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:
Expand the efficiency and digital footprint of the Tampa Bay Times sports
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
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.
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.
● 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.
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.”