AlleyNYC: Tech in Motion, Tech & Media Panel

On Thursday, August 22, 2013, OLC attended Tech in Motion’s event featuring four tech and media related panelists: Brandon Diamond, co-founder of Huffington Post Labs; Pax Dickinson, CTO of Business Insider; Almar Latour, Executive Editor at Wall Street Journal; Danielle Fankhauser, Associate Editor at Mashable; and moderator Dennis Berman, Business Editor at Wall Street Journal.

Daniel Berman: Is the homepage dead?

Brandon Diamond: It can be improved and socialized. There are aspects of it that are dead—the static stuff. We want to drive traffic, but also report news.

Pax Dickinson: The homepage is the most heavily trafficked site—it’s the most popular. People want to know what everyone is reading. Homepages are important.

Danielle Fankhauser: Based on the shares and traffic they get, content is sent to hot topics—we want to engage people on the homepage.

Almar Lator: We have two categories of readers: Readers and subscribers, and subscribers are the super users.

DB: How do you see the threat of mobile?

PD: For us, we’re not mobile first. Business people read it on their desktops. Mobile is an addition for us. Mobile websites are 1/3 of our traffic, but we’re website first.

AL: Our readers are hooked on mobile. I prefer to check email on mobile—there’s a huge surge to go after the mobile at WSJ. The views—from the organization as a whole—will shift towards mobile.

DF: The way most companies make money is through ads. We’re shifting to branded content instead of display ads.

BD: I think mobile is the future. You get a lot more information from users. Almost anyone can be a journalist. The phone is almost a lifestyle accessory.

DB: What about feature apps that access user habits?

BD: Some content is evergreen. How do you present it to people? I think it’s with a device that people carry with them at all times.

DF: News is source of information, but it’s also social capital. You need two categories: News news and lifestyle news.

AL: For us, personalization doesn’t have a lot of currency at the moment.

DB: Let’s talk about bounce rate—what’s your strategy?

AL: A great story.

DF: I’d talk about design.

PD: We’d have editors pick three articles that were relevant and call it personalization. That’s improved 30% click rate.

BD: What about branded content, or sponsored content?

DF: The traditional route is an advertorial. The issue here is: Should it look different from your editorial content? The way we do it is that we don’t talk about it in the article, but use a theme without being promotional about them.

AL: We do have a sponsored content—we have one large example of that. It’s clearly marked and looks quite different from the rest of the site.

DB: Are you all making money and making money on scale?

BD: Every LABS group thinks about the future. We want to build startups ideas that makes money. We’re definitely aware that we need to generate revenue.

PD: Business Insider was profitable in its first year—it made $2000. We’re trying to catch up with WSJ. We need money, we need speed, we need to grow as fast as we can.

DF: Mashable has never taken investment!

AL: WSJ does make money. We have multiple revenue streams. We get to try a lot of new things too.

DB: There seems to be a formula for headlines. What’s the future of headlines?

BD: Headlines are very interesting. We decided to look at what people were copying and pasting on Huffington Post articles. You can figure out what the most interesting thing is. We were looking for an alternative for a headline. The things that were most popular were out of context or offensive.

PD: Headlines work. But people will get used to it, so we’ll have to come up with a new trick.

FD: We’re going to figure out we need to create new ways to create headlines.

AL: I think headlines will be around for a long time.

DB: What’s your advice to people?

PD: I’m a tech guy, so learn to code.

AL: I’m a journalist and I say learn to code. Everything in our business is changing. We need great engineers and coders to keep it viable.

DF: We have a long wishlist of things to build and we need to develop product growth.

DB: How are you adapting what you do on Twitter?

PD: Twitter is the front page of the internet. Basically, it killed the RSS feed. Twitter’s huge. It’s a conversation.

AL: You see a lot of people coming to our site through Twitter and see a lot of people on mobile coming through Twitter.

BD: Twitter blurs the personal and the professional.

DF:  I have friends that don’t use Twitter at all. We try to be experts in all social channels, but not be dependent on any.

PD: LinkedIn is huge for us.