discovered?
In general, the rise of social media has allowed more people to discover more content from varied sources than ever before. People love and have always loved to share good stories that they’ve read, and social media has made that easier than ever. Social media content sharing and discovery has, in fact, been one component of reinvigorating the century-old brand of Reader’s Digest. Readers have always loved the carefully curated content, user-generated content and the catchy franchises like Silent Signs that have been an emblem of Reader’s Digest. Younger audiences are now discovering this content in new ways and on new platforms, which has led to an overall online audience of 40 percent millennials, a fact that surprises many people.
How are you monetizing your digital content and why have you pursued this strategy?
We primarily monetize our digital content through advertising, as advertisers want to reach our audience base both online and in print. We also depend on content sales; not only do we sell magazine subscriptions and books, but we also create and package our content in convenient digital formats that our audience wants to receive digitally from us.
How do you ensure you are creating platform-specific content while maintaining a high-quality content output?
Our digital content creation team is highly focused on platform-specific content creation. They work closely with our platform experts who help them understand which content is performing well on each platform as well as the nuances of content creation for each platform. Having the content creation teams work closely with the platform teams ensures both high-quality content and high-quality execution on each platform and medium.
What changes do you see on the horizon as we move toward being mobile-first?
As mobile bandwidth, accessibility and speed improve, more and more people will be using their mobile devices for all things world wide web. This mobile-first approach from users comes with both advantages and drawbacks. The drawbacks in the short term are things like slower page load times, as wireless connectivity bandwidth catches up with usage; some loss in the richness of a particular page or experience and potential loss of certain user-specific information. However, the advantages can outweigh the disadvantages. The ability to leverage certain features and functionalities available on smartphones presents an opportunity for content creators to ensure easy accessibility and overall richer experiences for readers.
We have seen native advertising grow dramatically over the last few years - how do you see this progressing and what is your approach for the future?
Content marketing efforts from advertisers continue to grow and more advertisers continue to find success in content integrations. I see native advertising growing in lockstep. TMBI’s approach will be to continue finding more opportunities that make sense for, and are appealing to, both our advertisers and our readers. We will continue to invest in opportunities like recipe integrations and video integrations that advertisers are interested in and our users enjoy as well.
How important is it to have a content marketing strategy in 2016?
It is critically important for a publisher. Our product is content, so, in essence, everything we do is content marketing. Publishers need to take a leaf from the advertiser’s strategy book and use content more wisely in promoting their own product offerings.
Content marketing is not as critical for advertisers. Many of them try to recreate the wheel when it comes to content creation. At least half the time, they would be better off pairing with the content from a publisher. As a consumer, why should I trust content from a brand advertiser? I might read it, but am more likely to trust and believe it if it’s from a reliable publisher. It makes sense for professional services firms like accounting firms to create content for their clients or prospective clients about their perspective and interpretation of the changing rules in accounting. However, it doesn’t really make sense for a cream cheese manufacturer to provide recipes using cream cheese given it’s highly likely a customer already has a favorite recipe site. The manufacturer should pair up with the recipe site instead to leverage that content and environment.
Are you utilizing SEO - if so, what strategies have you implemented?
We are utilizing SEO at TMBI. We have ongoing training and tools for our editors and writers so they can optimize their own work. We also analyze our search results and traffic on a regular basis to understand where we have strengths and where we can improve. We use a number of different tools to ensure we’re implementing best practices in tagging, crawling, coding, updated sitemaps and beyond. At the end of the day, our company’s strength is creating, curating and providing content to our readers that they expect and want from us. Ultimately, creating great content is the best SEO strategy there is.
How are you exploring the multimedia options available nowadays, including video, AR and VR?
For The Family Handyman’s summer issue, we construct a shed for our readers to engage with via how-to photos and inspire building ideas. For 2017, we are completely revamping this project with the help of VR. People will be able to experience the inside and outside of the shed. We are excited to explore this innovative and interactive technology for ongoing projects.
We’re actively involved not just in exploring, but also creating multimedia content. Taste of Home regularly produces several videos per day (see them all on our Facebook page). Not only do we create some of the most in-depth how-to video content for Family Handyman’s website and Facebook page, we also see great potential for AR in the how-to and DIY space. We’ve also experimented with VR for both Family Handyman and Taste of Home. We recently filmed the building of Family Handyman’s annual summer garden shed in VR so that our readers can tour the entire inside and outside of the shed. That video will accompany the detailed shed plans and information that we always produce for the project. Last year, we created an immersive VR experience as part of Taste of Home’s annual Gingerbread Boulevard holiday celebration in New York City’s Madison Square Park. While it wasn’t possible to go inside the houses (they were gingerbread after all), we created an accompanying VR experience so visitors could imagine what the inside might be like. Visitors loved it and took selfies of themselves outside the house. Just wait until you see what’s in store for this year’s Gingerbread Boulevard!
The line has blurred between content platforms and content producers - as a traditional content producer how are you adapting to this industry change?
Most of the new platforms allow for discovery of our content and exposing our brand to even larger audiences. The two things TMBI has historically been very good at are creating engaging content and aggregating audiences around that content. Content creation methods will continue to change as our audience changes how they want to receive and consume our content. Similarly, audience aggregation methods will continue changing as new distribution platforms arise, new workflow tools emerge, production costs continue to decline for formerly expensive formats and, generally speaking, the industry adapts to (or in some cases leads) the changing environment.
You can see Vince's presentation from the summit at ieOnDemand.com