Marketing Memos: Metrics, Churn, Authenticity, and Platform Personalities

Marketing Memos” is a weekly selection of 3-5 of the most interesting and insightful articles and podcast episodes—curated after I’ve had a chance to process them and identify the best. Follow Free Verse Media on LinkedIn or Twitter to receive notifications for each week’s post.


8 Ways Marketers Can Show Their Work’s Financial Results
By Paul Magill, Christine Moorman, and Nikita Avdiushko, Harvard Business Review

“Focusing only on what is most measurable underrepresents marketing’s full impact… CMOs should emphasize that their metrics are valid when evaluating whether marketing activities are working as expected, and that the inherent imprecision in measuring marketing’s financial outcomes does not undermine their validity. Marketing leaders also need to protect against overindexing the marketing mix toward the most trackable tactics merely because they offer more precision.”

Excellent advice here for all marketers, not just the endangered CMO. If you’re unable to frame a holistic narrative around your marketing strategy, you’re doomed to transactional initiatives, last-click attribution, and marginal results—at best—if not outright failure.

The L.A. Times’ disappointing digital numbers show the game’s not just about drawing in subscribers — it’s about keeping them
By Joshua Benton, NiemanLab

“Retention is critical to making reader revenue the bedrock of the new business model; one newspaper found that half of its new subscribers left within three months — but that after that point, the departure rate dropped under 2 percent a month. You’ve got to get around that corner.”

Some media organizations belatedly weaning themselves off an unhealthy over-reliance upon advertising are finding the “pivot to paid” even more challenging than the ill-conceived pivot to video. The FUD surrounding the LA Times‘ announcement that they’re falling short of their digital subscriber goals was over the top and a bit premature—mostly from pundits who’ve never managed a legitimate paid subscription business and were apparently unfamiliar with the concept of churn. Benton’s overview is insightful, and his tips on managing churn are applicable well beyond the news business, especially for marketers who’ve hit the inevitable wall after a “growth hacking” spike.

We Need Diverse Books Celebrates 5th Anniversary, Sets Agenda for Next Five Years
by Kara Yorio, School Library Journal

“What I like so much better is the term ‘informed by our experiences.’ which Cynthia Leitich Smith taught me to use. No writer is perfect. We are all human, and even at our best, we can still make mistakes. Using the OwnVoices term doesn’t provide a writer with Teflon coating, although I feel like some publishers hope for that. And it especially feels dangerous when writers might not feel safe to claim what their ‘OwnVoices’ might be.”

“Authenticity” has been a marketing buzzword for years and too often ends up being the exact opposite—most glaringly in social media, “influencer” marketing, and branded content gone predictably wrong. Its equivalent in book publishing is arguably “Own Voices,” a term intended to represent historically marginalized authors telling their own stories—rather than a white author attempting to tell them, only sometimes informed by research and personal awareness—but that’s quickly becoming a lazy marketing tactic with a much looser definition.


Great Big Story’s Courtney Coupe: ‘It’s not about bulk and driving as many eyeballs as possible’
The Digiday Podcast, DigiDay

“I love the audience that we’ve been able to build on these platforms, and the platforms have been great for building that audience, but I don’t know that we know that much about them. Part of our brand is that we have no home destination, no hub for our fans, so building a site is giving our audience a place to go and interact with us on a deeper level. A place that delivers on content and gives them the sticky experience that they’re looking for.”

Great Big Story started popping up in my YouTube recommendations a few months ago but I never watched their videos because I’d never heard of them. I try to keep my YouTube recommendations as clean as possible by only watching creators I’m familiar with or have some obvious credibility, and regularly prune sketchy creators whenever one slips through. Learning GBS is part of CNN was [mostly] reassuring, and I’ve since enjoyed several of their videos and even subscribed to their channel.

Their evolution is interesting for anyone playing in the mobile/social video space, or considering a belated pivot in that direction—understanding the limitations of the platforms du jour; recognizing how audiences engage differently on each one; and reinforcing the value of having a central hub you control, regardless of how successful you may be on any particular platform.

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