“That allows us to focus our efforts on what, in my opinion, really matters: engagement and the user experience first,” Mezzafonte said. “When you have an ad strategy with premium ads, you find yourself in a situation where you’re distracted by audience size, from an optics perspective,” versus putting the user first and developing a strategy around cultivating that user.
One user-focused strategy Bauer Xcel brands use to draw in readers involves reaching them on platforms.
J-14 has 5.6 million Facebook fans. That makes it the largest teen brand on the social network, according to data from Shareablee, said Bauer Xcel President Christian Baesler.
The publication has opportunities on platforms that others don’t, simply because its teenage audience is an earlier adopter of messaging app Kik and other platforms.
J-14 created a user on Kik in the form of a chatbot. A user types in a celebrity, like “Justin Bieber,” and the chatbot responds with links to articles that the viewer reads in the app. Plus, Kik allows Bauer Xcel to send push notifications to every user it follows, while on Facebook only a fraction of followers see an individual post.
“Facebook has been the biggest driver for us trafficwise, which is a great opportunity but also a great dependence,” Baesler said. “We want to diversify.”
The drawback to Kik is that for users to find and follow J-14, it’s almost essential to pay for a sponsored placement. While J-14 tried that paying for sponsorships and users, it’s paused those efforts because it found they weren’t efficient. Kik is pivoting its business model, so Baesler will revisit the platform once that’s complete.
Another platform where Bauer Xcel would like to see its brands is disappearing-message app Snapchat. But conversations with Snapchat have stalled, Baesler said, because it’s more interested in publishers that attract readers over the age of 25 for advertising reasons, despite Snapchat’s huge popularity among teens.
Next year, Bauer Xcel plans not only to grow its audience, in part through its presence on platforms, but also wants to merge content and commerce by introducing more opportunities to purchase products.
For that endeavor, which won’t be easy, Baesler needs tight communication and execution. That’s another reason why he hired Mezzafonte to work at his side to organize the company for growth.