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Mike_Stephenson_case_study_Driving_digital_audience

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Mike_Stephenson_case_study_Driving_digital_audience

  1. 1. Mike Stephenson (727) 422-4714 mike.stephenson.33609@gmail.com A MANAGEMENT CASE STUDY: DRIVING DIGITAL AUDIENCE   The world is rapidly becoming digital, and at home, work or play those skills are in demand. Whether it’s promoting your business through Facebook and Twitter, adding to your email newsletter offerings or following the activity on your website through Chartbeat, I have adaptable skills and the ability to develop new ones as the need arises. Here’s a look at my approach: The goal Expand the efficiency and digital footprint of the ​Tampa Bay Times​ sports department.   Strategy, tactics and execution When I became interim sports editor at the ​Times​ , the department had staffers active on social media, blogs on the major teams we covered and some other digital elements on tampabay.com. We produced a daily email newsletter that sends more than 10,000 subscribers links to our top stories. But as the news audience moves away from print toward digital we needed to offer more, especially during the peak audience time on the website, which is around lunchtime weekdays, not a natural fit with night- and weekend-oriented sports news. I formed a pair of key partnerships in the digital space. First, we gained flexibility with our staffing by partnering with ScoreStream, which crowdsources high school sports scores. In the past, every high school score that appeared in print or online had to be taken over the phone by a part-time clerk. ScoreStream allowed us to reduce our part-time positions devoted to that from four to three. Second, we partnered with SportsManias, an app that curates sports content and brings readers to the website that produces it. SportsManias immediately began driving several thousand page views a week after the partnership.
  2. 2. Because the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are one of the most popular topics on tampabay.com, I developed a specific digital content strategy for the Bucs. I wanted a special web exclusive offering for each weekday in addition to our normal blogging and posting our print stories. It looked like this: ● Monday: I inherited a feature called Turning Point, which analyzed the game film from Bucs games, pointing to key plays and adding graphics. The previous year we had published it early in the morning on Mondays after Bucs games. I published it between 10 and 11 a.m., allowing more time for editing and avoiding it from competing with the game coverage we produced for print that many were still reading online early in the morning. Pushing it back gave us a fresh offering for the crucial lunch hour. ● Tuesday: I initiated a new Bucs Cannon Fodder podcast with our beat writers recapping the previous game and looking ahead to the upcoming opponent. The downloads grew steadily over the course of the season and many who discovered it during the season went back and listened to previous episodes. We also tried to crowdsource NFL picks with more limited success. We invited readers to make their picks through our website each week. We had a small, dedicated core who participated throughout the season, but the numbers weren’t very significant. It was an experiment with little downside, costing only a small amount of staff time and a few restaurant gift cards we used as an incentive to participate. ● Wednesday: Working with the author of Turning Point, we added a feature in which we charted every pass by the Bucs’ Jameis Winston and the Tennessee Titans’ Marcus Mariota, who were the top two picks in the previous NFL draft. Because the Bucs had chosen Winston over Mariota, we knew the comparisons were inevitable. We analyzed and compared their performances each week. ● Thursday: We had success in the past with online live chats with our beat writers, so we started the season with Greg Auman available to chat through a live blogging tool called Scribble Live. But the growth of Twitter has undercut the live chat because our writers routinely answered questions through Twitter. We tried it for a few weeks, but cut it loose when it was clear there wasn’t much audience.
  3. 3. ● Friday: The author of Turning Point produced a scouting report on the upcoming opponent, again analyzing film of both teams and pointing toward likely key matchups. Sunday was a showcase day because it was gameday. We curated our Tweets, blog posts and other items with the Scribble Live blogging tool to give readers a second screen option as they watched the broadcast. I also initiated the Bucs Postgame Report, an email newsletter we published within an hour of the end of games to push our content out to readers when they were most engaged. The email included links to a quick game story, a short opinion column with instant analysis and an updated chart comparing Winston and Mariota to all the quarterbacks drafted in the first round of the NFL draft at the same point in their rookie seasons.   The results Despite having a smaller staff, monthly unique visitors to the tampabay.com sports pages and blogs were up 6 percent in 18 months with me as interim sports editor as compared to the previous 18 months. The Bucs Postgame Report email newsletter has more than 5,000 subscribers. Amber McDonald, the digital audience manager for tampabay.com, recently sent me a note about how I helped elevate the sports department’s digital presence: “​I really appreciate all you did to help push the Sports dept. to try more things in the digital space, from podcasts to live chats, live blogs and all the great Lightning Playoffs coverage over the past two years,” she wrote. “I always enjoyed working on the Sports projects like Grand Prix and the NFL Draft and knowing that you'd be there to keep everyone on top of it and organized.”  

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