How journalism is changing course in 2016

Have you noticed the changes in the journalism industry? The role of the journalist has evolved in recent years with fewer newsrooms requiring more content. We sat down the Jason Whittaker of The Mandarin to talk about his career in journalism and how he sees the industry evolving in the future. 

Rakhal Ebeli: What would you say is where you’re hitting the sweet spot in 2016?

Jason Whittaker: In terms of our publication?

Rakhal: Yeah, where you’re finding the best engagement, different content types, different channels. Where would you say is your nice balance?

Jason: Yeah, sure. In terms of The Mandarin, the tried and true email has been our best friend and building up a really good EDM database. The bulk of our traffic every day is coming through a daily newsletter that we’re sending to that database, so that’s been the boon for us. This particular audience, public servants, are certainly not as social media savvy as some other audiences, so we found it a little harder on those platforms, although there’s certainly a different type of audience that we’re attracting through those platforms, but email, email still works. It works for all of our products here, and it’s really key to what we do.

Rakhal: How do you go about understanding what that audience is looking for? Are you creating short form, long form content? Is there something that you’re getting in terms of your analytics that are saying, “Audiences are now time poor and not being able to absorb the long form stuff,” or have you got a time and a place for everything still?

Jason: Yeah, I mean that’s always the balance, and I think, my personal view is you obviously want to be all over analytics, but at the same time, not be driven by it necessarily. What I think the audience wants is a package of content. We could serve up 300-word news stories every day that we know does the business in terms of traffic, but that’s not a great product at the end of the day. I think there’ll be readers that want something deeper and richer, so it has to be a mix of breaking news at 300 words, and deeper analysis, and features, and profiles at 1000 words, 2000 words.

I think getting the mix of that right is the most important thing. taking note of analytics, taking note of where the audience is coming from and what they’re going to, but having a hunch about what the core readership wants, even if it’s not necessarily your top story of the day, and trying to deliver that. My old boss always used to say that journalism is about giving them what they want, and just a little bit of what they need, the idea of feeding them vegetables as well as the meat. I think that’s pretty important, wherever you are in publishing.


How to blend native advertising with your content

Consuming information in the digital age is much like navigating through jungles – crowded, dense and tangled. Then there are those who have mastered their way around the thickness. Publishers. News platforms. Media companies. The eyes and ears of the public.

Not surprisingly, when brands want to cut through the clutter, they leverage these popular news sites using native advertising. But is it a good strategy and how do brands make it work?

More revenue for publishers, more engagement for brands?  

The State of Native Advertising 2014 report states that 62% of publishers around the world offer native advertising but only 41% of brands are adopting it as part of the marketing mix. There is room for growth as the forecast for native advertising revenue sees an upward trend over a 5-year period.

Nonetheless, the “advertising” in native advertising has got consumers agitated. A survey by MediaBrix reports 57% of readers find Facebook sponsored stories misleading while 66% feel misled by advertorials.

Experts have stressed on having “authenticity, transparency and editorial value” to succeed in native advertising. For brands, that means blending in with the natives, or the publisher’s editorial content.

Am I seeing double?

Sponsored content should have the same look and feel with the surrounding environment to avoid triggering readers’ ad-blocking tendency. While there are words and markers by publishers to distinguish native advertising from editorial content, something that doesn’t disrupt the reading flow is always better.

Results from a study by IPG and Sharethrough state that banner ads are being overlooked while native advertising, particularly in-feed articles, command as much attention as editorial content.

Big brands, being more conspicuous, have to “blend in” even more. Take a look at Microsoft Bing and its’ list post that matches so well with BuzzFeed’s style. Or this list post by Hyundai on Mashable that has garnered a huge number of shares on social media. 

Whose voice, brand or publisher? 

While businesses are effectively buying space within publishers’ real estate to tell their branded stories, it’s vital to keep in mind why people love reading content there in the first place.  

For instance, Netflix has received numerous praises for not only producing a well-informed piece on a topical issue but also adapting it to suit The New York Times’ investigative journalism image.

It is outstanding sponsored content like that that helps increase native advertising acceptance. A study by Mindshare finds that 56% of surveyed Australian consumers are attracted to branded articles.

Jumping on the native bandwagon

Brands have two options when it comes to adopting native advertising. They either can ask the publisher to do the “blending in” for them or they can create the content themselves and push through the publisher’s platform. To make an optimal decision, some questions marketers can ask include:

  • How much control am I willing to give up?
  • Do I have enough resources in-house to produce content that integrates with the publisher’s site seamlessly?
  • How well do I know the publisher and the publisher’s audience?

At the end of the day, native advertising champions are those that balance the interests of all parties: publisher, reader and the brand itself.

Big brands are adopting live streaming (and you should too)

From Coachella to The Ellen Degeneres Show to Dunkin’ Donuts to Adidas, all kinds of big brands have been playing around with live streaming. 

And that’s a good thing for the rest of us.

Now, with so many great live streaming platforms to choose from, handfuls of how-to-guides and best practices, and strong evidence showing the benefits, it’s never been easier for brands to do something a little unique with their video content. 

Here’s why you should be live streaming.

Live video streaming, for those of us that don’t want to get bogged down in the technical aspects, is content sent online, in a compressed format and in real time to the end viewer. The user doesn’t have to wait for the entire file to download and instead views the content in a continuous stream. 

To live stream video, brands can use platforms like Snapchat, Periscope, Blab and now Facebook Live to capture their content and distribute it to their viewers. 

All the cool kids are doing it

According to OOYALA’s Global Video index, time spent watching video on mobile devices increased by 616% from Q3 2012 to Q3 2015. And Global Web Index’s recent survey of 16-34-year-olds in selected countries across the globe found that viewers want to watch funny and entertaining content through live video streaming apps. 

They’re also interested in live broadcasts of breaking news stories and music concerts and aren’t adverse to watching broadcasts by brands, celebrities, and vloggers (video bloggers). This is great news for most brands.

You don’t need to throw handfuls of money at it

Like with most things on the internet, you no longer need expensive equipment, years of training and a million-dollar budget. In fact, all you need to live video stream is a mobile device or laptop with a built-in microphone, and a good internet connection.

You can make it work for you and your audience

You can give your audience a front-row seat to just about anything related to your brand. You can now broadcast product launches, sharing behind-the-scenes footage of events and hosting Q&As with experts, celebrities or influencers. You can also stream live video of podcasts and radio shows and offer exclusive content for after-show content.

You don’t have to be another faceless, boring brand 

Live streaming allows brands to create shared experiences with their audience. It’s a more engaging, form of content than Facebook or Instagram because audiences get to see your face and interact with you in real-time.

You don’t need to be polished and scripted

Audiences expect live streams to be less polished than other video content. This means you don’t need to dedicated hours to production and scripting. Raw and honest footage also helps brands appear genuine and like they don’t have anything to hide. 

How brands break through the noise to tell their story with data-driven marketing.

With 90% of business marketing now operating online, how does your brand break through the noise to deliver its message? We chat with founder and managing director of Blirt, Stuart Leo. Blirt is a leading CX marketing firm and we talk to Stuart about how brands can create a compelling and engaging experience that an audience tunes into. 

Rakhal: Data-driven marketing can, in a sense I guess, correlate data to the point where marketers can plan and implement a virtual map, I guess, for consumers to follow where they finish at that all-important conversion of a sale. A data-driven marketing survey recently published in Hubspot said actually 69%, Stuart, of people said that they focused on offers, messages, and content. Now, I guess a bit of a broad question, but how do you see the mix of content and your specialty data-driven marketing going forward in 2016?

Stuart: I think content needs to be understood as everything from a how-to guide to an explanation video to web pages and blogs, through to hard-hitting, retailing, TVCs, radio ads, or calls to action. At the end of the day, advertisers and marketers have been creating content since marketing and communications were born. It’s just that today we don’t just do 30-second ads or 1-page print ads. We’re thinking about content as being more about how do we design the right time length channel at the right stage in the buying journey? If that means we’ve got to write a short book, write a short book. If that means you’ve got to produce a YouTube channel and explain something through that process, great. Do that. I really think content gets a bad reputation when people think it’s just blogging or just writing e-books or some of the more common things we do online. Really, content is that thing we produce across the buying journey to help the communication experience.

Rakhal: You’ve worked with a lot of clients both here and overseas, can you think of any prime examples of when data and storytelling merged to create a powerful or effective campaign? Either your own clients or examples, case studies that you’ve seen in the market recently?

Stuart: For us, we use content both to build awareness at the top of the funnel, to educate in the consideration phase, but really, and I’m not going to give away too many secrets, but where we find content accelerates the purchasing experience … Let’s just get commercial for a moment.

Rakhal: Absolutely. Let’s get real commercial. That’s why we’re here.

Stuart: Absolutely. We talk a lot about opportunity acceleration, not about creation of leads or just lead conversion, but rather how do we accelerate a buying experience. Because if a marketer can accelerate a buying experience, he or she can take that dollar spent on that campaign and reuse it again in another campaign. Purely and simplistic, what I mean by that is if one campaign takes 12 months and you need to spend a dollar on that campaign, you can only expense that dollar once every 12 months. Rather, if we can shorten that down to 1 month, we can expense that dollar 12 times and we can generate more customers. The more effective we can be around that velocity of a deal, then the more effective we can be with the capital we’re using to cross those campaigns and the more return we can get back to that organization on their marketing efforts.

We really actually focus quite hard on … at the point where they’re actually becoming a serious prospect, a serious opportunity, depending on the language you might use in your CRM world or automation world. I’ll use the word opportunity because that’s a common enough term out there in the industry. If we can, now at the stage of opportunity, personalize messages, ensure that they’re getting trust builders answering the right questions through that process, what we’re doing with content is we’re providing a content foundation to a sales experience or a buying experience.

If it’s a high-engagement sale where there’s potentially a sales person involved, well then great. You’ve got the physical and the digital world working together. If it’s a maybe more e-commerce type scenario or a low-engagement sale, well then you’re using omnichannel activities to really wrack around that customer as they start to exhibit serious buying behaviors. We’ve seen that the more personalized you get with that content and with that experience, the faster the sale happens and the greater the level of brand advocacy that comes out of it.

Want more shares for your content? Start with your audience

In the age of customer centricity, it’s useful to step back and into the shoes of our audience. A study by the New York Times uncovers the primary motivations for sharing content online:

  • Bring valuable, useful content to others (major motive) 
  • Define and communicate who they are to others
  • Connect to others and nurture relationships
  • Feel valuable and involved
  • Advocate causes or brands 

Another study shows people have less altruistic motives when it comes to social sharing of content. But it’s worth noticing “content” here also includes that generated by the respondents themselves. The top reasons are: 

  • They find the content interesting/entertaining
  • They think the content will be helpful to others (major motive for older people)
  • They want to get a laugh 

Based on these findings, we can group the reasons for content sharing into three broad categories and explore the ways content marketers help readers satisfy their needs. 

Catering to informational (functional) needs 

In this category, people share content because they believe in its usefulness to their recipients. In other words, your readers are more likely to share your content if it helps their social circles understand and tackle the problems they are facing.  

Hence, you would think How-to and Why posts should get the most shares. Surprisingly, List posts and infographics top the rank, arguably for being more skim-friendly.

Source: Why content goes viral: what analysing 100 million articles taught us, Dorkly 2014.
Source: Why content goes viral: what analysing 100 million articles taught us, Dorkly 2014.

Still, skim-friendly content doesn’t mean short-form. On average, long, comprehensive posts between 3,000 to 10,000 words get the most shares. Well-researched articles, or “epic” content, cater well to informational needs. 

Extra tip: Expert round-ups prove to be highly effective in triggering social shares, but only if executed properly. 

Don’t forget we are humans with emotions 

The most common emotions evoked based on analysing the top 10,000 most shared articles are awe, laughter, and amusement. That means, your readers and their social circles have “soft spots” for content containing these emotional elements. 

Nonetheless, negative and high-energy emotions, such as anxiety and anger also command a big chunk of shares. Think content that provides warnings or highlights some sort of injustice. 

Caution: Avoid deploying tabloid-like tactics unless you were Donald Trump or Kim Kardashian.   

They don’t call it “social” media for nothing

In this category, people share content because it helps them maintain social interactions or illustrate their desired self-image. We are, after all, social creatures.

Posts that can trigger discussion and debate get shared. Controversial issues provide a fertile ground. It’s tempted to cite Donald Trump as an example again but there are lots of business/marketing-related controversial posts out there, e.g. death of Google+

Next, imagine your content holds a mirror in front of your readers. What do they want to see? Appealing to people’s narcissistic tendency can fuel content shares. People share the ever popular BuzzFeed’s quiz results to reveal their own personality, taste, and values. 

Tip: Are your target readers cool or vocal? Intellectual or spiritual? Create content that makes them say “Hey that’s me!” or “That’s who I want to be!”

Final words 

Taking buyer personas further, think about your industries and your typical audience’s needs. Do they tend to share content to polish their self-image, or to help fellow readers, or simply, to spread a laugh? 

How to use content to increase traffic to your brand

How is your brand directing traffic to its social networks and websites? Trading ads for creative content is essential. We sat down with Jeff Bullas,, the #1 name in content marketing and discussed how brands can make themselves more visible in search engines. 

Rakhal: Great content obviously, ultimately, leads to conversion. But you can’t really advertise your product straight off the bat or consumers should be probably turned off. So how do you ease your consumer into the sale of your product or services with content marketing these days?

Jeff: So what you do is you use a mix of giving away free great content that’s both engaging, inspiring, and educational; and then what you need to do is you mix that up with calls to action, or draw people to a webinar where you might want sell a digital product, or sell an e-book. So it’s this combination of free [content] and marketing …  and I was at a Mastermind in Chicago about a year ago and there was a really good statement made by Todd Brown, and Todd said, “75% of your marketing funnel is education” and its true.

So you basically need to earn the right to ask for the order, and that comes from providing great free content. And the more expensive the product the longer the journey; and that’s the same with a face to face sales process. It’s no different except you need to do it online. Basically, you are defined online by your content, that’s it.

Rakhal: So when we get to the pointy end of that conversation you talk about ROY, what tips and tricks are you suggesting these days to trying to get that ultimate conversion to essentially pay for all that content that you’ve created along the journey.

Jeff: So what you need to do is …  with this incredible, splintered media environment we live in … hundreds of social networks now with a few majors, you’ve got mobile devices, multiple devices that you need to be communicating on to optimize your content for. And then you’ve got a variety of media, you’ve got images and so on. So the only way to manage this incredibly splintered and complex environment is to use tools, and you need to build a use a platform such as a digital marketing automation platform.

I use Infusion Soft, which basically allows me to create marketing funnels that automate a lot of the boring stuff and also provide measurement. And that allows me to then optimize conversion rates so … and then top of that you plug in tools all around that … such as Lead Pages which is just … I’m sure a lot of you heard about Lead Pages, but that is also woven into the mix and then you build essentially marketing funnels that are driven by these digital marketing automation platforms that allow you to scale. Because in this incredible complex media world that’s the only way you’re going to be able to manage and measure.

The death of Instagram? Not really

We all love to be outraged. Especially when it comes to billion dollar companies telling us what we should be looking at in our time. But is the introduction of an algorithm really going to mean the death of Instagram as we know it? Not really. In fact, writes Rachel Kuryzp, we should have seen this coming.

Instagram has recently announced it will be updating its news feed algorithm. Posts will no longer appear in chronological order and instead be sorted “based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting, and the timeliness of the post.” What this means is Instagram will choose what content to display in your feed, much like it does in your Facebook newsfeed.

This news prompted outrage from thousands of users, with hashtags like #RIPInstagram, #boycottinstagram and #keepinstagramchronological being used following the announcement. And users even launched a petition on to keep the Instagram feed chronological. But are users and brands overreacting?

Why is this happening?

Facebook, which owns Instagram, just announced $5.8 billion in Revenue in Q4, a staggering 51 percent growth over the prior year. And while Facebook’s growth rate has consistently been over 40 percent, they will struggle to maintain that growth without monetizing their other businesses.

Instagram, one of the fastest growing and most used social networks made $600 million in revenue in 2015 and is forecasted to grow by 149 percent in 2016. And this growth can’t be sustained by users alone, no surprises here.

What are we afraid of?

Brands aren’t happy that they’ve been told to start treating Instagram like Facebook – to rely less on free, organic reach. With brands afraid to fall off their audience’s feed, they’re more likely to boost every post and this could lead to advertising fatigue.

Bombarded by branded content, up to one in every 6 posts, Instagram users might start scrolling past posts and ignoring the “like” and comment feature. Research has shown that 6 out of 10 daily Instagram users are already unhappy with the ad frequency in their feeds.

But if look at what we know: there is no shortage of new people joining the platform with 680 million Instagram users predicted by 2020, and brands complain every time Facebook changes its algorithm. But the one’s producing great content aren’t having trouble reaching their audience either through boosting or through organic reach.

It’s also worth noting that on average 70 percent of people miss posts in their Instagram feed anyway. And the algorithm will now ensure that the 30 percent they do see will be the best posts for them. Your posts won’t be disappearing either. Posts, for now, will still be there, just in a different order. So there’s no need to freak out and ask people to turn their notifications on.

What it actually means for brands?

You guessed it: brands need to continue producing striking, visual content. And really start to have two-way conversations with their audience (aka engagement) within the platform. If you do this, people will continue to engage with your content, whatever the algorithm is.

Brands who are serious about content marketing use analytics. Use your data to inform you when your audience is online and schedule your posts to go out at that time. And if you aren’t already, use your analytics to learn which hashtags perform best and always vary your hashtags to increase your chances of reaching new audiences. Finally, spend a few minutes a day monitoring trending hashtags and jump on board if they are relevant to you and your audience (but be strategic, not spammy).

And if all else fails, ask for it. Yes, you read right. Brands have seen an increase in engagement when they are specific about what they want their audience to do: “tag your friends,” “write a comment,” or “visit the online store.”

The key takeaway? Brands should consider this a wake-up call. If you build your audience on someone else’s platform and it dies, changes or decides to monetize, then you’re in trouble. You should continue to invest in channels like your website and email where you own your data and can control how you use it.

How brands are adding creative thinking and innovation to their storytelling

Is your brand thinking outside the box with its content strategy? Developing unique content is essential to breaking the mould in the social media world. PR guru, Amanda Fry, explains how creative thinking and innovation captures an audience and what brands are doing to stand out from the rest. 

Plus, the star-studded client list Amanda has worked with over her career. 

The following is an excerpt from the Brand Storytelling podcast. Available on iTunesSoundcloud and select android devices. 

Rakhal: In your career, you’ve obviously worked with some pretty huge brands but also some amazing personalities. We mentioned Jimmy Choo, which in itself is an iconic brand now. You’ve also worked with the likes of Mariah Carey, Jerry Seinfeld and I mentioned the Kardashians. What unique opportunities and challenges of those unique experiences presented for you over the journey?

Amanda: I think when you’re looking at someone like Jerry Seinfeld and I worked on the Bee movie with Paramount. It was obviously on the back of Seinfeld and this was someone who had an iconic career from changing the nature of sitcom. Seinfeld was an absolutely revolutionary show. Working with someone who is that creative and that smart, was fascinating, particularly when you doing media junkets. It’s because you got to watch really intelligent questions, really engaging and interesting answers over all of those interviews. Often when you’re doing a junket, that’s for movies, they can get a little bit formulaic and a little bit boring. That was absolutely fascinating.

I also worked with Priscilla Presley. I worked with her in London, Canada, and the U.S. There was one particular day in the U.S. where a journalist came in with a very clear agenda and quite a hostile agenda. Priscilla looked at me and said, “Let me handle this.” I knew straight away that we were going to go over time and that she was going to turn this journalist around. She spent 35 minutes with him instead of her normal 10 to 15. Absolutely, he left the room thinking she walked on water because he came in with a preconceived idea of who Elvis’s wife was. Okay, she’s been in a couple of movies, comedies, but really having no understanding about the woman.

This is a woman who is incredibly intelligent, grew up in a time in history that is phenomenal, single-handily saved Elvis’ and Graceland’s legacy without question turned it into now what is a very profitable business. It was fascinating working with someone like that particularly because I’ve come from a background where I wasn’t particularly an Elvis fan. To watch the care that she took with fans, because people get married to those songs. They get engaged. They’re big moments in their lives. She never underestimates that. To watch a journalist who wanted to come in and have a conversation about her, her background, her kids, Michael Jackson, whatever. For her to educate him on who she was and have him leave the room with a different opinion, that is being in the presence of greatness. Of course, the Kardashians, they’re a social media outlet themselves. They don’t need the press, it’s the other way around.


World Business Forum 2016

May 25th – 26th


I Am Storymaker…

What do all successful people have in common?

Is it their personality, their background, their values, or their skills? It can be one or more of these. But it is not their attributes that define them.

So, what do they have in common?

They all have a story. They are all story makers…

“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.” – Sir Richard Branson

Sir Richard Branson: From owning one record label to operating a billion dollar empire worldwide, Richard Branson’s entrepreneurial mindset has made him one of the greatest influencers in the world today. A man made up of over 400 companies, he still able to allocate time and resources to his Virgin Unite program to empower fellow entrepreneurs, and invest in eco-friendly resources.

“The world is your oyster. It’s up to you to find the pearls.” – Chris Gardner

Chris Gardner: A story so powerful, a movie was made to document his incredible life of sheer determination in the face of adversity, Chris Gardner is a rags to riches entrepreneur who knows what it takes to succeed. His book ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’ has made him a bestseller and a global inspiration to others seeking to replicate his attitude to finding success.

“There’s pleasing today’s customers and developing tomorrow’s business.” – Rita McGrath

Rita McGrath: Rita is at the forefront of strategy in uncertain environments and is globally recognised for her expertise in seizing business opportunities and capitalising on them to full effect.

In times of rapid change and business volatility, it is harder than ever to know how to drive your business forward. This is why we need to look to the leaders of global business and learn from their stories. And the best way to do this is at an event like the World Business Forum.

Find out more information about the event and all the speakers in attendance


A full  list of speakers and their topics:

Richard Branson

Topic: Entrepreneurship

Chris Gardner

Topic: Perseverance

Robert S. Kaplan

Topic: Performance Management

Rita McGrath

Topic: Strategy

Nicholas Negroponte

Topic: Innovation

Tamara Erickson

Topic: People

CEO Panel Discussion

Topic: Business transformation amid uncertainty


  • Andrew Thorburn
  • Rob Sindel
  • Brandon Lee

John Mattone

Topic: Leadership

Mauro Porcini

Topic: Marketing


Promo Code for 10% discount: Newsmodo10