- Kirsten Ballard
2016 Top 30 Under 30 winner
Ashley Howard never thought she’d get into media; she has a Master’s in education. But when the Oklahoman Media Company listed a position for Education Services Manager, she applied.
“When I realized what I would be doing, I truly fell in love with my job instantaneously,” she says.
At the Oklahoman, she oversees the newspaper education program and the digital audience development as a member of the Circulation Leadership Team. Ashley works with clients to develop quality educational programs, program content and overall product design. She completes educational grant requests.
She is one of the Alliance’s Top 30 Under 30 winners. Her favorite part of her job waffles depending on which hat she is wearing. When working with education services, she enjoys engaging directly with teachers and students.
“That makes me feel all warm and fuzzy, everything about it I love,” she says.
Managing the Digital Audience Development is an outlet of creativity for her. When she began, she said The Oklahoman was behind the times in reporting platform engagement. They only counted usage of the platforms by digital-only subscribers and never looked at engagement of print subscribers.
She says learning how they could truly take advantage of engagement and recording it was painful, but the data influences how they can grow engagement with the different products.
By correctly reporting audience engagement, she said they reported a large jump in numbers.
“It’s like flipping a switch,” she says. “It was a huge win for us when circulation numbers are declining. Folks are interacting with our products, just in a different form. The reality is people still see a value in our product.”
She focuses on giving subscribers different platform options, including a newsletter and a radio app, where people can listen to an article being read.
She says the newsletter is a big deal and the product of lots of hard work. It has a 19 percent open rate. “The better you understand your product and your mission, what you’re trying to deliver to your audience, the better you can go about finding new ways to do it.”
In her spare time, she volunteers. In her grant work she meets a lot of key players in the community.
“It’s more than just writing a check and giving money, it’s actually engaging with people that need time. My position puts me in a great spot, it forces me to get out there and become actively involved. It’s really easy sometimes to write the check and think it’ll be fine.”