Full Disclosure: Coca-Cola is a client of Contently.
Just over a year ago, Coca-Cola Company said good-bye to their corporate website. Never known for doing things halfway, the company made their debut in brand publishing with Journey, not merely a publishing arm, but the new front page of Coca-ColaCompany.com. Coke wasn’t just dipping into brand publishing; they were making publishing a part of their identity.
“It’s distinctly Coca-Cola’s voice that we’re channeling,” said Jay Moye, senior writer and editor for Journey. “We’re publishing in the optimistic tone that Coke is known for, as well as the quality. We believe that great writing wins the day.”
Visually, Journey is clearly a publication. Large, vibrant photos scroll across the top of the page, directing visitors to articles, videos and galleries featuring everything from a gastronomic tour of Mexico City to Maria Shriver’s thoughts on women in poverty. Of course, one can find corporate information tucked into the site’s outer edges, but the intent is clear.
“Leadership refuses to call it a corporate website anymore,” Moye said. “It’s a media platform.”
A History of storytelling
Perhaps Coca-Cola is well placed to lead the way toward brands blurring the lines between what they publish and who they are. The company’s history has been steeped in storytelling, from crafting the modern day Santa Claus to changing public image of NFL player “Mean” Joe Greene with one iconic commercial.
“People expect Coke to be a world class storyteller,” said Moye. “They see us as a beacon of optimism and happiness.”
Journey itself has a history within the company, originally published as a popular internal magazine for employees and stakeholders in the 1980s. When the brand publishing conversation arose in 2010, resurrecting Journey was a natural decision.
Getting the world — both internally and externally — to understand the convergence of their corporate website and new publishing platform was one of the early challenges for Journey.
“We’re still spreading the word about what Journey is,” Moye said. “Journey is a pretty first-of-its-kind thing, especially for a brand like Coke.”
Unwavering buy-in from senior leadership has proven to be invaluable in that process. When they flipped the switch on Journey in November 2012, the company’s willingness to go all-in played no small part in the site’s success.
Lessons in data-driven content
Today, Journey carries an interesting mix of Coke-focused content, food articles, cultural pieces, music, jobs stories and more. Ultimately, the recipe was written from a year of serious data analysis.
“Everything we publish on Journey is data-driven,” Moye said. “It’s how we create content our readers want to read.”
Journey attracts an average of 1.1 million visitors each month, and they help determine the direction of the publication. In some cases, that means pulling back on underperforming topics, such as sustainability. In others, the data pointed to content that was so successful, such as food and music pieces, that the Journey team created dedicated channels to highlight them.
A big data-driven surprise for Moye is how voraciously people consume Coke-focused content.
“We thought people would be looking more at the non-branded stuff,” he said. “We were surprised that pretty much everything we publish about our advertising or our history does incredibly well. We doubled down on Coke-focused content.”
Determining exactly how much content to publish was a challenge Moye wrestled with as well. Analytics have helped Journey match their publishing volume with readership demand. By publishing two to three new stories each day with a support staff of seven and a pool of freelancers, they seem to have hit their stride, featuring more than 1,200 pieces of content in the first year.
By keeping a close eye on metrics, Journey was ready for a reboot just one year into publishing. The front page highlights their high-performing channels — brands, videos, food, music, and the “Unbottled” blog — as well as gave the site an even glossier, magazine-like appearance with much more content than before.
“The first iteration of Journey looked great, but we saw the chance to feature more stories,” Moye said. “The design is going to be a work in progress. This isn’t the last look you’ll see.”
Step one of a global journey
The whole world, in fact, is due to see new versions of Journey in the near future. After an initial year of growth and development on the “global site” managed in the U.S., Journey has begun to launch international sites that focus on local content in more than 30 counties. Sites in Australia, Germany, Japan, Ukraine, Morocco, New Zealand and Russia are already live, with more counties to launch throughout 2014.
“We work with them to develop the same approach and tone,” Moye said, “and though we supply some of the markets with content, they’re mostly creating their own.”
While the original global site is technically the elder team in charge of teaching the newbies, Moye says they’ve already found themselves learning from the international teams’ strengths and the content they’re creating.
With about 30 international sites yet to launch, that makes for even more learning and growth opportunities to come. Add to that a continued close watch on analytics and Coke’s unique storytelling voice, and Journey’s second year as Coca-Cola Company’s public face should be worth watching.
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