Brands

Dell’s Stephanie Losee on Brand Publishing, Curation vs. Content, and why Robots are Better than Dinosaurs

Stephanie Losee is the Managing Editor of Dell Global Communications. A former writer at Fortune and editor at PC Magazine, Stephanie co-wrote the nonfiction books You’ve Only Got Three Seconds and Office Mate, which was selected as Reuters’ Business Book of the Week and has appeared in publications ranging from The New York Times and Time to The Wall Street Journal and People. Her essays and articles have appeared in several anthologies as well as in O, the Oprah Magazine, The Los Angeles Times, Forbes, Salon.com, and The San Francisco Chronicle, among others. She has appeared on CBS’ The Early Show, CNN Headline News, Fox Business News, and NPR, as well as on BBC Radio and other television programs and radio shows across the country and in Britain, Europe and Russia. Follow her on Twitter @slosee.

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Image credit: Alice Chan

Give me your background in one paragraph.

I’ve been a writer since I was 8, and I’ve never wanted to do anything else. Professionally though, I’ve always been a tech journalist in some way, shape or form. When I graduated from Dartmouth, my mother gave me a three-week deadline to find a job… and the only editorial listings in The New York Times classifieds were for tech publications. I didn’t realize that places like New York Magazine didn’t list jobs there. (laughs) I thought starting my career at PC Magazine was a tragedy at the time, but now I thank my lucky stars.

You’re a career journalist – Fortune, PC Magazine – and you published a book on office romance. How’d that lead you to Dell?

I’ve always been interested in the intersection of corporations and publishing actually. I interviewed the heads of all the divisions and magazines at Time Warner to gather ideas for a project that later became Pathfinder in the early 1990s. After I left Fortune and went freelance, Helaine Olen and I wrote Office Mate, which received a ton of publicity…but no money.

So, having been part of a successful non-success, and realizing that my fee per article was falling, I started to consult for companies. I went from drafting articles to advising on editorial content strategy, and Dell was my biggest client. And one day a switch flipped, and I went from being excited about everything I could do as a consultant to being frustrated by everything I couldn’t do because I wasn’t in-house.

Who do you report to at Dell?

Marc Bien – VP of Global Communications for Dell.

That’s an amazing name.

I know – and he’s one of the good-est people I’ve ever met! (laughs)

Does Marc come from a publishing background?

No – he’s a communications professional who came to Dell from AT&T. But he has a strong point of view about thought leadership.

Explain Dell’s rationale for Tech Page One.

I think that all corporations are media companies right now; they just may or may not have formalized that role. To my mind, all big corporations that are speaking directly to their audiences need a media channel – and Tech Page One is ours. We bring a lot of voices together to talk about how technology enables people’s lives, which we think is what Dell’s audience wants to hear about.

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What metrics do you look at?

My goal every day is to take Dell from being a leading social media company to being a leading media company. All the better to take the conversation to the next level. At least that’s what I say in my head walking around. We have a great deal of measurement data, and a lot of people looking at the numbers. Of course the ultimate goal is lead-gen. That’s the Holy Grail.

You’ve got a lot of original content on the site, but there is some stuff from around the web as well. What do you think of the “original vs. curated” content debate?

I think you need a healthy mix. Curation is our best means of getting breaking news and more voices onto the site. But it comes at a cost – it means we can offer the best of the web to our audience, but the frustration is that unless you use a service like NewsCred, curation drives clicks off the site.

Who’s the competition? Do you think of yourself of competing with other PC makers, or with other tech pubs?

We think of our competitors as other key solutions companies. It’s not “are we doing content better than HP” or “are we doing content better than IBM” (although we certainly keep track of what they’re doing). The ultimate competition is between companies, and content is just one way to make the customer journey make more sense.

How much content are you publishing currently?

I’d say 12-20 pieces of original content daily, mixed with a lower number of curated pieces. We spend 90% of our budget on original content.

We spend 90% of our budget on original content.

How many editors and writers do you have?

We have three main editors – Technology, Business, and Lifestyle. There’s another full-time deputy editor who works with Dell-generated content from our subject matter experts. And a full-time project manager. Five dedicated people, an array of people who contribute part of each week to the project, plus all the support systems that go into running a corporate website.

Most of the writers are freelance?

Yes, I would say it’s freelance driven – either individuals or writers that are represented by content agencies.

What’s the hardest thing about publishing as a brand?

Usually people talk about adhering to brand guidelines. So that should be my problem… but it’s not. Dell has put full faith in us to make our content brand-friendly, but not branded.

The hardest part is that we’re all making this up as we go along… and that’s also the most fun part.

What we’re doing is cutting-edge marketing, but we don’t have a lot of role models. I can’t think of a single tech company that is innovating in content the way I have in mind for Dell.

The hardest part is that we’re all making this up as we go along… and that’s also the most fun part.

You need to build the content ecosystem you’re imagining one brick at a time from the foundation up. We never have a day when we get to do it like we did yesterday.

We’re familiar with that sentiment.

(laughs) Right? We’re essentially a startup – and like any startup, you begin with your idea and hope the money will follow – or in this case the audiences and the budget.

Would you rather be a robot or a dinosaur?

Don’t ever ask an intrepreneur at a tech company if she’d rather be a dinosaur (laughs). I’d give up my blood to be robot over a dinosaur any day of the week.

(this interview has been edited and condensed)

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