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TBD: Strategy & Lessons Learned
 

TBD: Strategy & Lessons Learned

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This is a presentation about TBD.com: It's strategy and lessons learned. This is focused only on TBD.com, and not the 24/7 cable station that was part of TBD.

This is a presentation about TBD.com: It's strategy and lessons learned. This is focused only on TBD.com, and not the 24/7 cable station that was part of TBD.

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    TBD: Strategy & Lessons Learned TBD: Strategy & Lessons Learned Presentation Transcript

    • TBD.com: Strategy & Lessons Learned Jim Brady Former GM, TBD
    • Today’s Agenda
      • The TBD Experience
        • The TBD Concept
        • Struggles
        • Successes
        • Lessons Learned
        • Questions
    • The TBD Concept
    • The TBD Concept
        • The time had come for a new kind of local digital news operation, one that:
          • Engage the community in real and meaningful ways
          • Curate the most relevant information about the region, regardless of source
          • Geotarget content in order to deliver unique hyperlocal information to every user
          • Embrace the power of social media and crowdsourcing to build relationships and improve our journalism
          • Build mobile apps that are useful to mobile users
          • Pick your spots, and don’t cover everything. Identify a few beats, and kick ass.
    • Community Engagement
        • This is how most news organizations view “engagement.”
    • Community Engagement
        • This is how news organizations should view engagement.
    • Community Engagement
        • The TBD Community Network
          • More than 225 sites joined
          • We sold advertising for about 75 blogs
          • We linked to them aggressively, and put them in our geo-coded feeds to expose them to relevant audiences
          • Provided training sessions for network members on blogging, SEO, social media, etc.
    •  
    • Community Engagement
        • In-Person Meetups
          • Held in-person meetups all around the region to get to know local bloggers and community activists
          • Staffers held office hours to meet with local residents
    • Curation
        • We wanted to be the instinctive first stop for Washington-area news consumers, so…
          • We linked out to all members of our community network
          • We linked out to other local news organizations
    • Geocoding
        • We delivered geographically relevant news to users.
          • We had a team of real humans reading and adding geo-codes to stories from TBD, our blog network and other local news organizations.
          • TBD’s home page had a module that delivered news to up to five zip codes that a user signaled as important to them
    • Social Media
        • We were aggressive on Twitter, Facebook, FourSquare and other social tools
          • We had one full-time staffer dedicated to social media, and the community engagement team was also active on all social platforms.
          • We were conversational in tone on all social platforms
          • We used social tools not just to disseminate information, but to gather it as well
          • We leveraged the audience already using social media for TBD crowdsourcing projects
    • Mobile
        • We hired our own mobile developers and were planning on having a dedicated mobile team
          • We launched Droid and iPhone apps right around when the web site launched.
          • We built our mobile sites with a very different focus than the web site: heavy on utility, less focused on general news.
    • Beats
        • We decided to pick just a few coverage areas, and throw all our resources behind them:
          • Transportation & Commuting
          • Arts & Entertainment
          • Sports
          • Weather
          • Crime
        • The reason for this: There’s no business in just being OK at a lot of things. You need to be great at a few.
    • Struggles & Successes
    • TBD’s Internal Struggles
        • Site was still trying to find its editorial voice.
        • Some of the unique beats we’d crafted didn’t appeal to our audience as much as we’d hoped.
        • Mobile apps were well-reviewed, but didn’t get the pickup we’d hoped for.
        • We were a little too cute and self-satisfied at times.
        • Our coverage was a little too D.C.-focused. We needed to get better at covering the suburbs.
        • Two-thirds of bloggers chose not to be in the ad network.
    • TBD’s External Struggles
        • The company did not spend a dime on external marketing of TBD.
        • WJLA provided almost no on-air promotion for TBD.
        • WJLA’s newsroom management didn’t push its reporters to help TBD at all (that is, of course, until after they took over).
        • The WJLA sales staff had little success selling non-traditional inventory like the blog network.
    • TBD’s Successes
        • We were viewed as being part of the broader digital community, and not working against it.
        • Because we were partners, local bloggers were invested in our success, and thus linked to us and drove significant traffic via social media.
        • We had a 225-blog network that we could turn into a massive news operation in a breaking news situation.
        • We became a go-to site quickly because readers knew we would always have links to the latest news, regardless of source.
    • TBD’s Successes
        • We were able to leverage the community to produce better journalism than we could have by ourselves.
        • Our coverage of the Discovery Channel hostage situation was lauded by sites across the web.
        • Our unique visitor numbers suggested we were on the right track:
          • November 2010 715,000
          • December 2010 838,000
          • January 2011 1,500,000
        • The result of these successes…
    •  
    • So … What Happened?
        • Corporate decided to change the strategy, moving away from things like social media and aggregation, and towards more of a breaking news model.
        • They put TBD’s staff under WJLA’s management.
        • They laid off a dozen people, and pretty much all of remaining original staff has voluntarily departed.
        • They dramatically cut back links off site, and started writing abstracts of the work of other sites.
        • They stopped geo-coding stories.
        • They shut down the blog ad network.
        • They relaunched WJLA.com to compete with TBD.com
    • So … What Happened?
        • Corporate decided to change the strategy, moving away from things like social media and aggregation, and towards more of a breaking news model.
        • They put TBD’s staff under WJLA’s management.
        • They laid off a dozen people, and pretty much all of remaining original staff has voluntarily departed.
        • They dramatically cut back links off site, and started writing abstracts of the work of other sites.
        • They stopped geo-coding stories.
        • They shut down the blog ad network.
        • They relaunched WJLA.com to compete with TBD.com
        • Other than that, it’s gone great.
    • So … What Happened? Source: Alexa.com
    • So … What Happened? Source: Compete.com
    • Lessons Learned
        • Sites like TBD are better done as pure startups than within a legacy media organization. Why?
          • Entrenched and threatened legacy culture
          • Revenue imbalance equals power imbalance
          • Lack of patience in difficult times
        • If you do this via a legacy organization, you’ll need:
          • A management team that will support you when the inevitable conflict occurs with the legacy media organization.
          • A dedicated sales staff that can handle the very different kind of sales you’ll need to make at a local/hyperlocal site.
          • Organizational separation from the legacy media side so that you can freely innovate and experiment.
          • A runway of 3 to 5 years
    • Thanks!