Fox News Digital Looks to Expand Content Beyond Politics

This post is part of the Content Q&A Series, featuring interviews with top content strategists and bloggers about their work and insights about the industry.

The Content Strategist talked recently with Jeff Misenti, head of digital content strategy of Fox News, for a look inside the successful news network.

Misenti, vice president and general manager of Fox News Digital, outlined his views on the latest industry trends and looked back on the recent partnership he struck with Twitter that helped his company reach new highs on election night.

At the heart of the strategy is Misenti’s quest for “nuggets” to grow the Fox News brand beyond politics and into many other sub-topics the network covers online.

The Content Strategist: In the news business your content is your product. In that context, what is your strategy for building the news brand and how has it changed with the explosion of social media?

Jeff Misenti: Nearly six years ago when I started with Fox News, the Internet was different than it was today. There was a very clear distinction in what a news organization was.

Today, everybody is trying to compete for a position in the search engine. You want to differentiate yourself in that space. We want to make sure our editors report this content for the Internet.

We know people will go to a variety of sources once they’re on the Internet. Before our users seek other sources, we want to be sure to tell our audience that there is more information available on our digital properties and to start with our properties.

TCS: Fox News has a tremendous digital reach in addition to the cable network. What is the main purpose for all those digital outlets?

Misenti: It’s a vehicle for additional information as well as marketing. The digital properties are also mediums where we are trying to drive awareness for breaking news  as it happens.

TCS: Much of the Fox News brand is associated with political news, but on Facebook and Twittter the content is usually apolitical. Is that done by design?

Misenti: We are a news outlet and there are times that people think of us as just political news, but we do more. If politics is your thing, there is a way to just follow politics. There are also ways to follow generic news or specific topics.

We have handles for science and travel, breaking news and many other topics. What we do with the main account is push content from the sub-accounts. The content has to be snackable.

TCS: Tell us about the partnership you struck with Twitter on election night and how it helped drive your digital audience to new heights.

MisentiOn election night, we had 1.2 million concurrent visitors at any given time — more than 28 million unique visitors for the night when you combine all of our online units.

Our audience came to us from everywhere. We saw a ton of traffic from search, a ton from all the social networks. Sites like Drudge also drove an awful lot of traffic as well. That’s the power of the Internet: people find what they want. Even small bloggers will stand out on big nights like election night. If we’re really good at what we’re doing we find the little nuggets of information that appeal to all of these outlets and attract more audience.

Twitter provided us with trending hashtags, state by state analyses and trends — and Fox gave it back to viewers. The velocity of all that information came out in real time and we had to go macro. When you go micro, there are a lot of false positives … and we want to stay accurate and correct. Different hashtags mean different things to different people. After the election we continue to look at the information so that we can track down the information and further analyze it for preparation for future events.

TCS: How do the audiences different on, say, Twitter and Facebook and does that affect what kind of content you provide?

Misenti: On Facebook you don’t want to give too much. It’s a good way to get people to your site to do more things. The Twitter audience is even more challenging as you only have 140 characters to stand out in a crowd — it’s really about creating a real-time burst of interest.

TCS: Online news has changed a lot just in the past year with many respectable sites putting their content behind a pay wall. What do you make of the recent changes in the industry?

Misenti: I think monetization on the internet is in its infancy. The cable network had amazing ratings throughout the whole political season. Whatever we do with our digital extensions is a complimentary experience. You need a cable subscription to view our primary coverage.

TCS: How do you create a brand experience on the website?

Misenti: I would say that the digital mediums create an open palette for creating integrated advertising experiences. In many cases I would argue that awell integrated ad appearing on the website is probably more valuable than on and ad appearing on traditional media. Digital advertising puts people a click away from the advertiser’s site.

TCS: What’s next for

Misenti: I don’t have a crystal ball, but the goal is to create a consistent experience. We are a cable news network so our primary extension is video. This is why our first move around responsive experience was with our video offerings.

There are three experiences: one for a desktop and two for a swipe experience for a phone or a tablet. Whatever the new thing is, we want to give our users a great experience. It sounds simple but it’s not that easy.

Our other focus is to connect the pieces between television and the Internet. Connectivity is going to do nothing but get better and we have to appreciate that. We ask ourselves how do we let the users connect with each other? Digital extensions encourage connectivity and we are constantly thinking about how to connect the content and the users via interaction with things like live streaming events, conversations about news topics, etc.

TCS: What advice would you give an aspiring young content marketer?

Misenti: It’s not easy. We all need to appreciate that to some extent everyone is a content marketer for something. The medium I support is news. Brands are now creating really compelling websites that compete with news so so there are no more easy wins. It takes a lot of effort to be good at creating content that is compelling to users. Whatever type of content you’re involved with.

The internet is about fracture. You have to be uber-focused. If you’re going to write about speakers, don’t bury your lead and start off by writing about components. It’s important to follow the principals of journalism that are taught in school and be very specific and speak directly to your audience. You have to be uber-specific to a mass audience, and that’s a challenge. It’s a crowded space and content marketing is a shift in thinking for many brands.

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