Gorkana Insight & Analysis Team
Nick Mitchell, head of content for online ents and listings platform WOW247, on a recent revamp, expansion plans and fostering good relationships with PRs.
WOW247 launched in 2012, making it a relative newbie amongst UK listing titles – how do you stand out from the rest?
We started with a blank canvas effectively, so over the past two and a half years we've been figuring out how to build a really strong entertainment and events offering that talks directly to our target audience. I believe we've reached a stage now where the experimentation has given way to tangible results and proven tactics; although that's not to say we'll stop trying new things.
I do think our contributor programme is one of our defining features. While some other sites have 'community' sections, we've been committed to bringing new talent and new voices to the forefront of WOW247 from the beginning. This ranges from bloggers who want to boost their own profile, and our interns who go through an intensive training period, to specialist contributors looking to do more on digital. They pick up new skills and experience from it, and because they're the kind of people we're trying to reach anyway, we learn from them.
You launched a revamped website last month - what’s in and what’s out?
The number one reason for the revamp was to bring the content to life, and allow it to become the lifeblood of the site. So we've not chopped and changed that part of it; it's just that suddenly the full range of content across topics and cities is clearly visible and discoverable for the first time. Each city does now have its own dedicated homepage, and we've added a section for trending stories and quizzes.
The new site was in response to extensive audience research and insight – can you tell us more...
There were three priorities. Firstly, we realised, at a very early stage, that the majority of users were not coming to the site for listings, but for original content. So the redesign makes the events search a more subtle option, with the content front and centre.
We also realised that, because the biggest chunk of our traffic comes to us from social media, the challenge is to grow a returning, loyal audience, so the product and design team treated the new article page as a homepage in its own right, with a wealth of related content on display.
Thirdly, the surge in mobile traffic in the past couple of years means that the new site had to be completely responsive across all devices, and that's a feature of the redesign that's especially strong.
It would be remiss of me not to pay tribute here to the collaborative effort that went into the revamp, which included the teams from product, design, marketing, commercial and IT.
You have a network of city editors across 10 key UK cities. How do their roles work and what do they cover?
They are our ears to the ground across the country. They're knowledgeable about their own city's venues, bars, restaurants and cultural scene, and so we rely on them to tell us what's worth covering and what's not. Every city's different, so it would be pointless to try to use a one-size-fits-all approach, but our community manager Jonathan Melville does share ideas and stats across this internal network.
As well as writing and producing content, we want them to be enthusiastic ambassadors for their own edition of WOW247, to help spread the word and bring in new contributors from their network of contacts and social followers. A sense of what's new, alternative or interesting is what we ask them to uncover.
Tell us about the typical WOW247 reader and do you think they have changed much following the revamp?
This is where I'm supposed to describe the PR construct of our ideal consumer, their wage bracket and personality profile. But from my point of view, in terms of content, it's about trying to develop an intrinsic sense of the kinds of music, films, festivals, TV shows and events that appeal to the kind of person we're trying to reach. That's backed up by the analytics, but it's also about listening to the feedback readers give us, and trying to be as conversational and open-minded as possible.
Since the revamp we do know that the vast majority of our users are on mobile, and that our city-based content is getting some real traction with a more targeted audience. We also know that our audience is younger than the average Johnston Press newspaper reader, whether that's the oft-quoted millennial demographic, or just people of any age who think like them.
What are the key sections on the site and what content works best?
Over time we've whittled our coverage down to film, music, pop culture and food and drink. These are our strongest areas for both content and traffic, so it makes sense to concentrate our energies on them. Like every other site on the web, listicles are extremely popular, but I wouldn't dismiss them as 'clickbait'; we pride ourselves on producing shareable content that delivers on the promise of an informative, amusing or engaging read. Some of our interviews and longer reads can also take off, especially when we take an angle that's a bit surprising or alternative.
Which section of the site is the most popular?
Film has always been our most popular section, given the potential for global reach with an interview or compelling feature. But the city-focused guides are giving film a run for its money now, as is our gaming content, which is really authoritative, thanks to our senior content manager and resident gaming obsessive, Mark Butler.
How can PRs help with content?
By approaching us with ideas that connect with our content plan and audience.
How do you like to work with PRs?
We try to foster good relationships with PRs that offer us access to events and talent, whether it's a press pass, an interview or a film screening. Sometimes we'll spot an opportunity for a media partnership, which takes things up a notch in terms of what we can do.
What’s the most common thing you have to tell PRs you don’t cover?
Anything that's geared more towards families, older audiences or smaller towns isn't really relevant to our content plan. We're still inundated with press releases and surveys that have nothing to do with our key sections.
Do you ever have time to meet PRs?
Yes, occasionally, although we have to manage our time carefully, so we would give priority where there's a partnership or long-term opportunity, for example. Sometimes that would be myself, or someone from the marketing team.
Finally, what should we be keeping an eye out for in the second half of 2015?
Aside from lots of new features rolling on to the new site, we'll be expanding our coverage to more cities in the UK - we know what we're doing works, but we know there are some really exciting places we're still not covering.