Resources for Niche Publishers

 Kim Mateus - Chief Strategy Officer at Mequoda Systems

Kim Mateus - Chief Strategy Officer at Mequoda Systems

A recent MMPA survey confirmed  that Kim Mateus' audience development  presentation was a big hit at this year's Summit in April. 

Kim works with Don Nicholas at Mequoda, and the work they do with niche publishers who are similar to so many of our own members is outstanding. 

Here's a Mequoda blog about additional information resources for niche publishers.

 

 

Sarah Elbert Talks Travel Journalism

Parse.ly is a a technology company that provides analytics for digital publishers about their content - audience engagement, sharing, device usage, retention and more.  Their analytics empower publishers to optimize audience reach for their content, and presumably the financial benefit that follows. 

As a significant tech brand serving the media industry, Parse.ly is no stranger to content marketing on it's own behalf. 

 Sarah Elbert - Editor-in Chief of SKY magazine

Sarah Elbert - Editor-in Chief of SKY magazine

The following is a terrific interview with Sarah Elbert, editor-in-chief of SKY, Delta airlines in-flight magazine published by MSP-C.   

Windmill Designs Trust

A design battle raged in the late 1500s among mathematicians. What’s the best visual representation for “is equal to.” Lovers of classical Latin liked “æ” – a shortened form of aequalis meaning “like, equal.” But Robert Recorde, a Welsh mathematician, scribbled out two parallel lines – “because no 2 things can be more equal” – designing the equals sign that has gained increasing significance nearly 500 years later.

No, your website design will not last 460+ years. But it can make your content easier and more enjoyable to read. That’s design in the world of content marketing, publishing and websites.

 Kathy Mrozek - Principal and Creative Director of Windmill Design

Kathy Mrozek - Principal and Creative Director of Windmill Design

When considering website design and your own site, ask, “Do people want to read this? Will people want to stay here, click on anything, take action?” These are some of the questions Kathy Kassera Mrozek, principal and creative director of Windmill Design in Minneapolis, asks when she and her team design a website. And Windmill is behind the design of the new MMPA.net website.

Web design is not the same as “user experience” or UX. “A lot of UX happens before visual design,” says Mrozek. “Wireframing and site architecture is more UX, but it can be hard to differentiate the two because UX is the design of the user experience. When we get into colors and fonts and images, most of the display of the site’s content, that’s more visual design.”

Back to that first question – do people want to read this? – a strong web-design trend today leads to “content first” design. Mrozek describes this as a site with few visual distractions. “A few years ago, many website designers used complicated backgrounds in an effort to make their sites stand out. But your brain can’t focus on all that many things at once,” she says. “Keep your design focus on what you want people to see and engage with on your website, and what you want them to do next.”

If that sounds to you like basic design philosophy, you’re right; it is. And it’s not all that different from designing content for a printed page. “Keep in mind the basics of design,” says Mrozek. “Good design principles make you more trustworthy.” She offers these basic-but-overlooked design tips:

  • Use subheads to break up long pages of content
  • Use proper leading and margins. (Yes, old print terms like “leading” are still used in web design, though “line height” is used in CSS language
  • Keep it simple. A web page with too many things going on will send readers away

Is Web Design About Simplicity?

 One of the many websites Windmill has designed

One of the many websites Windmill has designed

“Yes and no,” says Mrozek when we asked Is Simpler Better? “We are careful of the visual load on a page, as well as the actual load time for any web page,” she says. “Even though everyone’s devices are getting faster, web pages must load quickly and design impacts load time.

“There’s nothing wrong with Arial,” says Mrozek (to the delight of this editor who despises font choices). “You want to limit visual distraction and keep load time quick. And if you choose a variety of fonts, they all need to be downloaded when someone clicks to a page, and they slow load time. Plus, you need to consider the cost of font licenses. Unless a particular font is necessary for branding, keep it simple. Use Google fonts, and limit your font families to 1-3 per site.” She points to a base font such as Arial, which is most likely already downloaded on a user’s computer, including the bold, italic and other styles.

6 Questions for Mrozek

MMPA: Is it all about mobile right now?

Mrozek: Everyday, the use of mobile websites increases. All about mobile? No, but everyone with a website should pay close attention to the site’s mobile functionality.

MMPA: Do people read long-form content on mobile devices?

Mrozek: I do, all the time. As long as the design basics are covered, long-form can work well.

MMPA: How do you best design for video content?

Mrozek: The title screen needs to be enticing so people click. But you also need to make sure people can find it. Make sure to set up a video with a transcript that Google can find. For maximum searchability, make the content visible.

MMPA: I see more posts with notes such as “4-minute read.” Is that necessary?

Mrozek: Necessary? Probably not. But there is so much competition, and information like that can give people an idea of the time needed. It’s nice, I think.

MMPA: Stock photos: your thoughts?

Mrozek: Use custom images whenever possible. Having actual pictures of your products, office, and team can go a long way toward creating an authentic brand. If you have the budget, bring in a professional photographer. This can have a very positive effect on your site and create a truly custom look.

MMPA: Any homepage trends to watch?

Mrozek: We’re seeing a trend of homepage sliders going away. Analytics show that these are not really all that useful – people are skipping over the content in a slider, rather than getting immersed in multiple messages, as often intended. This design is one that pleases the stakeholder, but not the viewer. We monitor website analytics closely to gauge strength of a design and user experience. Everyone should be monitoring analytics.

StarTribune Magazine Wins Awards

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StarTribune Magazine earns accolades:  The national Society for Features Journalism has given the Star Tribune's new magazine an honorable mention as Best Niche Product and an Arts and Entertainment Feature award for Chris Riemenschneider's cover article titled "Prince Inc."  

The magazine also earned awards from the Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists for its "Photos of the Year" issue design and its Michele Tafoya, Christopher Ingraham and Eric Dayton profiles.

 

Media People On The Move

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Twin Cities PBS has announced that Colleen Wilson will join the organization in September and oversee its two national digital publications - NextAvenue.org and Rewire.org.  Wilson joins the TPT team from KQED in San Francisco where she has been executive director of their digital products and has served as chairperson for the PBS Digital Media Advisory Council.  She will report to the new TPT President/CEO (yet to be named) replacing Jim Pagliarini who is retiring in December.

 

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Industrial  Association Fabrics International has named Amy Collins as its new marketing director and a leadership team member, according to Steve Schiffman, IFAI president.  Collins has an extensive background in events, media and sales, most recently as vice-president at EPG Media, LLC.  She has also worked previously at Penton Media and Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal.

 

 

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Former Minnesota Monthly and Midwest Home editor, Rachel Hutton, is joining the features team at StarTribune  as a general assignment reporter.  Hutton had also previously been a food writer for City Pages, where her criticism and features regularly garnered awards and appeared in Best Food Writing anthologies.

Rob Johnstone -- On The Record

“When I was in high school, my mother created the Eden Prairie News, and once a week I would help lay up the paper. We used our ping pong table for production. I was the sports reporter covering Eden Prairie High School sports. And my father owned a cabinet shop and woodworking business. That’s where I got my first real job, after sports reporter.”  -- Rob Johnstone

(Editor’s Note: Writing about woodworking. That’s Johnstone’s perfect occupation. But it’s so much more than that.)  

MMPA: Fast forward to now. What’s the 30-second evolution of your career path?

Johnstone: I understood the power of stories even as a kid. I believed when you had a good story you could make people believe stuff. You could influence people. I watched my mom do it with the Eden Prairie News. The power of narrative. Plus, I’ve always been a reader. That’s why I ended up in publishing.

Today in the editorial world, you need to be an editor, artist, storyteller and movie star (maybe just a little). But in the end, it’s just story. There are new disciplines but they’re just extensions.

MMPA: Did you always want to do this?

Johnstone: I thought I might be a doctor, until I ran into organic chemistry. After college, I went to work for my dad’s woodworking business, then I started my own. And I worked all the time. It was hard to be a good dad, and hard to make my small biz work at that time in the ’80s. Following an interesting contract as a technical editor for Cy Decosse, I decided it would be fun to find out what magazine publishing was like.

I found a good opportunity to write about what I know – woodworking. Also, I found some bad info out there, and I’m one of those guys who likes to explain the world to people. I don’t know if there’s anything else I could have been writing about. I’ve done everything from framing houses to building guitars. I think I have a scope of experience and knowledge that I can share. And I’ve always like telling stories.

  Rob Johnstone, Publisher of Woodworker’s Journal and Director of Content Marketing at Rockler Press

Rob Johnstone, Publisher of Woodworker’s Journal and Director of Content Marketing at Rockler Press

MMPA: Creating stories for a magazine is one thing, but what about content marketing for Rockler Companies, Inc.(35+ retail woodworking and hardware stores)?

Johnstone: People get nervous around this – are we journalists or marketers? I think we can be both. As long as there is value in content we’re delivering.

MMPA: Value to whom?

Johnstone: To be successful, consumers must value the content. Whether they purchase from a company or not – that’s irrelevant. The narrative is key; there must be quality story building and the right delivery.

Yes, if Rockler is paying the bills, I need to put their products in a position for best display. I have a responsibility to the company to tell a product story well. And I have a responsibility to say “No” when I think the content is compromising story truths. I’ve had those honest discussions with marketing people. Any business doing content marketing needs someone who truly understands “content” along with the “marketing.”

MMPA: The Eden Prairie News bit, is that for real?

Johnstone: Yes, my mom, with her college education, took a mail order course to become a graphic artist. I remember her doing this ‘homework’ when I was a school kid. Then she got a job with the Sun Newspapers. It was just The Sun then, and eventually she decided she wanted to make her own newspaper. She bought an IBM Selectric typewriter – seriously, we used one. And she started writing stories. The newspaper celebrated an anniversary recently, and they had my mom in for a photo shoot and story.

MMPA: What’s Rockler’s history with content marketing?

Johnstone: Today’s Woodworker was a magazine Rockler created to support its products. After a year or two, it became clear that the P&L wasn’t working out – there was no advertising. Then the Woodworker’s Journal magazine came up for sale.

I was an editor at the time, and we told Rockler management that a magazine like this had to be independent of Rockler business to get advertising. In this niche, that was the only way. We set it up as a separate corporation. We did our own tool reviews, and I would even tell Rockler, ‘Sorry but your router bits are going to come in 5th in this comparison review.’

I always said we should be like the Dutch Uncle – like the guy giving advice over the fence rail in a firm but neighborly style. If we tell stories from a base of expertise, and if we’re willing to share without expectation, we could be that Dutch Uncle that everyone respects and trusts.

MMPA: There is a trend toward content marketing that shares opinions and political views. Is that Rockler?

Johnstone: No, definitely not. They will plant trees on Earth Day and make it all about wood. Or maybe do special content for Veteran’s Day that can be turned into a fund-raiser specifically for veterans. They keep their enthusiasm focused on woodworking. That’s their DNA. This is something I need to stay aware of. I love the political content, personally, but my readership doesn’t want to interface with political discussions.

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I did that once. Sam Maloof was a famous woodworker, and he’d built furniture for Jimmy Carter. I had the chance to get the two of them on the cover of Woodworker’s Journal. I was very excited, it was a great story, but I got such blowback. My readership did not care for it. I tried to introduce something they did not want to see in the magazine.

MMPA: What are you reading?

Johnstone: I’m reading Jon Meacham’s “The Soul of America.” I read both fiction and non-fiction, and I like science fiction. But I’ve been leaning toward non-fiction. I read simply for the joy of reading. I love great writing, powerful metaphors, ironic twists. And when I read something great I think, ‘I wish everybody could read this.’

The whole idea of narratives that people form. I was reading a piece in the Washington Post about evangelicals and support of President Trump, and the writer just let the people speak. He presented these narratives in an honest and compelling style. When I read something like that, I consider it to be important journalism, maybe even a little more so than how to turn a wooden bowl. 

(Note:  Rob was elected to the MMPA board of directors as of January, 2018)

 

Programmatic Advertising Holds Promise for B2B Publishers

For many publishers, digital advertising is a source of frustration. Too much inventory, not enough revenue. And B2B publishers can be at an even greater disadvantage without the scale to take advantage of the digital tools available to their B2C counterparts.   

Scott Roulet heard about those challenges again and again when meeting with BPA Worldwide members at the onset of the global assurance company’s creation of the B2B Media Exchange, launched last year as a private marketplace for audited B2B media. Roulet, vice president of the B2B Media Exchange, says when discussing digital revenue, the conversations generally weren’t positive.     

“We learned that in most cases they were seeing a decline and initially they weren’t really sure why,” he says. “But when they go back and start asking the questions, what they’ll find is that it’s not that the advertisers’ digital budgets are declining—in fact they’re growing. The issue is that they are shifting the way in which they engage with publishers and buy inventory. And that is the larger umbrella called programmatic.”

The concept of programmatic advertising—which is essentially a data-driven, automated way to buy and sell advertising inventory—emerged in recent years as a solution to the surplus of ad inventory following the boom in online publishing. Platforms have been created to help publishers, ad networks, agencies, and advertisers work in harmony to complete digital transactions in the blink of an eye.

But as the technology took off, specialty buyers and sellers were alienated, while marketers began asking for more authoritative media validation and audience targeting, Roulet says. As validation is the cornerstone of BPA, it seemed fitting for the organization to deliver a solution. Through the B2B Media Exchange, invited advertisers can now access a large pool of audited B2B media inventory. Publishers gain efficiency, the scale to attract large advertisers and agencies, and they maintain control over the process.

A second phase will allow publishers to transact with their direct advertisers and develop a data cooperative with enhanced insights.

“This is more than simply creating a private marketplace where advertisers can come in and buy inventory that publishers have not sold,” Roulet says. “That can be a possibility, but it’s much more fundamental than that. And it really is providing an enablement tool to help publishers compete in the digital space.”

So far, 170 publishers are signed up to participate, Roulet says. Among the onboarding steps is an inventory audit including technology scans, education tailored to a publisher’s needs, and a couple of hours of implementation.

The initiative is still fresh, but Roulet expects publishers and advertisers to see a mutual benefit and future growth in programmatic opportunities.

“This is our first step in creating an environment so that we can start applying verification in the digital ecosystem,” Roulet says. “As we look into the future, what’s going to be important is a verification of the audience. In the short term, in terms of revenue, what does it mean to me as a publisher? I tell publishers to expect whatever you put into it.”

For more information about the B2B Media Exchange, go to b2bxchg.com.

Franchise Times -- Video for the Right Reason

 Mary Jo Larson -- Publisher/Vice President at Franchise Times

Mary Jo Larson -- Publisher/Vice President at Franchise Times

“We had a specific case for using video,” said Mary Jo Larson, Publisher/Vice President of Franchise Times, “we had a specific reason. We didn’t just use video because we think video is cool. It’s easy to think you should do it just because everyone else is doing it.”

The specific reason, according to Larson, if the company’s brand message. “We want to be the hub for franchising information,” she said. Larson and her team created a video plan around the company’s spring conference – The Franchise Times Finance & Growth Conference – in Las Vegas. With a schedule of 60 individual speakers in overlapping presentations during the three-day event, the conference included too much informative content for attendees to witness first hand. Videos of each presentation would add value for attendees, and for Franchise Times staff. “I was at the conference and couldn’t see all the presentations live,” said Larson.

Franchise Times has held this particular conference (it hosts others as well) for more than 20 years. But in recent years, according to Larson, the conference “wasn’t meeting the true needs of attendees.” The video formula, refined and improved for the most recent conference, was an important part of the solution. “This video content let us enhance the conference experience and better unite attendees – the franchisors, franchisees, lenders, investors, and more,” she said. “Franchise Times is the industry publication for successful business owners in franchising. We want to be seen as the deal makers’ magazine in franchising. The conference is a big part of that, and our video content helps even more.”

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The content delivery includes video recordings of every presentation in its entirety, including the speaker or speakers, plus the on-screen presentation they gave, delivered in a split-screen viewing format on the Franchise Times website. Some videos included special guests or extended interviews with speakers.

The end result? Conference attendees could watch presentations they weren’t able to attend, or to re-watch ones they did. Magazine readers could experience the event through video presentations, hearing a speaker’s tone of voice and seeing facial expressions and personality. And presenters were able to share these videos through their own media tools, helping extend the benefit of presenting at the conference. “We think video enhances the benefits for all involved with this conference,” said Larson.

 Franchise Times hosts a larger conference annually in the fall, and they use video sparingly there. “We want people to attend and interact at that conference,” she said, “and sharing video after the conference is of less value.” 

“We have received a lot of interest from other franchisors who want to be involved next year,” Larson said. “And we’ve heard from readers who appreciated the information shared through these videos.”

 For the 2019 conference, Larson hopes they’ll have 90 speakers and presentations, and they plan to record all on video. “It was a ton of work this year,” she said, “and we’ll need to outsource some of the post-production work so they can get all 90 videos posted as quickly as possible.”

 

Authenticity at Touchpoint Media

When I reached Dave Jensen on the phone, he was on his way to the airport to attend the Clay Target League National Championships in Michigan. The USA High School Clay Target League is a client of Touchpoint Media, and Jensen is Touchpoint’s Senior Vice President. I knew that already, but I wanted to tell you because we need to catch up with Jensen who is quickly into an explanation about the growth of target shooting as a high school sport. He does this authentically and passionately, not with a salesman’s bent, and all while he’s looking for a parking space at MSP.  And in the spirit of authenticity, we couldn’t just take Jensen’s word on Touchpoint Media. We spoke later the same day with Jessica Disch, Director of Sales & Client Strategy for Touchpoint Media – “the quarterback of all our non-sports clients,” says Jensen. We merged the two conversations.

 Dave Jensen -- Senior Vice President at Touchpoint Media

Dave Jensen -- Senior Vice President at Touchpoint Media

MMPA: The Touchpoint Media Blog has a recent post about “authenticity.” How do you ensure this in content creation, and then repeat it?

Dave Jensen: We have an outstanding staff that does much more than just gather content and re-purposing for multiple distribution methods. We create original content that speaks directly to readers to meet the needs of our clients. We spend a lot of time putting together content that each client views as valuable. That’s been our focus from the beginning of printed pieces, and through print and digital today.

Jessica Disch: We make a big effort to actually speak with members and with readers to get their stories, to learn what’s important to them, and to discuss problems and solutions for them. Authenticity is being true to the brand and being honest with those who read and use the content we create for that brand. That’s what we do with a magazine we produce for Blue Cross Blue Shield, telling real stories about seniors and people who use Medicare. We worked hard to learn what these readers want, to get to know their needs and desires. So many others are just trying to put out content, they’re trying too hard to just deliver a quantity of information without focusing on what’s truly valuable.

MMPA: Can you measure authenticity?

Jensen: With digital we can, yes. We track a variety of analytics closely and can make adjustments as needed. And with print, we do surveys, and more. Several of our clients are member-focused associations, and this content is an important part of that membership. So we can gauge memberships in part as a measure of our content’s effectiveness.

 Jessica Disch -- Director of Sales & Client Strategy at Touchpoint Media

Jessica Disch -- Director of Sales & Client Strategy at Touchpoint Media

Disch: These content plans are often long-term plays for return on investment. It’s important for us to talk up front with our clients about goals for the content. We help them manage expectations through an honest conversation about objectives – whether the goal is overall branding, or sales, or something else. Some of these things are easier to track than others. Email marketing can give us great analytics quickly. But with a magazine and blog work, it’s a longer play. Then we communicate regularly with clients to discuss feedback and engagement, and we can adjust as needed.

MMPA: Is email marketing a hot topic for your clients today?

Disch: We find that targeted and specific email content works today, in a time when some people feel inundated with email content. We can tailor and create specific content within any campaign. Like with USA Hockey, where we can break a larger email list into specific groups and send them targeted content.

Jensen: All our clients are different. And we listen and provide different solutions to problems. That might be print, might be email, might be digital. Each client we work with is unique. There can be benefits to any type of distribution, but it all depends on client need.

MMPA: Shifting gears, why are you in this business?

Jensen: I absolutely love this business. We started as a niche publisher for USA Hockey, and Minnesota Golfer. And USA Hockey remains a client. We’ve evolved, combining digital with print. Today, we’re a marketing company that specializes in content. We give our clients custom content they use to reach their customers as it best fits them. For many of our non-sports clients, we sold them on the idea of content marketing and custom publishing. Because they believed in us that it works.

After I finished playing hockey (editor’s note: Jensen played hockey for the Gophers, and for the United States in the 1984 Olympic Games. He went on to play with the North Stars and professionally in Europe) I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, beyond sales. So I found this printing company, and they said they needed help with a magazine. We turned a small printing company into a publishing company, and I bought that business (TPG Sports), and helped build it into Touchpoint Media.

I’ve been with Touchpoint Media for more than 20 years. And some people might think, Oh 20 years with the same company. But I don’t look at it like that. Each day is something new. And we’re part of telling amazing stories, like this clay target event I’m heading to. We produce valued content that encourages and supports this activity that is making a difference in kid’s lives. Anytime you can help a kid feel like they’re part of the community, that’s special.

Jessica Disch was a huge addition to our staff beginning about five years ago, and she has done an outstanding job as quarterback for our non-sports clients.

Disch: I like the diversity of clients. One day I’m on a video shoot for Ecolab, and one day I’m talking with sources for thrive (the Blue Cross Blue Shield magazine). This makes it a real challenge and keeps it exciting. I came from a journalism and print background. A lot of our people did here, and we know how to ask questions and find the story. That’s very exciting for me.

Greenspring Bets Big on Face-to-Face

Publishers compete for audience attention with every printed and posted word. Greenspring Media, publishers of Minnesota Monthly magazine, Midwest Home, and more, also competes with food, with wine, and in luxury homes. By creating events such as the Minnesota Monthly Food & Wine Experience, the Midwest Home Luxury Home Tour, and the Tacos & Tequila After Dark event, plus others, Greenspring extends it publishing brand for multi-sensory engagement.

“We have very loyal readers who see, in Minnesota Monthly and Midwest Home, content that appeals to them and fits their lifestyles,” said Arthur Morrissey, Director of Marketing, Events and Partnerships at Greenspring. “We want to create an extension of those brands in their lives. We can deliver content through hearing, taste, and touch. This creates memorable experiences for our audiences and creates comprehensive marketing strategies for partners.”

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Greenspring just completed its Midwest Home Luxury Remodeling Tour. In a direct extension of that magazine’s content, this event showcased – over two consecutive weekends – several recently (and lavishly) updated Twin Cities homes. “We’re still assessing the event attendance data,” said Morrissey, “but we’re happy with the results, and we saw a lot of traffic. It gives us great momentum going into our Luxury Home Tour in August.”
 
Brands supporting Greenspring events are mostly looking for two things, according to Morrissey. They want content before and after the events, and they want to be included as part of our event. “We are very careful about this,” he said. “At the end of the day, we need to own the event and the magazines supporting them; that’s ours.”

An example: Greenspring worked with a local broadcast media company to generate content and give their talent exposure. “We had people on their TV station regularly; we helped provide content to them,” Morrissey explained. “They trusted us to deliver quality content their audiences would trust, whether on air or through their website. And depending on the event, we would invite their talent to host a location or to judge a contest where appropriate.”

It’s not just about traditional advertising methods. “We work with a variety of brands and media to promote these events, and further activate marketing for them,” said Morrissey.

While Greenspring hopes its events will boost readership numbers, this marketing activity is not primarily an audience-growth tool. Morrissey said that most people attending its major events are well aware of publications such as Minnesota Monthly and Midwest Home; and this same media is the primary advertising method for these events. These events are proving an important part of the company’s business model, and valuable tools for Greenspring’s advertisers.

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The Food and Wine Experience is a substantial event for the company; it held the 24th annual event in March. In this era of experiences, Greenspring is trying new events too. “The Tacos and Tequila event was new for us this year. This late-night street fair helped us reach a younger audience,” said Morrissey. He admitted that the Superbowl was not the ideal time to hold this event. “But we also re-affirmed that we know how to put on good events, and that we can reach a new audience,” he said, saying he looks forward to a warmer weather Tacos event.

Greenspring is working to grow its event schedule, and to serve a wider audience of Minnesotans. “It’s Minnesota Monthly, not Twin Cities monthly,” said Morrissey. But he says it’s not just about doing more events and reaching crowds. “We differentiate by producing high-quality events that do more than just push people through. Brands want to engage with people. Not just count heads in a crowded event assembly line. It’s about creating the right events and executing them well.”

2018 Summit & Expo Survey Results Are In...Book Winners Named

The MMPA board of directors wants to thank everyone who attended our 2018 Summit and Expo and filled out the survey afterwords.  We learned a lot about what you liked, what you didn't and what you'd like to see more of.

77% of you were very satisfied or satisfied with our program; 19% thought it was OK; and 3% were unimpressed.  So were on the right path, but we have work to do.

Our audience development and advertising tracks were well received.  Although our content and design track had its high points, several of you thought the design portion deserves its own track as has been the case in the past.

We also noted your call for more digital content and, in some cases, more contemporary presenters.  Finally, you are open to programming formats that are shorter, topic-specific events during the work day.

Thanks again for your guidance, and a special shout out to the survey participants who won copies of Amazing MN, the table top book from Lee Lynch - Vanessa Russell from CSC Publishing, Courtney Lewis Opdahl from Experience Life, and Kate Nelson from Artful Living (three of Kate's co-workers accepted the book, as Kate was on assignment).

 

 

New MMPA Member Featured in Minnesota Business

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Ali Jarvis has been doggedly (pun intended) nurturing her digital publication, SidewalkDog.com, for 10 years now, and she's developed several revenue strategies to keep growing.  From ad and sponsorship sales, to a Kickstarter campaign, to events and dog-friendly taproom guest passes, SidewalkDog.com hasn't lacked for ingenuity.  And there are more plans in the works.  Kevyn Burger spent time this past spring with founder/owner Jarvis in the pages of Minnesota Business magazine. 

ON THE RECORD with Stephen Regenold of GearJunkie.com

MMPA: Why did you start Gear Junkie?

 Stephen Regenold

Stephen Regenold

Stephen Regenold: In 2002 I was a newspaper columnist for Star Tribune, covering the outdoor sports I loved – climbing, endurance competition, cycling, skiing, and more. I wanted to grow the idea and a business beyond the little money I was making at Trib. I wrote for the New York Times for a few years as well. My writing was syndicated, but the economics weren’t there to make a living this way. I built Gear Junkie while doing other writing. I wanted a viable path to mix my passion with my profession, to mix my love of outdoor sports and gear with journalism.

I learned pretty quickly that the entrepreneurial side was as important to me as the lifestyle journalism. Today, I’m much more focused and interested in the business side of Gear Junkie compared to the journalism side. I recently promoted a co-worker to Editor, and I became Publisher. I’m letting team members with the best skills and motivation do what they do well.

MMPA: More than 10 years in, is Gear Junkie what you thought it would be?

Regenold: In 2008, Gear Junkie was me and two others. So I would say “Yes,” but it took longer than I thought it would. I didn’t necessarily have the vision, but I had the work ethic to make Gear Junkie grow. In 2008, we had a micro-version of today’s site. We’re much more into breaking news in our industry.

Breaking news coverage has really elevated our brand in the space. We now have more traffic because of our news reporting, and our brand is more respected. So many sites just review gear. We are journalists, and this puts us in a different place.

On the business and revenue side, the last 10 years have been the wild west of media in this industry. In the recent past, when we attended industry trade shows, brands would say, “We have this budgeted for print ads for the year, plus a tiny bit for digital.” It was all planned a year out. Not any more. Now media is planned in real time. We’re hyper-accountable now; brands are checking clicks and purchases daily. We’re under the microscope.

One of our main advantages is that we serve a nice and premium audience, and we cater to these people, not just to website traffic. We charge a premium for that audience – from $10 to $40 CPM. We have an audience that stays on the page longer. Anybody can write a headline that gets clicks, but that is often a cheap view.

MMPA: Is Gear Junkie a journalism platform, or a marketing tool, or both?

Regenold: Writing for the New York Times grounded me as a journalist. No, we’re not the NYT, but we apply the same principles. We do have sponsored articles. But 80 to 90 percent of our work is journalistic. Our litmus is that anything we produce should pass muster as objective and honest.

MMPA: How do you make content choices?

Regenold: We are very broad in our space, and every day our staff is looking for stories. We’re agnostic as to the subject, but we’re looking for news and trends. Breaking news drives a lot of our content decisions. Beyond that, we always ask ourselves, “What are we adding to the broader conversations, and to industry conversations?”

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We listen to our audience and their feedback. We look closely at Facebook comments, and at site analytics, time on page, etc. And we’re always trying to add a unique context, to give a different spin on news and info today. We don’t often run press releases, but we do look at industry releases and use them to give our own take on current information. We received one recently about the 50 Fittest Cities in America. Lots of media just ran with the top of that list. But we looked at it differently, highlighting the cities at the bottom and writing a different story.

MMPA: You’re a father of five – are they all little gear junkies?

Regenold: I just turned 40, and yes, I have a 13-year-old daughter and four younger boys. Yes, they’re all gear junkies, or soon will be. My daughter is on a mountain bike team and is a runner, and more.  

MMPA: Is this your dream job? Or does it become just work?

Regenold: From about 2005 to 2010, I was writing and not so worried about supporting employees and a family. I was traveling the world as a writer and endurance athlete. That was a dream. But still, overall, this is a dream job, yeah. Now, I’ve grown up and I’m enjoying the responsibility of this work. I love the business side of it all and working to grow Gear Junkie.

MMPA: What do you read (besides GearJunkie.com)?

Regenold: When I do have downtime, I don’t read my industry stuff. I love New Yorker magazine feature stories. I read the front of Harper’s. Interesting, but I don’t like the front of the New Yorker, or Harper’s features. I read Wired; I think it’s brilliant and a strong cultural publication with a niche sole. I kinda template Gear Junkie on Wired and that philosophy. I’ve been trying to force myself to read Traction (popular business book), but I haven’t drank the kool aid on the system yet.