First Female Editor & Chief Content Officer of U.S. News Discusses Editorial Strategy
Last month, U.S. News & World Report named Kim Castro editor and chief content officer. She’s the first woman to assume the role at the consumer information-focused media company, founded in 1933.
Castro has worked at U.S. News for a decade and previously oversaw the Consumer Advice group, which produces content for the brand’s Education, Health, and Money sections. Now she will lead editorial strategy for all sections and prioritize new growth opportunities, including search optimization and data-driven product development.
In this interview, Castro shares her goals for U.S. News content and how she sees the brand evolving under her leadership.
What will be your main focus in your new role?
The focus of my new role is to work closely with the managing editors and senior editors across each U.S. News section: Education, Health, Money, Travel, Autos and Civic. My main goal is to ensure those teams are producing the highest-quality journalism that’s aligned with our core mission of helping people make better, more informed decisions about important issues affecting their lives. I work with an extremely talented group of digital editors, reporters and producers – in my opinion, the best in the business – so I’m continually gleaning best practices and editorial standards that can be shared among the different teams. Ultimately, I want to make sure they’re achieving their editorial goals.
How are you approaching content strategy for U.S. News & World Report?
Every piece of consumer content we produce is informed by data. Long gone are the days of coming up with story ideas, throwing them against the wall and seeing what sticks. If users are searching for specific topics, it’s because those topics are meaningful to them. So, we work with our business intelligence and SEO teams to analyze and interpret the analytics data to surface topics people are searching for, discover new angles and opportunities and find ways to update and optimize our existing content. This strategy ensures that we’re deriving the greatest value from our time and resources.
The great thing about consumer-focused journalism is that it’s evergreen. We can continually update and republish that content with fresh, relevant information, but we can also repurpose that content for other mediums, like newsletters, a video or even a podcast episode.
In our Civic area, we’re increasingly collaborating with partners like the Aetna Foundation, for example, to rank the healthiest communities in America. Our latest analysis is based on an evaluation of nearly 3,000 communities based on 81 metrics, including obesity, access to care and income equity. Collaborative projects like these are an organic extension of our rankings, where the consumer is always top of mind. We’re providing the in-depth research to help them make the best decision for them.
What are some specific short-term goals you hope to accomplish?
Given the evergreen and consumer-focused nature of our content, 80% of U.S. News’ traffic and visits come from organic search, mainly Google. Through mobile-first indexing, Google rewards websites that make mobile a priority. One of my short-term goals is to work closely with our editorial, product and tech teams to ensure all of our great content is mobile optimized and that we provide the best user experience for our audiences.
What growth opportunities are you prioritizing?
We’ve identified numerous growth opportunities across all of our verticals, but one area that I’m very excited about – which feels like a back to the future moment – is optimizing our newsletter business and developing new newsletters that are aligned with our audiences. The goals are to lessen our reliance on Google, get access to first-party data, get more advertising placements in our newsletters and increase traffic back to our site.
Looking further out, how do you see the brand evolving in the next year or two?
I see U.S. News taking advantage of the significant amounts of first-party data we’re collecting from numerous data sources to gain better user insights. Improved user insights will allow us to serve personalized content and other products to our users, provide historical intelligence and predictive analysis and develop new data-driven products for our users.
What industry trends are you excited about right now?
Although it’s not exactly in our company DNA, I’m excited about the rise of voice searches via smart speakers, augmented reality, chatbots and live video. There’s a lot of opportunity to be creative, innovative and reach new audiences.
Related story: Using Evergreen Content as an Audience Development Strategy
Leah Wynalek is the senior editor for Publishing Executive and Book Business. She has worked at national magazine publishing companies including Trusted Media Brands and Rodale, where she assisted in digital content creation and strategy for Prevention.com. More recently, she used her multimedia skillset on behalf of clients as a content specialist for Philadelphia-based marketing agency En Route.