What E-Commerce Can Learn from the New York Times and Washington Post

by / Tuesday, 18 March 2014 / Published in Blog, E-Commerce, Shopper Science, Strategy
iStock_000023146785SmallThese are exciting times in the world of content strategy.

Yesterday ESPN relaunched Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight franchise (formerly part of The New York Times), which approaches news and information from the perspective of “data journalism.” And Ezra Klein, formerly of The Washington Post’s WonkBlog , will soon be launching Vox , which will tackle issues through “explanatory journalism” that includes data-rich articles and videos.

That two of the nation’s most noteworthy columnists bolted from two of the nation’s most respected traditional news organizations to launch digital-only brands underscores the importance of content strategy. Nate and Ezra didn’t see eye-to-eye with their bosses over it.

You know what happens when the team isn’t playing from the same rulebook: game over.

Silver, who made a name during the 2012 presidential contest by correctly predicting the electoral results in all 50 states, explains his content strategy through the language of data. Where traditional news outlets focus on the anecdote or “story,” FiveThirtyEight considers the anecdote an original data point, a starting point for collection, organization, explanation, generalization.

A far cry from the Time’s content strategy: “all the news that’s fit to print.”

(Interestingly enough, the Time’s public editor cited Silver’s incompatibility with his traditional colleagues and disruptive presence in the newsroom as considerations for why he packed up his brand and took it to ESPN.)

So how does your brand’s content strategy stack up in the world of “story” vs. “data?” Is your primary objective a “story” like brand awareness or is it data-driven where you measure every type and location of content by its impact on conversion?

And what about your team? Does everyone share the same values shaped by your strategy or are you struggling to find a balance between brand awareness and sales?

These perspectives needn’t be at odds with each other—as both the Times and Silver have stated explicitly—but when push comes to shove one side is going to win and the other side is going to pack up its stuff and go play on another field.

We deal with client issues like this all the time at Fluid. Our solution is informed by what we call Shopper Science: we look at a brand’s customer, products and objectives; we figure out how the different inputs affect each other and articulate it clearly; and we apply what we’ve learned to best-in-class digital shopping experiences.

Not so different from data journalism’s principles of collection, organization, explanation and generalization.

If you’re not fully satisfied with your brand’s content strategy—or how it’s working within your organization—give Fluid a call.

We’ve got this down to a science.