In this episode Future’s Chief Audience and Ecommerce Officer Aaron Asadi tells us about where the ecommerce function sits within Future, how it relates to audience development, and creating content for affiliate ecommerce revenues across a huge range of brands. He also explains why there’s still a romance to publishing.

In the news roundup the team discusses whether climate change needs to become a part of every journalist’s beat, the internal wars going on at GB News and Twitter sunsetting its Fleets feature. Put in the spotlight, Chris struggles to find the audio tweet function within 30 seconds.

The full transcript is live here, or see below for some highlights:

The ecommerce and audience role

I am now the Chief Audience and Ecommerce Officer, which means I lead the audience dev team, working with editorial to design the content strategies and deliver SEO best practice so our content ranks as well as it deserves to in Google. I also lead the ecommerce team, which is a separate team to effectively optimise and monetise the shopping content we produce on our brands.

So I work with editorial and audience and I work with editorial and ecommerce, but lead the audience dev team and the ecommerce team as well. It’s actually not been a massive step away from Chief Content Officer where I was basically just the other side of the fence, leading the editorial team and working with ecommerce and with audience dev.

On aligning content with ecommerce

We don’t have one sole goal at Future, ‘Let’s become the best ecommerce publisher in the world.’ We have that goal, but that’s not the only goal. We recognise the importance of other content that we’re not going to monetise through ecommerce. We recognise that there’s a great deal of opportunity for us as a business and a great deal of desire from customers, most importantly, to not just read shopping content about the things that they like.

At Future, the editorial teams will obviously work with the audience team, audience with ecommerce, ecommerce with editorial and advertising. We work closely to make sure that the content we’re creating is the right sort of content for our customers.

We’re an incredibly collaborative business, I would say. So there isn’t one goal that we’re trying to gravitate around. We’re just trying to go, ‘OK, how do we grow and engage an audience really, really well in these areas, and then after that, try and monetise it.”

Future brands

With as many brands as we have, and as many ways to create value both for the customer and for our businesses, there is inherent complexity that needs to be carefully navigated. But fundamentally, we’ve got the same simple goals. It’s grow the audience, engage with them, and monetise that engagement. That can be in cycling, it can be music, it can be in tech. But it is pretty simple goals.

I do like that about Future. And indeed, the same can be said of many media companies. Ultimately, it is a very simple business, which is let’s reach the audience that’s engaged, let’s do that well, and honestly, and then, if you can do that, well, you will be able to monetise it.

Publishing in the pandemic

One of the lessons is that (the audience’s) passion for their pastimes doesn’t change. Perhaps it wasn’t a lesson but it was sweet. It’s a very romantic thing that their love for whatever it is, doesn’t die. So when life got really tough, they turned to the things that they love the most.

It was a privilege to be able to serve them. And I think my takeaway was kind of feeling even more necessary than we usually are as a publisher.

Revenue mix

We are very clear that we always want to diversify revenues. And that’s part of the reason Future has been so successful the past few years – there has been a clear appetite, and there continues to be a clear appetite, to diversify revenues.

Clearly, ecommerce growing significantly over the past five years has been a large piece of that. And digital advertising has grown as well, while other areas such as newsstand print has shrunk over time. Obviously events have just had a difficult year, but that’s exactly why we always want to diversify.

It might not be the case that everything’s always there forever; we understand the media having been publishing since 1985. There will always be changes to the revenue mixes. Now, what’s important to us is, is the revenue healthy?

Main story

  • If you’re not a climate reporter yet, you will be, says Wolfgang Blau, writing on Nieman Lab. He says there are lessons to be learned from Covid-19 coverage for reporting on the climate crisis. “There is no excuse for a reporter today who doesn’t understand the basic science of Covid-19. Why is it not the same for climate change?” said environment reporter Emily Atkin.
  • From Digital Content Next last year: Climate change news coverage has declined. The audience for it has not.
  • Other lessons:
    • For journalism about Covid-19 to be effective, readers, viewers, and listeners need to know some basic scientific facts and metrics of the pandemic
    • An audience’s climate literacy over time could be tested with reader surveys or, less intrusively, climate quizzes
    • An appreciation of scientific disagreements but also looking for where the consensus is rather than pitting experts against each other

News in brief 

  • Facebook is setting up a program to pay $1 billion to creators between now and 2022, according to Zuckerberg. The money will be allocated among all types of creators as a way of incentivising them to use certain Facebook and Instagram features.
  • Meanwhile execs at Facebook have clashed over Facebook data tool CrowdTangle. The problem was the trends data showed high engagement levels with right-wing media sources so Kevin Roose says Team Selective Disclosure won, and CrowdTangle and its supporters lost and they have deep-sixed it.
  • The Athletic is raising the cost of its annual subscription for the first time since launching in 2016. A yearly subscription will now cost $71.99 a year, up from $59.99. Chief Executive Alex Mather pointed out that they were still at the same price point for a subscription when the company had just three employees, whereas now they were a team of 450+ on three continents.
  • Twitter has announced it is sunsetting its Fleets feature, which allowed users to post tweets which disappeared after 24 hours. Fleets had been live for just over 18 months, but wasn’t used regularly by many users.
  • Netflix is planning an expansion into video games, and has hired a former EA and Facebook executive to lead the effort. The intent is to offer video games alongside films and TV series in the main Netflix app.
  • Lord Rothermere is reportedly readying a £810m bid to take the Daily Mail & General Trust group private.
  • GB News shows attracted zero viewers after boycott over taking the knee. But they’re doubling down on the culture wars strategy, drafting in Nigel Farage. So much so that their programming director John McAndrew has quit. 

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