How CNN is making audience development a bigger part of their culture to face their limits of scale.

Author: Lucia Moses | @lmoses / Source: DIGIDAY

CNN, like other publishers, has started to realize the limits of scale.

The network has built a massive audience online and on platforms like Facebook and Twitter, but it wasn’t becoming a daily habit. Traffic would spike during breaking news, but then fall off. Individual departments like news and social were doing audience development work on their own, but they weren’t working in concert.

It’s been trying to course correct. About a year ago, CNN hired Chris Herbert from The Weather Channel to build an audience development team, among other things. Herbert, svp of digital operations and strategy, brought on Alan Segal in September as vp of audience development to strengthen direct relationships with CNN’s audience through products like newsletters and podcasts; grow engagement during non-breaking news periods to give advertisers more predictability, and double audience-based sales. Segal has created a 15-person team including data scientists and analytics experts and is expected to roughly double that over the next two years.

“How we see audience development is to use data to develop a news habit for the next generation and improve monetization,” said Herbert, who reports to Andrew Morse, CNN’s digital GM.

“We’re so large and we have such a big audience today, but we don’t necessarily have some of the background our competitors in print have about knowing their audience. The shift we’re making is focusing less on overall scale in the form of uniques to looking at engagement, daily active uniques, time spend in video.”

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