“That TFD team is whip-smart!”

Maybe we didn’t hear that exactly, but we did leave NOLA with great takeaways from the audience development track at the annual CRMA conference. With speakers from industry leaders like Digiday, The Washington Post and Harvard Business Review, the attendees of the audience development track were in great hands.

Below we’ve listed a quick rundown of the speakers and major topics discussed. Consider it the official TFD take on CRMA.

Session: How to Engage Your Audience Online

The Players: Joy Mayer, Mayer Media Strategy; Audrey Congleton, 5280 Magazine

As a major industry player, 5280 has always pushed the envelope with their audience initiatives. The magazine’s team (small, yet mighty) is currently using Hubspot to employ email efforts like a birthday campaign (give us your birthday, we’ll send you a gift), a re-engagement campaign (removing dead emails from your send list), and timely leadflows that redirect back to The magazine also recently combined all newsletters into one daily update called, “The Local” in an effort to consolidate revenue, audience, and acquisition efforts. 5280 is also using sweepstakes platform DojoMojo for email acquisition efforts on top of the email capture they’ve implemented on the site.

Joy from the Mayer Strategy discussed improving company relations on social media, particularly on Facebook and Twitter. Simply replying to comments on your site or posting statuses as questions, engaging with your audience is simple, but often overlooked. Dealing with comment trolls? No one to blame but yourself, according to Mayer. If you’re the host of a party, you’re expected to keep the party contained. Also, for those publishers asking what social channels they should be on—go where your audience is, if they're flocking to Twitter, but ignoring Pinterest, consider amping up your Twitter content and closing that Pinterest account.

TFD Takeaway: Would merging newsletters make sense for you? As for restoring civility to Facebook commenting? Maybe not something you can control overnight, but at the very least don’t leave your comments unmanaged. Really consider the idea of what your readers are doing during the content creation phase and what your editors are doing during your readers content consumption phase.

Session: Taking Print Acquisition to the Next Level with Paid Social, Search and Retargeting

Speaker(s): Jeff Levy, Harvard Business Review

From their theory on 3 channels of a customer journey (acquisition + engagement + retention) vs. the traditional two channels publishers typically operate from (acquisition + retention), to their aggressive retargeting through Cybba, Jeff and HBR were able to take the publication from a 95 percent reliance on direct mail to 0. Other programs HBR is using to free up their reliance on direct mail platforms and promote content are BounceX, Keywee, as well as utilizing paid search on both Facebook and Google Adwords to promote subscription sales. Drilling down on the engagement portion of acquisition, HBR is a highlighting subscriber benefits in print, social ads, and through 2x weekly subscriber-only emails.

TFD Takeaway: Start employing retargeting techniques ASAP if you’re not already. Jeff provided a case study that showed that print acquisition through digital channels is a force to be reckoned with. We're already experimenting with all of these tactics with our clients. Are you? Direct mail has met its match.

Session: Email Marketing & Retention

Speaker(s): Marc Haseltine, The Washington Post

Marc from The Washington Post introduced us to Wapo’s strategy of short-term newsletters around highly interested verticals. Typically around major events and timely news stories (opioids, sexual assault), these newsletters offer added engagement to consumers and revenue opportunities for advertising. Wapo has also started gating content in exchange for an email on some portions of their site.

TFD Takeaway: Take advantage of major events and happenings in your town with short-term newsletters. Major sporting event? Major election topic? Step out of your routine and make money while doing it. 

Session: The Science of Conversion

Speaker(s): David Restrepo, Piano; Jimmy Heffernan, BounceX

In this session we heard from two major players in the email acquisition space and heard a lot of important tactical takeaways on acquisition efforts. Some efforts to consider if you aren’t doing them already: disengagement overlays (provide sign up at exit content), gating content in an exchange for an email vs. payment, and gamifying sign ups when applicable. At Piano, where clients are gating content, they see success when brands incentivize purchases with 2-3 goodies.

TFD Takeaway: Membership models are so much more than throwing up a paywall on your site. Don’t assume you can get consumers to pay for what they’ve been getting for free up until now. Analyze engagement across key verticals and think about what you can offer. Plus, email acquisition doesn't have to be purely transactional. Tools like BounceX can make the experience fun and engaging. (And spoiler alert: it works.)

Session: Audience Development in an an Ever-Changing Media Industry

Speaker(s): Aaron Gottlieb, Digiday

With key changes in publishing like ad revenue being hijacked and platforms controlling the audience, publishers are pivoting to loyalty and consumer revenue—it’s just not that easy of a pivot. Recommendations from Gottlieb on transitioning? Obsess over your brand, create and foster a direct connection and make something worth paying for. Taking their own advice, Digiday launched Digiday+ where, in exchange for their credit card number, they promise the consumer three things: premium content, original research, and invitation to events.

TFD Takeaway: What are you giving consumers in exchange for their credit card info? Digiday+ is a great example of how to turn a subscription into an experience with your readers including in-person meetings, event perks, and more. 

Session: The Storytelling in Your Data

Speaker(s): Kelsey Arendt, Parsley; Melissa Chowning, Twenty-First Digital

Focusing on metrics that matter, this session discussed everything from your site traffic to email unsubscribes. Practical suggestions included: use more local search terms, focus on market specific content, optimize your top content pages, improve title and meta descriptions, as well as minimize the asks on checkout pages, remove dead-weight from your mailing lists, and analyze your data with a storytelling angle.

TFD Takeaway: There are stories inside your data, no doubt. Who in your organization is reviewing and discussing your audience's behavior and translating that into actionable opportunities and goals? Someone should be.

Did you attend the event? See anything we missed? Contact or to share your CRMA takeaways.