Broadsheet, the return of quality content, and the future

Since launching in 2009, Broadsheet has beat out the competition to become a massively popular food, culture and lifestyle platform. Its Sydney and Melbourne sites receive approximately 1 million unique users per month, and 2016 will see its expansion to Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide. Marketing spoke with Broadsheet publisher and director Nick Shelton about engaging consumers and the evolution of publishing and content.

Marketing: There’s plenty of food, lifestyle and culture mags in print and online. What do you think it was you did differently from the beginning that has established Broadsheet as a standout source?

Nick Shelton 180Nick Shelton: The reason why I started – the gap we saw in the market – is still relevant six years later. I came back from living in the UK and found that Melbourne was beginning to go through this tremendous explosion of food and drink and city culture. All anyone wanted to talk about was where they were going for breakfast, where they were going for dinner. Nobody was really covering that on a day-to-day basis, especially online. The major newspapers had the weekly supplements that consisted of a restaurant review and a little bit of industry news. There wasn’t really a consumer publication that people could access at any time online, which was how people were increasingly consuming media. So we got on and we did it. It’s literally about people wanting to engage in this culture and us providing a platform to help them do that.

MM: Since 2009 we’ve seen a huge rise in the space of mobile connectivity with the media, how has this changed your strategy and approach, and what challenges and opportunities does this present?

NS: One of the challenges that we have as publishers today is that the audience moves so quickly. The big challenge is about staying ahead of that. Mobile is definitely what we’ve seen come up in the last few years. The way we approach that, is we are constantly adjusting. Every week we’ve got to look at a strategy for something. With mobile, it was about making sure we were producing content that was easily consumed on mobile, and from a technical and platform perspective, that Broadsheet looked good, very good, on mobile. We had to understand the different news tastes between people who were looking at Broadsheet in print versus those looking at it on their desktop, versus viewers on mobile. The different news taste on mobile particularly was that people were out and about with things to do, they’re less likely to be reading something to generally entertain themselves. It’s really more about using mobile as a resource, about saying ‘OK, I want to go to a cafe in Surry Hills, but I don’t know where to go’, and being able to fulfill that demand.

MM: How do you go about creating content which effectively uses your platform to target your audience effectively for advertisers?

NS: A big part of what we do differently with Broadsheet is the integrated content we work with brands on. That type of content is a big part of the industry, increasingly so every day. We look at that very carefully. A lot of the time, brands will come to us, looking at us as a broadcast platform and say ‘I have this piece of material that I want to communicate, so I will buy space on this publication and I’ll be able to communicate that’, which is not the best way to use branded content and integrated content. The key is to really integrate it. Our audience come to Broadsheet for a really specific and particular reason, and that is to be engaged, informed, inspired, or to know something they didn’t know before. The branded content we work with our clients on is making sure that their piece of communication is true to that, and making sure people who come to Broadsheet are still delivered on that basic premise. We look for an intersection, and that’s what our integration team is really spending all their time and energy doing, and what I think we’re particularly good at. That is about saying ‘the brand is trying to achieve X, Y and Z’, then we look at ‘where does that intersect with what our audience’s interest is?’ People come to Broadsheet to understand more about the city, or more about culture, more about food and drink. Making sure that any time we’re working with a client, we’re working around that intersection. From there we look at how we channel plans, and communicate that particular piece of material, whether it’s through social, EDM, mobile or desktop.

MM: What direction do you see the publishing industry traveling in 2016 and onward?

NS: What we’re seeing, to my delight, is an increased appreciation from readership globally for high quality content. There was a phase over the last number of years where terrible content, if you gamed Facebook correctly, or if you gamed the number of different channels correctly, could get in front of your audience or readership. Not even readership, I would call it traffic, because they’re just people clicking through. You’re buying clicks. What we’re seeing more of is premium high-quality content that people have invested real energy, resources, and capital in. We’re seeing an audience increasingly engaged with that, which is really exciting for us.

MM: Do you think there will be any different ways or new trends in the way successful publishing companies target and engage with their consumers, going forward.

NS: There will always be new technologies and new platforms. I don’t think that’s ever going to change or slow down. The challenge for publishers is to be alive to that, to be aware of that, and to continue doing what the successful guys do well. That is, creating great content and creating ways to engage a relevant and engaged readership around that content. At the moment the big things are social. It’s understanding the mobile environments, it’s understanding what print does for you and what it doesn’t do for you, and what digital does for you and what it doesn’t do for you. If people are alive to those changing realities, and can adjust strategies constantly to make sure they’re making the most of those, I think publishers will be successful.

Ben Ice
BY Ben Ice ON 15 January 2016