"The Drum Live" Exemplifies the Ever-Changing Audience-Publisher Dynamic
Audience engagement today may seem to be a digitally-driven machine, fueled by tweets, newsletters, and online comments. Indeed, human interaction, be it dating or connecting with friends, more and more falls within digital's purview. But connections still occur in-person, and yes, even around print, argues Gordon Young, editor-in-chief of The Drum magazine. Based in the U.K. and focused on the marketing and media business, The Drum seeks to spur greater conversations among its readers and even involve them in the content creation process.
That's especially the goal of The Drum Live, a one-day event in which readers of The Drum collaborate with its staff to create an issue in a single day. "They get to ask our interviewees questions, choose our cover design, and generally get an opportunity to shape the whole issue of The Drum," says Young. While the magazine is being assembled, live social media experiments, video blogs, and other media projects are being constructed -- all driven by the question, "What can you complete in a day?" The event is now in its second year and was hosted in London this July.
It's not just that The Drum Live is a unique and interactive take on a conference, says Young, it also represents where publishing is headed. "The Drum Live epitomizes what our industry is becoming. It's all about multi-channel communication, and it's also about being able to engage an audience at many different levels at the same time."
Bringing Digital Collaboration to Print
The Drum Live is very much an event of contrasts. Its 400-plus attendees hail largely from digital media and marketing. Yet those professionals have gathered rather enthusiastically to create a print product, says Young. "Our readers loved the opportunity to be able to get involved in creating a print publication, which is much less transient than what they normally work in."
By involving digital adherents in a print process, The Drum Live is applying a tenet of digital content creation to its production. "We treat our print platform very similarly to the way that people treat their digital platforms," says Young. The Drum does this by emulating successful user-generated content sites like Medium and Thought Catalog -- a tactic largely unused in print.
Yet Young believes this collaborative publishing will only grow in importance as the industry continues to evolve. "We believe that the role of publisher is to facilitate conversations between readers. As opposed to being the intermediary between the reader and the target market." Publishing is now part of a wider intercourse, says Young, one in which the audience has just as valued an opinion as the publisher.
Being Reflective & Nimble
Though The Drum Live emphasized the importance of collaboration around print, the event also made an impact online. It reached thousands of people on social media as staffers and attendees tweeted, videoed, and Instagrammed the day's happenings. That activity propelled The Drum Live to the highest trending topic on Twitter in London and the fifth most trending topic in the U.K. That was possible, says Young, because The Drum was savvy in extending conversations from the physical event onto the social platforms their readers -- and the general public -- use most. With the shrewd use of Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube, says Young, "a business brand like us was able break through to that greater consumer consciousness."
Young adds: "I think what we're trying to demonstrate is that the business of publishing is no longer just about producing a magazine. It's really about engaging an audience and being able to engage that audience in any way that they want to be engaged." Young pointed to the different content strategies of the The Drum's website and its print product to demonstrate how readers should be engaged. Online, says Young, stories are posted immediately so that readers can quickly access the day's biggest news. Print, however, is another matter entirely: It is a curated experience, says Young, that boils down the website's 1000-plus monthly articles into a more palatable and immersive experience.
Young describes this dynamic as being both nimble and reflective. While it is important to respond to readers quickly and on the platform they prefer, it is also important to consider experience -- whether that is a curated print experience or user-friendly online one. "I think to be successful in this day and age you have to be able to do both quite well," says Young. "You've got to be able to respond very quickly on one hand and give a good response on the other."