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Breaking News With the “Community”

There are some people who really energize me and remind me why I love this industry so much, and @RoySekoff, founding editor of the Huffington Post, is one of them! In an era that requires brands to adapt their thinking to be customer-centric, it still seems more like an art for most brands, rather than a science. Yesterday, I saw how Huffington Post has made it a reality and is now redefining the meaning of news with HuffPost Live. Many of you may already use this site, but the magic is in the story, so please keep reading.

The team at Huffington Post saw 2 primary trends with how we consume content: 1) Video consumption on mobile was growing exponentially; and 2) Consumers were engaging with content differently. “People do not want a ‘lean-back experience.’ People want to move the story forward. They don’t want to be talked at, they want to talk with,” said Sekoff. Since launching huffingtonpost.com in 2005, they’ve booked 365 million comments, 70% of which were comments left about other comments. People were having conversations with each other. So they did what every company does when they need to solve a problem with a customer-rich insight: They went straight to the white board. Their solution: Create a social-based video platform where customers can engage in conversation, and better yet, do it LIVE.

Sekoff explained, “We did it this for 3 reasons. Sense of immediacy, sense of danger, but really, engagement. We want the community to be apart of what we are doing. It’s more of a forward-thinking call-in show. We wanted to change the game.” And they did.

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  • 1. Consumption and engagement were equal. Video is on the left and the conversation is on the right. Talk about fair and balanced!
  • 2. Consumers became experts. People can actually engage in conversation, in real time. They can post within the news feed and even call in to the segment.
  • 3. They wanted to be sure their participants didn’t feel like “second-class citizens.” In every segment, they provide all the source files related to the story so participants can have all the facts when providing their perspective.
  • 4. They also have upcoming stories, so if you are passionate about a story, you can begin to engage before the show goes live.

So has it worked, you may be wondering? Yes. This is customer-centric thinking in action. Since launching 19 months ago, they have had:

  • 1. 17,000+ guests from over 100 countries engage in conversation
  • 2. 1.6 million comments
  • 3. 22 million monthly unique visitors
  • 4. Participants who are spending 17 minutes on the site per visit

“This is a moment in time where we have access to more data than in the history of time, but we don’t have enough storytelling. Data touches your head. Storytelling touches your heart. We haven’t cracked the code yet, but as long as we create content for all platforms and all viewers, we will win.”

At RTC this is the type of thinking we engage in every day. Consumer-rich insights and data-driven strategies are not just the future of marketing, but are today’s marketing, and HuffPost Live is a real-life example of it.

If you have time, check out the video that Google produced. It will get you pumped!

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