Q&A: Jason Kristufek, Digital Editor of The Post and Courier

Name: Jason Kristufek
Title: Digital Editor, The Post and Courier

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Tell us a little about The Post & Courier brand and your digital assets?

The Post and Courier is a family-owned company that dates back to 1803, making it the oldest daily newspaper in the South. Its parent, Evening Post Industries, is a privately held information, marketing and health care company. In terms of digital assets, we have the main brand website and mobile app, as well as a healthy social media presence. We also have a host of profitable niche audience sites specific to the wants and needs of the local community.

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Share a little of your career?

I have done a little of everything in the media business over 14 years. I started as a reporter before becoming an online editor and then on to a product management role. I left media for a few years to start and run a sports technology company that grew from a startup into a profitable business.

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What are you responsible for in your current role?

My current role as digital editor comes with the normal duties associated with that newsroom assignment. I lead a team of content producers as well as an interactive editor and a newsletter producer. Our job as a team is to create useful and interesting content experiences that people are willing to pay for. In addition and because of my background, I also play roles in audience development, product development and marketing, which has helped form relationship and build bridges between the newsroom and other parts of the organization. I also play a leading role in our audience revenue project in coordination with Poynter Institute local news innovation program.

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We understand your paper has hired a newsletter producer. What will they do?

The newsletter producer, Kelly Poe, recently joined the team. Her role is to own, grow and manage our email audience and content. For years we’ve put out automated rss-feed based emails. She is responsible for making our emails more conversational and profitable. She authors at least two of our daily newsletters and provides to support and mentorship to others in the newsroom who will own individual newsletters like politics, business and food.

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Why are newsletters such an important space for your organization?
Newsletters are important to us for two main reasons. In our customer development process, a good number of people told us that is how they want to get their news. The second is that talking with peer groups across the country, and in our own small sample, we’ve found that newsletter subscribers convert to loyal, paying customers at a higher percentage than almost anything else we do. For a long time we have relied on Facebook and Google to bring us audience. But, if we want to really own the relationship with our readers, we need to do the things that help us build those relationships. We feel newsletters are a key component to helping us do just that.

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Data is continuing to become a critical area for news organizations. How are you all utilizing data in your coverage and digital product experiences?

Data has become a vital tool. It is not a thing that completely drives decisions in the newsroom but it certainly is a key factor. It does drive decisions when it comes to marketing and audience development. In the newsroom, specifically, we use data to test our own internal assumptions. It’s also helped to discover things that we can stop doing in order to put more resources on what works and fits within our mission as a news organization. For example, we use data to determine time and days to publish our best content. We use it to understand what type of content is converting the most digital subscribers. We use it to determine how likely someone who enters a contest is to convert to a paying subscriber.

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Are you all active in social media? Are there one or two approaches that seem to be really working?

Like everyone else recently we are experiencing a drop in organic Facebook reach and a rise in Google search traffic. Overall, our social audience is strong. In general, we put something out on Facebook and Twitter at least once an hour. We do at least one new Instagram post a day and occasionally use Snapchat. One approach that has worked for us is on Instragram where we are just short of 40,000 followers. We don’t use it as a promotional vehicle for our content for the most part, rather we use it to highlight the sights and scenes of our community. Charleston is a gorgeous area. It’s a relationship building tool for us. Another approach that has worked recently is using CrowdTangle as a listening tool to help drive content decisions.

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Culturally, what’s helped your organization become more digitally friendly?
Two things have helped us specifically: training and communication. We’ve done rounds of small group training on analytics, Slack, our content management system, headline writing and workflow in order to improve our daily approach. That has occurred not only in the newsroom but in our sales, marketing and customer care departments as well. In many ways if you want to enhance the culture you have to find ways to change behaviors. We keep the training simple but more importantly we focus on explaining why we want to do certain things. It also involves listening, empathy and follow-through at the highest levels.