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Weekly Lunches: Learning from Hearst Digital Media that 60 shark facts can be important too

Updated: Aug 3, 2019

By: Isabelle Tavares, intern at Reader's Digest

A walk into the elaborate lobby of Hearst in the afternoon of June 20 imposed a sense of importance. A wall of water cascaded down stair-steps, and the high ceilings led us to the elevators where the Hearst Digital Media floor took us to a new level of connections. We met with Jen Ortiz, deputy entertainment director at Cosmopolitan, Danielle McNally, director of features and special projects at Marie Claire and Justin Kirkland, staff writer at Esquire.

The main pearl of wisdom I gleaned from the meeting is to know your audience – in and out. This knowledge is useful for any job in a magazine, be it writing, marketing, or social media. The first step to knowing your audience is to think about who the reader is. Ask yourself questions like: how will this affect them, and what do they want to know. Remember that your interest and perspective overlaps with what your audience wants to see and share.

Readers are multifaceted and operate on all platforms. However, remember that audiences differ depending on the specific social media. For example, Twitter is more political than Instagram. Identify the strengths of each platform and use the heck out of them. You could post a story in the voice of the publication that teases the upcoming print publication or use videos and stories to make people want to swipe up.

A question that’s asked frequently is the rising concern for print versus online. In one year, most of us will merge into the professional journalism world – so the need for direction is crucial. Should we focus on digital or enjoy print while it is still around? There is no straight answer except that platforms are merging to serve specific content, and each has their perks and limitations.

For print, it’s been established that having a print byline is a far more rigorous process and shows a bit more skill. The editors suggested the print product should be as fun and creative as digital. But, because digital makes it easier to experiment that can then inform what you should be doing in print. The endless scroll that digital offers shows you that there’s no piece of content that’s too small or large. So if long-form is your thing – try pitching a digital long-form piece first then dip your toes into print.

Oftentimes, strategy is just as important as a killer lede. It doesn’t matter if you just wrote the best graph of your life if it reaches five readers. Think about when stories are best to read during specific days of the week. And, SEO content works just as well as timely content. Ortiz, Kirkland and McNally echoed that data is useful for idea planning, but also think about how you can use it to present something new to the reader. Combine data and find the connective tissue -- bring more than the bot can -- to tell what your lived experience has taught you.

Some down n’ dirty tips they gave us:

Be productive and eager; ask questions; have the ability to move between subjects; have an insatiable curiosity; be open to being edited; read and write every day; get to know people outside your norm; use google analytics to track down what Facebook and Twitter readers care about to pull data on what they should cover.

And remember that no matter how trivial you think a story is, you’re still serving a reader. Someone out there wants to read 60 amazing shark facts – for reasons I don’t know why – but it’s your job to blow them out of the park.

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