- Kirsten Ballard
Featured mediaXchange 2017 speaker
How do you stand out, rise above the noise, and get your organization’s voice heard online? Having successfully guided the growth of digital businesses his entire career, Jonathan Perelman – former executive at BuzzFeed and Google – knows how to do it right. Read what he has in store for mediaXchange and how you can master the platforms to scale your content.
How did you get into media?
My father was a newspaper journalist. As a young kid, I was fascinated by culture. I thought there was no greater influence on culture than media. Surprisingly, that didn’t lead me directly into media. I graduated from college, having studied political science. I went to work in financial services. I thought the future was technology, and I went to work for Google.
It became apparent to me that technology is great and wonderful and enables so much to happen, but it’s only as good as it is in service of something else. That is content. It’s like having train tracks. You can have the best train tracks in all the land, but if you have no trains to go over it, what difference does it make? I switched to the media side of Google and never looked back.
My evolution started through tech and now through content. It’s all about media, media in any form.
You focus a lot on the importance of distribution’s importance in media. How can newspapers scale their content online, especially at a local level?
The local component is so vital. Technology has enabled more seamless global communication, but people still want to know what’s happening next door or down the street. There is still a desperate desire for people to understand what’s happening in their local area. For local papers, it’s not any different than national organizations. It’s understanding where the audience is.
Make sure your content is on all platforms. You have to balance reach and revenue, and those things can be in conflict. You can be putting a lot of news on Facebook, but you might not be monetizing it. That doesn’t mean it’s not important. You have to figure out how you drive people back from Facebook to your website, where you can monetize better.
What is the latest tech and what are you doing on that? Say, ‘Hey, what are we doing on Snapchat?’ It might not be where the audience is today, but it is a good platform and you can learn what works and what doesn’t. All platforms help scale. It’s testing and good old fashion reporting; there’s no technology that can replace that.
How has media changed since you’ve been in the industry?
It’s changed a lot, for sure. I think the only constant has been the change. The speed with which media changes, particularly digital media, is lightning fast. I spend most of my day in it and I can’t keep up. The pace of everything has changed so drastically.
These things took hundreds of years to get from printing press to TV. It’s the pace now with so many different platforms; that’s the hardest part. It’s up to a media owner to understand each platform.
Can you give us a brief preview of your speech for mediaXchange, titled “Content as a Proxy for Communication: How to Grow your Business with Shareable Content?” What do you want the audience to walk away with?
I’m going to talk a little bit about the history of content and really spend some time focusing on how powerful the technology is. It might seem a little scary, but we have to embrace it. I’ll discuss how the social web works and how to take advantage of it. I want people to get an understanding of why what they do is so important. There are so many competitors, if we consider competition as attention. If you can mix good, solid reporting on things that matter to your audience and the latest technology tools and platforms, you’re going to have a major impact.
Where do you see the future of news going?
I come from a news family. News has always been important to democracy. It has always been fundamental. It holds leaders to account, it keeps the populace informed. It’s always been important, but never more important than now. There is dissent and disagreement and the rise and proliferation of fake news. News has never been more important to Americans than now.
Nobody has a monopoly on the news, but the news itself is vital to the democracy. I think you’re going to see a resurgence of sorts with the ‘news’ because we need it and people are going to be looking for the truth.