Why right now was the right time for LMA to focus on audience development

By David Arkin, Local Media Association 

So, why right now, in the midway point of the year was it obvious to the Local Media Association that focusing on content and audience development was the right strategic move?Well, for a few very pressing reasons.

During this year’s Innovation Mission, which was held in late May, it was so evidently clear that user experience was a huge issue for media companies of all sizes and trends in content were changing so rapid that providing expertise in the space had to be a priority.

Specifically, the group heard from people like Jim Brady of Spirited Media who begged people not to continue to punch the user in the face with poor user experiences. Those who attended the Innovation Mission resonated with Jim’s view and recognized they needed to change their designs and experiences in big ways. And groups like Gannett were thinking about the next evolution of their sites, a direction that would include a news-feed approach driven by potential algorithms. Content and UX were at the forefront of many of the visits.

At the same time, those in the successful Chief Digital Club — launched by my now colleague Jed Williams — were talking about how a similar club was so needed on the audience development side of the business.

Also, LMA had been talking for a while about how expertise in content would not only allow it to launch new programs for members but definitely would play a role in helping media companies develop new and sustainable business models, which is in the association’s mission statement.

Without great content, there’s not much to sell, right? And with today’s changing media landscape, understanding what to pay attention to, what to ignore and how to actually develop content and experiences that engage today’s audience and attract new ones, is just so critical.

One of the most exciting audience development programs under way at LMA is the Chief Content Club. There are some pretty obvious reasons it’s a need today. There are some gorilla-like issues going on in newsrooms today and those in charge are seeking solutions. Things like newsroom structure, platform-appropriate content and what to do with each of the major social media platforms are all things that are — and should be­— keeping content leaders up at night.

And I’ll tell you, being a content leader today can be a lonely place. While everyone has people they can call for advice, it’s difficult to find a dozen people who are all likeminded and grappling with similar issues. That’s why, if I were sitting in a newsroom or in a corporate role today in a newspaper, I’d be ecstatic there’s a Chief Content Club. The neat thing about the club is that people will be paired by size and also digital sophistication. We’re expecting there will be groups of 12.

We’re seeing a lot of interest with the content club and as I’m talking with those who have signed up, I’m resonating from my days in content roles with many of the issues they’re saying they’re struggling with: structure, culture, change, technology, etc. Being able to have a group that shares similar goals and challenges but can share how to be successful is a wonderful thing for not just their operations but the industry as a whole. We need more news organizations to experience transformational success.

This all brings me back to why now with audience development for LMA? Well, the timing was more than right. The industry needs it. And the reaction from those in our Chief Digital Club and the response from those who have already signed up for our Chief Content Club, sure tells me we’re on to something.

David Arkin is the Chief Content Officer for the Local Media Association. He can be contacted at david.arkin@nulllocalmedia.org