John Gallant brings more than 25 years’ of editorial and technology experience to his role as Senior Vice President and Chief Content Officer of IDG Enterprise. In this role, Gallant oversees the editorial leadership at CIO, CSO, Computerworld, InfoWorld, ITworld, Network World and The Industry Standard to set content strategy and ensure that the brands continue to serve their respective audiences with the best products and services in the industry. Gallant also helps drive IDG Enterprise's strategic efforts like social media and social media marketing.

Gallant, one of Network World’s founders, was formerly president and editorial director for the company, where he guided content and business development for online, as well as Network World’s seminars and events programs. Gallant is highly visible in the marketplace and frequently speaks at industry conferences. He has been named by Technology Marketing magazine as one of the most influential people in computer journalism, and was cited as one of the “most visionary editors-in-chief” by Press Access. Gallant was also cited as Best Conference Host by Conferenza for his role as Executive Producer for the Vortex conference. Gallant’s expertise in covering the technology industry has been tapped by top-tier television media outlets, including CNN, CNNfn, CNBC, NPR, and Bloomberg. He often hosts roundtable discussions on technology and other topics for a wide variety of organizations, including leading vendors, I.T. buyers and industry associations. Gallant also co-chairs the executive committee of the Boston College Technology Council and is the chair of the Metrowest Red Cross Industry Council.

Video Transcript: John Gallant, Chief Content Officer, IDG Media US

Michael:         

(00:04) Hello, welcome to episode 100, 100 of CXOTalk. I’m Michael Krigsman with how do I say. How do I say this. Persistent and relentless co-host Vala Afshar, because Vala we’ve done a 100 episodes today.

Vala:   

(00:28) Michael, it’s been amazing. We’ve been able to deliver 100 episodes with some of the most extraordinary thought leaders and business leaders. In fact if you don’t mind I looked at the roster of 100 shows, which started with show number one with Guy Kawasaki in 2013. And as far as CEO of Fortune 500 and founders of startups, we’ve had 12 guests that fit that profile. 15 Fortune 250 executives.28 Chief Information Officers.10 technology analysts including Group Vice Presidents from Gartner and IBC. Seven venture capitalists, six bestselling authors. One Emmy award winner, one Brigadier General, one MBA team owner and today our first Chief Content Officer.So a pretty amazing roster of 100 guests.

Michael:         

(01:30) Vala, you know what, when I hear you read that list I get tired.

Vala:   

(01:35) I get Goosebumps.

Michael:         

(01:37) I know, it’s amazing. I mean how – okay, enough about that. we are here today with John Gallant, who is the Chief Content Officer for one of the largest media companies in the country, IDG Communications. John how are you today?

John:   

(01:56) I’m doing well Michael, I’m doing well Vala. I am thrilled to be on here. I have to think that if you started off with Guy Kawasaki and your 100th episode you’re getting to me, I think we’ve gone in the wrong direction, but I’m happy to be here and honored.

Michael:         

(02:18) Well you know, john if you have a computer glitch and you’re computer dies, then dive back in and we’ll be here. And you know what Vala, timing is everything right. And it’s not my fault that his computer just died.

Vala:   

(02:38) Why would you think – did I look somehow that I was going to implicate you.

Michael:         

(02:44)No, it’s my paranoid. I sound like he’s struggling to get through. It sounds like he’s trying to wiggle through the wires of the Ethernet.

Vala:   

(02:55) John can you hear us okay?

John:   

(02:58) Yeah I can hear you know, it seems that we’re back.

Vala:   

(03:03) Tell us a little bit about IDG and yourself please. 

John:               

(03:08) Sure, IDG actually is the largest tech publishing company in the world and we are published around the world in every continent. And in fact the founder of IDG, Pat McGovern once published and issue of Computer World on Antarctica and to have the honor of publishing everywhere in the world on all seven continents.

(03:30) In the US I work for a company actually a branch of IDG, known as IDG US Media and IDGUSMedia consists of our arm, and we’ll talk some more about that as well as the IDG Tech network, which is our advertising network. It’s now a global advertising network and our event business, IDG world expo, which, which produces events like E3 along with the entertainment industry group and Mac IT and other events like that.

(04:01)So IDG is a big global company that consists of the publishing units. It consists of IBC (04:09 lost transmission) so a very big footprint on technology around the world.

Michael:         

(04:23) We recently had a guest who was up until recently on the Board of IDG named Christopher Michael. Now you’re Chief Content Officer at IDG, what does a Chief Content Officer do and what does that mean?

(04:46) You know Vala, I’m not taking responsibility for that. I didn’t do it. now we here you, there you go.

John:   

(05:12) Great, so I think your question was, what does a Chief Content Officer do?

(05:18) So as Chief Content Officer, essentially my role is to determine the overall content strategy that drives the business of IDG in the US. So I work with the editors and Chief of our two major sets of business units which are the enterprise brands, which I think you’re all familiar with. Publications and websites like CIO, Computerworld, network world, InfoWorld, IT world, JavaWorld – all the world’s. So we are the world’s. And then I also work with our consumer publishing brands with groups like PC World, MacWorld, Tech-Hi which is our connected homesite and greenbot, which is our site about the android ecosystem.

(06:01)And our goal there is to serve each of those audiences, so whether it’s a consumer who’s trying to figure out the best way to use android technology, or a Mac technology, Apple technology. Or the professional IT folks who are trying to get the most out of their expenditures in professional IT.

(06:18)So I work with editorial teams in setting content strategy, and figuring out ways in which we can use social, how do we position mobile and a whole bunch of other things in between.

Vala:   

(06:30) John, content is so important not just to marketing, but to all businesses looking to drive successful outcomes. Do you think that all Fortune 1000 companies at some point have a Chief Content Officer?

John:               

(06:49) Yeah I think at some point they’ll have someone in a role and whether they have someone with that title I’m not sure. But it has become absolutely central in how we communicate with the audience, whether that is a reading audience, a viewing audience, or a consuming audience that’s buying your products.

(07:06) So actually, Michael and I were talking about this in an earlier conversation, where we have seen people who are professional journalist at IDG, who have moved on to roles in the corporate world we had the previous editor and chief at CIO.com, who recently became the head of content marketing or one of the top folks there at Travelers insurance.

(07:28)We’ve had folks go off to Apple, we’ve had folks go to companies like CAA. So I think more and more companies are realizing the importance of quality content and building that ongoing relationship with their customers.

Michael:         

(07:42) So what is your relationship to each of these many magazines.

John:   

(07:49) So Michael, the way that works is so at a high level, my goal is to make sure that I work with those editors to ensure that they serve their audiences well. When you look across the technology landscape, there were a lot of people covering a lot of similar technologies. They may be have been talking about cloud, mobile, or security.

(08:07) But the value that IDG brings to this market is delivering content that’s targeted for that specific value of audiences. So when we talk to that CIO and we have to make sure on whether it’s through words or video, slideshows, and events.

(08:25) Anyway that we touch that CIO we’re doing it in a way that specific high-value than another brand out in the market and can’t deliver. If we’re not doing that there’s really no value in the brand differentiation that we have.

(08:39) So whether you’re talking about a network strategy, where you’re talking about one of those consumers trying to use Apple products to enhance their life, and enhance their work, we have to produce the best content for those audiences.

(08:53)Within that, we also have to figure out how to use all the tools that are available to us because it is a very different landscape. When I started working back in 1983, it was about six months after electricity was invented! I began working with Computerworld and I called the mainframe software industry for Computerworld. Which is a very different landscape than today and that it was then obviously. But at that point we were producing 300 page print issues of Computerworld. Well you know, print today is a different medium today, it very different, the economics is very different, the values different. In fact, we only have one print publication left with CIO magazine.

(09:34) But today, we have a variety of tools that we can bring to be able to help those audiences we have very robust websites, we have a robust web business, and we are doing podcasts. There are so many ways to serve that audience no matter where they are and no matter where they want that information.

Vala:   

(09:58) So a few years ago, I would read CIO.com or InfoWorld, Computerworld and all of the IDG pods, I would consistently see offers with your social credentials and Twitter handles. And now today, without exception when I read an article, I can click and follow the author, so certainly social has the impact of the changes that we are seeing in media. What are some of the underlying changes in the media business that you can share with us?

John:   

(10:35) Well it’s interesting (Broken audio: social and the impact on journalism today) because traditionally people find our sites in a couple of ways; hey find them through their peers or they find them through search. Primarily it’s search today, and that has value but it’s also a slippery slope for us because if Google changes its algorithm or one of the other search engines changes they can can a positive or a negative effect on us.

(11:02)And that’s largely out of our control. We want to reach our via social because we know that for IT as a buyer, whether they’re consumers or professionals that peer influence is so important to them. they value that peer influence so much more than thy value a recommendation from us, a recommendation from a company, a recommendation from Google.

(11:26)So we want to get our content out and we want to build those conversations. We want to make those connections in social media. And that’s why we’re putting the authors out there and the editors out there and really try to build those strong connections and understand also and Vala, you understand this so well (lost connection 11:45)

Michael:         

(11:57) Boy were not having good connection john right now. We need a CIO to come in and make this work. You know, this is where like plane old telephones, right.

Vala:   

(12:36) Yeah the power of digital.

Michael:         

(12:38) The power of digital right, exactly. Here we are with the power of digital when, you know we could just lift up the phone and call him.

John:               

(12:49) I can hear you know.

Michael:         

(12:50) Excellent, so you were talking about social and the impact of social media and I had a question about that. So you were saying that you’re putting your editors and your writers out there but how do you balance the tension of building up a quandary of stars essentially versus wanting them to put forth the central brand as opposed to building their own personal brand. How do you balance that?

John:   

(13:20) I think it is a challenge to balance that and one of the things we’ve done is I think for the past five years now, we’ve had a social media task force, within the editorial – within the content department that has outlined those very kinds of guidelines, for which of the social media that should be used for what kinds of things.          

(13:41) How should we use that because you know we are in essence leaning on people’s social circle to spread our content, to spread our ideas and influence, and we need to balance how to do that. We also want people to be personalities. We want people to connect with the authors. It’s a very crowded and competitive content landscape.

(14:05)And if we can differentiate by the quality of our journalists as well as by the quality of the content that’s very important to us. Now that said, there are occasions that we have to be mindful of the things that we might say to friends, are also being consumed by the professionals that have followed us. So it’s a difficult balance, but it’s one I think our team has done a nice job handling.

Vala:   

(14:27) Today we hear and I want to call it a buzzword but it’s real and it’s digital transformation. It’s top of mind for marketers, CIO and frankly CEO’s. what does digital transformation specifically mean for news and media?

John:               

(14:42) Well Vala, I’ll step back and talk about it from our readers perspective. It is very real for our readers today and we’re spending an awful lot of time covering that. I think it’s as our audiences look to figure out how do they change the relationship with customers, how do they change their relationship with business partners through digital means. This is a huge transformation and we have to help people both understand it and lead it and I think the leading that is a critical part.

(15:17)Or industry has been completely re-vamped by digital transformation. Everything about the way people deal with us whether it’s the growing volume of folks who are (broken audio 15:30 – 15:55) changed by information and we’re adapting to that and it’s challenging in many ways to adapt to that.

Michael:         

(16:05) So John, you know you’re still breaking up and we apologize to the audience, and this is what happens when you do a live show on streaming media. So as you are thinking through these changing dynamics of the media business, how does that affect the decisions that you’re making in terms of how do you relate to print, how do you relate to online, how do you gather the audience. So this notion of digital transformation, how is it affecting your decision-making?

John:               

(16:42) It’s really around Michael where we put resources today. So this is a business, it’s a publishing business and we’re here to make money and earn revenue. And we do that by connecting audiences of buyers to audiences of sellers, so we are looking for the most efficient means to do that.

(17:01) So each of these different tools that we have at our disposal has a different role in that process. And part of that role is how that medium or that media, serve advertisers. And print was challenging on that front. I think it was difficult for advertisers to make the connection between the marketing spend and the result of that marketing spend. That is a much clearer connection online, although it’s not a perfect connection (lost transmission 17:29)

Michael:         

(17:42) Hey John we have a great suggestion from one of our viewers, BallalJaffery, who is viewing right now who suggest that you turn your video down from high def to medium, and the way you can do that is at the top of your screen, you see a little triangle that looks a little cellphone bar, if you click that and just move the slider to the left and maybe that will help.

John:               

(19:01) Alright, I just did that, thank you for the tip.

Vala:   

(19:08) So you were talking about the different sets of KPI’s own in terms of what digital allows you perhaps to improve the ability to use data and analytics. How is that changed over the years in terms of measuring your effectiveness of connecting buyers to sellers using your content?

John:               

(19:27) A lot Vala, that’s a great question. Our editors in many ways have become analytics folks. We use a variety of tools, we use the Adobe armature tools we use Chartbeat to track social engagement with our content. We’re trialing a tool now called Parsley that lets us look at engagement and how our stories are trending and all things like that.

(19:53)So we look at a wide variety of KPI’s on a daily, weekly, hourly basis to make sure that the audiences are engaging and also it captures spikes of interest in particular topics and in particular stories.

(20:05) On the flipside of that, on the business side people are connecting and there is such a slew of tools to track the behaviors of people online, and to track how one piece of content leads them to connect another piece of content, and whether that’s an ad, lead generation materials, signing up for an event or newsletter. So we are constantly trying to make those connections between the content that we’re creating and the result of that content.

Michael:         

(20:34) So John, how does that impact the quality, because when editors and writers become analytics experts there focus naturally will gravitate towards higher numbers and that can mean it’s a race to the least common denominator in journalism.

John:   

(20:56) Yeah, I mean it’s very easy to put out a slideshow, 10 things we don’t like about Steve Jobs, and we can certainly generate a lot of traffic with that. I think the beauty of all this information is that it allows us to marry two things; the art and the signs of media.

(21:11)In the past, media was primarily art and it was the editorial judgment about what we think the readers want to know and need to know. Well today, we can get a lot of information about what people want to know, so we can find out through search SEO oriented tools, we can do more online surveying, we can track consumption patterns and look at predictive behaviors. And really find out the information that people absolutely need to know.

(21:40)And then we can marry that up with our ideas and our thoughts and that art with other things that we think that we need to bring to their attention. You know, print publishing served a wonderful role of making sure that you’re aware of things that you didn’t think to look for. Online does a wonderful job of directive search and directed information finding, so we can marry those two things and help people get the things they know they need as well as presenting them with ideas and opportunities that they might not have been aware of that are really valuable to them.

Vala:   

(22:13) John I’m listening to you, and you talk about your adverts becoming of a time and analytics experts and your staff writers have a digital footprint and they are sharing their content through social media and various social networks. How does this all impact and your hiring process as an example at IDG, are you looking for certain skills and traits, competencies today that you may not have prioritized a few years ago?

John:   

(22:45) Absolutely Vala, we’re looking for multitalented people and they can be very tough to find. I think the code news is that a lot of the digital natives that are coming into the marketplace today are very comfortable with blogging; they’re very comfortable with video, that’s the YouTube generation. They’re very comfortable with social media.

(23:07)So in some respects they’re bringing these tools to market, whereas in the past you know we kind of had to train the old school guys like me on how to do these things. But that’s a great opportunity as well, because it’s not just being about a journalist, it’s been part of the conversation, part of the community. And also seeing the impact of your work in ways that were harder to do before, you know in the past when print publication went out and unless you ran out to someone in an event, it was very difficult to get that direct feedback on what you were doing.

(23:38)But today, through social you can build up that network, you can hear back from people on how that content resonated. You can see from the analytics in what people are consuming, even to the point where they drop off on an article where you lost them in an article.

(23:54)So I think it is a challenge to find people, but it’s also a far more engaging job than it used to be, if you have the mindset that you want to engage in all of these things.

Michael:         

(24:05) Well you certainly have some great people, I mean for example Lauren Brousell, who’s a millennial working for CIO magazine and has actually been on CXOTalk as a guest host with us. But now, we’ve spoken about the media industry and I think a lot of people – and if I cut right to the chase, I think a lot of people want to know how do they pitch journalists successfully?

John:               

(24:34) It’s a million-dollar question and we hear that all the time. By the way, thanks to your listener with the tip it seems to have worked wonderfully and I appreciate that tip and apologize for any problems there.

(24:47) Lauren is terrific by the way, and thank you for recognizing Lauren and we have a lot of great talents like Lauren and another gentleman, Brendan Butler on the Network World Staff, who has become an expert in cloud computing and I read his content before I go out and talk to cloud computing companies. Lots of good folks like that and I could name dozens of them.

(25:09)When it comes to pitching I think the challenge for anyone, pitching today is is that the landscape is so different. In the past there were a narrow set of media companies that had oversized influences on the market. So whether you were talking about a few broadcasters, a few publications in the tech industry or the general media industry, there was a certain number of places that you had to reach and you had that broadcast effect.

(25:36) The opportunity and the challenge today is that media is differentiated, so you can find much narrower streams of information that are targeting the people that you really need to reach to.

(25:49)The beauty of that is that you can find the people that you really need to reach to, whether whether your marketing to them or trying to communicate through the media to them. The challenge of that is that you have to understand that landscape and you have to put the work into determining, who are those influencers – Vala this is right up your alley.

(26:08) Who are the key people that you absolutely have to reach, so today it’s not about reaching 1000 journalists because you can easily reach that many or more. It’s how do I reach the 10 journalist that really make a difference in this market. Where are they, and what are they doing, what are the hot button issues that they’re following.

(26:24)So that’s the thing Michael that I really council people on, which is making sure that you do that homework first. You know, I was out at CES in early January, and you can go into a ballroom and you can be hip to hip with many journalists that you want to face. It’s a daunting and frightening prospect. It’s much better to figure out to me, who are the folks that are going to amplify the message, and understand the message critically and to be able to communicate with the right audiences about that message.

Vala:   

(26:37) Last week we John, we had Tiffani Bova, vice president and distinguished analyst from Gartner and she talked about the seller’s dilemma, and she talked about compressed differentiation that exist in the market today with so many players, and how do you achieve precision selling and precision marketing and understanding the personas that you’re trying to connect to. And in the seller’s context in the buying process journey and how that is so critically important for sales and marketing to deliver content that really adds value, based on where the buyer is in the journey. And I think about IDG and all of the technology and publications and from own blogs you know, even Wall Street Journal, New York Times have their digital sections. What are some of the metrics that you look for to ensure that you are hitting the right persona and the right target audience as your delivering your content?

John:   

(28:03) Yeah, that’s a great question, a number of things, we do a lot of regular online surveys on the people that are coming to our sites. So not only who are you, because we want very much to know what size industry and what your specific job and responsibilities, what are you buying, what are you planning to buy, where are you in the purchase cycle.

(28:24) We also talk with folks about how are they using these media, so when you have 10 minutes to kill in the morning because you’re waiting for the train, when you’re on the train, when you’re in the office, when you have lunch break, when you’re heading home, after you’ve eaten dinner. We want to understand every one of those moments in the landscape so that we can tailor the content to that.

(28:48) And then we talked about the analytics to help us understand, what’s the behaviour of the people who are consuming these articles, what other articles are they consuming, how far did they engage with these articles, and when did they stop. So it’s really trying to understand everything about those patterns of consumption and who’s consuming that information.

Michael:         

(29:09) What about the content itself. So let’s go back to pitching journalists and getting recognized y journalists. So you’ve identified the right influencer or the right journalist, how do you approach that person and what is the content that you need to produce to get that journalist to take this step you want, which is to publish about you.

John:               

(29:38) I think where I have seen the best folks in communications and public relations, that are folks that have built the relationship with the key influencers, and that’s as simple as, hey, I’d like to get to talk to you and find out what are your covering, what is your beat, what are the issues that are most important to you, what do you understand about my client or not understand about my client.

(30:03) I think within that, just as you reach out to a seller you’ve got very limited time, so you have to make it crystal clear in why this is important. And unfortunately what we continue to see a lot is irrelevant information that’s bombarded to people. You know we had a lot on the net neutrality debate this week with the FCC division, and I can’t tell you how many companies took the same kind of awful boiled lame approach of trying to hook their message into let neutrality, so this thing or the other that they wanted us to pay attention to them because of net neutrality. Or they’ll send us information on things about their company that we don’t really cover.

(30:48)We don’t spend a lot of time covering mergers and acquisitions unless they are giant mergers and acquisitions. We don’t do a lot on financial results and we don’t do a lot on executive level changes within organizations, but yet we receive lots of information about that. And it doesn’t seem like the folks who are communicating with us in doing that filtering function.

(31:10) By the same token, there were quite often forget or neglect to let us know about really significant engagements that they have with customers, so that we can understand who those buyers are, what are they doing with the technology, and how is that technology changing the business.

(31:28)The other thing that I talk with PR and communication folks quite often is, because these companies talk to customers far more often than we do. If you’re out on the market, you’re talking to customers far more often than we can, you’re seeing trends and issues in the industries that you ought to be alerting us to. So we don’t often get story pitches along that line.

(31:53)So if you these things reshaping, changes in behaviour, buyer patterns, you know there are issues that keep cropping up that change why companies are buying your technology. There’s security issues that you’re hearing about management issues, things like that.

(32:11)We don’t hear about those stories often. We tend to get the boilerplate stuff and that’s very easily ignored stuff.

Vala:   

(32:18) So John so as long as it sent outside in narrative which is forward-looking and essentially with trends and where the buyer is going where the market is going, that’s what makes a good potential pitch to IDG.

John:   

(32:37) Yeah, I mean in essence like any relationship Vala, this is an exchange of value, right and that you are looking for value and communicating a message to our target audiences. We’re looking for value in bringing us something that the audience needs to know about and often that part of the value proposition isn’t well thought through.

(32:57) So you know, even about a tip of something that’s going on and that has nothing to do with your company, you know it’s a great way to build that relationship with somebody, and a great way to build connection. We have seen people develop really strong relationships with the key communicators, either with a vendor company or with a PR or agency person because of that building up the rapport and exchanging value over time.

Michael:         

(33:25) It seems very few PR people actually think about it in terms of that exchange of value. I mean I know, I get pitched all the time for things and Vala you must get pitched as well. And it seems like it’s just take, take, take, there’s no concept of, well here’s actually something that is going to be useful or beneficial to me.

John:               

(33:49) Year Michael I’d say that’s accurate, and I think I don’t want to be blaming the PR folks cars I know they are under tremendous pressure from corporate clients about doing something, and we need to do something in this sort of press release mentality that everything we do needs to be encapsulated in a press release and issued out to folks.

(34:11)It’s very difficult to convince folks of building that relationship and investing the time in that relationship. And I see Vala, to go back to an earlier question that you had about corporate content. I think that’s one of the challenges with corporate content.

(34:28)Our brands have value because they have literally been for years of delivering value to the audience, so the audience has come to trust them, and come to rely on them. That’s not something you can do overnight and can’t do that with five pieces of content, you don’t do that through to webcasts. You don’t do that through you know, it tweets, you know these are things that are going to require a commitment to do well, and to put at the side the momentary game for the long-term value of building that relationship.

(34:57)So, if your corporate content provider, think about the different types of content, and it’s not just about new products. You probably from your customer service folks could glean a wealth of information about issues that customers are dealing with all the time, and creating content around those issues is a huge value to your organisation and it cements the current customer relationship, and it opens the door to a new customer relationship because you’re answering questions that probably a lot of buyers have.

(35:31)And we are starting to see some folks that are doing this, if you look at IBM and the work that they’ve put in development works or creating content for developers, that’s a long-term investment in content that pays off. But I think too many people think this content thing is quick and easy and a lot of it is about then, and is just the opposite of that.

Vala:   

(35:56) So that’s the mistake that most corporate content providers are making, is it about the product or more of an inward or value to their target audience purpose and philosophy.

John:   

(36:09) Yeah I think Vala, they have trouble separating the content marketing from the marketing. So there’s a role for content in marketing, if you define marketing is establishing and building that relationship in finding those audiences. But the content itself can’t be solely used for marketing. That content has to provide a value to the audience. People invest time in content and they don’t want to invest time and find it poorly spent. So the number one thing is not having a content strategy, and that content strategy really starts with defining who are my trying to reach? I’m not trying to reach everyone unless I’m dancing with the stars or the Bachelor or something like that. Even those are probably narrower audiences.

(36:59)What you’re trying to find is who is the reader and what am I doing for that reader. Once you understand those things then you start to look at the tactical issues of what are the best ways to deliver that, what comes through social, what comes through video, what comes through how to versus case studies versus QA, white paper and things like that. But I think far too often, those initial questions of who are we trying to reach and what are we trying to do for them are just not answered.

(37:27) I see this day in and day out because there is virtually every company in the market thinks they need to reach CIOs. It can be making a $1.99 app or a $2 million ERP system. They still think they need to reach a CIO and they don’t really understand the dynamics of who thereby is and what they should be saying to that buyer.

Michael:         

(37:48) So it begins as you are saying with a lack of clarity around the nature of the buyer, what the buyer is interested in, and what are the value points for the buyer and then lack of clarity in connecting that to the sellers and to their offering.

John:   

(38:14) Yes exactly and I’ll put that into concrete terms because it’s something that each one of our reporters faces on a daily basis. You have to make a decision about how to invest your time as a reporter. So if you are working on something that doesn’t reach your target audience, and doesn’t offer value to the target audience, you’re really feeling as a reporter.

(38:33)We have a concept of that we talk about here which is stories that shake things up. And the idea behind the stories that shake things up is you should be able to identify,(and I ask the editors and Chief about this) you need to be able to identify for me on a monthly basis, what are the stories that you deliver that nobody else would deliver to that audience. Because if you can’t point to those stories, you’re not differentiating the content and you’re not delivering is something that is going to build that engagement with the audience.

(39:03) And it’s a filter that has to be apply to every single thing that we do, because there is an infinite number of choices that we can make about what to cover, how to cover it, and went to cover it. I think the most important decision is why are we covering of this? And that’s a big question has to be answered by marketers like as journalists.

Vala:

(39:24) John, do you have advice on social media? I mean certainly it’s woven into how you deliver the content, how do you engage with your readers, and I love seeing you in my Twitter stream in the morning, afternoon, and night which is pretty exceptional for a C-suite executive. So what advice do you have for us in terms of social media?

John:   

(39:45)Well I think my first advice would be anyone who’s on here and not following me, follow me so I can get over 10,000 and I’m just within inches of getting over 10,000.

(39:55) But I think you know Vala, a couple of things and one is initially, and I still think we are probably guilty of this and that’s much more talking than listening in social media. So we put a lot of content out in social media, we retweet our own content added you know we use it as a real loudspeaker for putting our content out to the right audiences. We should be doing more listening, and we have started looking at some social media listening tools – and I know you know these well.

(40:26) You know, there are folks in our company that use buzzsumo or Brandwatch , and really what I would like to do is find the influencers, and it would be better finding the influencers, (a) making sure that they understand things that we’ve published that might be of interest to them and their audiences, but that is still on the guilty publishing and broadcasting things. And more importantly following them and making sure that we are understanding the things that are on their minds because that can help shape our content and make it better.

Michael:         

(40:59) So social media is an important part of your strategy today?

John:               

(41:05)Absolutely, yeah and for the reasons that I mentioned and was because we want more control of our growth to be in the hands of our audience. We want them sharing that and recommending that content, but also because it’s a wonderful time in journalism. We can get that immediate reaction. I love when I tweet something and people respond to it. It’s also a terrific tool. Yesterday, I asked a question you know, who is the PR person at Google for the android product line, and within seconds I had LinkedIn profiles that were shared with me, email addresses – so it’s a wonderful tool and it’s really a remarkable thing.

(41:46)And we’re actually exploring how to use different pieces of the social media landscape in different ways. I’ll note that you know we tend to talk an awful lot about things like Twitter or Facebook, but some of the really valuable things for us our social aggregators, the Reddit’s the (farcs? 42:03)the StumbleUpons, the slash dots. If our readers share our content in those forums, that can generate a flood of traffic back to our sites and conversations from those forums.

(42:19) And on LinkedIn we have used LinkedIn to established deep deep connections. At one point, I don’t know if this is still true, but at one point the CIO LinkedIn group was the largest group on LinkedIn. Add literally tens of thousands of people who have been accepted to be part of that forum, we can put a research questionnaire out into that forum and have that done in a heartbeat by really qualified people. Where the past you had to mail those or did you have to use some online survey company and it was challenging to fulfil. Now, our audience is helping us with things like that as well.

(42:57)So each of these social media has a different value and the different power and we are trying to use them to our greatest effect.

Michael:         

(43:56) You know, we’re going to run over a little bit because we had some technical glitches at the start and if everybody is comfortable with that. So John, I want to go back to this tension between the numbers and the page views and all of that, relative to producing good content. So your revenue model is advertising plus customer events as content I understand. And so that means you need to deliver the numbers, and again, how do you balance the tension between creating great journalistic content and just the pure race to the bottom of delivering numbers at all cost.

John:   

(43:53)You know you asked a very savvy question earlier about pages and are there any deleterious effects of focusing on page use. We actually found that early on when we were moving more of our emphasis online, where we would give people page view targets or having people competing on page few goals. And you’re right, it does tend to push people towards the lowest common denominator.

(44:17)Our business today really has multiple revenue streams, so there’s display or banner advertising on our websites, and there are also lead generation which is a big piece of our business. Some of which comes from our sites, some of which comes from our email efforts. We have a large event business, and we also have a data business where we can help people target advertising. Even outside of IDG sites using information about them.

(44:47)So we have multiple revenue streams, and they’re not all completely dependent on traffic. So for example, I mentioned really the goal of trying to understand what people are doing on the site and who they are, which enables us to continue to cover things that are not things in some cases strong traffic drivers.

(45:07)So for example I think it would be fair to say this storage technology has not been such a big traffic driver as a coverage of a new iPad or a new iPhone. That’s a given. However, if that well construct it storage piece brings a very senior IT person onto the site, and that content engages that person in such a way that they complete a business transaction with us. They download a White Paper, they sign-up for an event, and they do something like that, that is a hugely valuable transaction for us.

(45:41)So for us it’s a balance and it’s making at the outset that we get the kinds of people that we are trying to get to our sites and then we engage them in the most effective way as possible.

Vala:   

(45:54) John, we’ve had start-up founders and CEOs as guests and they happened to be Brian Halligan of Hubspot, so these are larger start-ups so could you give advice to a small start-up or a small business, where they don’t have a large PR budget or marketing budget. How can they embrace and use content to help bring awareness and grow their business? Any advice to a start-up founder?

John:   

(46:20) Yeah, I love that question. You know Vala, one of the things that we produce is the demo conference where we are launching you know, 40 – 50 companies and products at each conference. And we’ve got one demo traction conference coming up in April out in the Bay area.

(46:37)This is something that we talk to start-ups about all the time. I think it’s actually a wonderful time for a start-up because I find that IT folks are much more open to start-ups as they have been in the past. You may remember this, that in the past it was almost a badge of honour for a CIO to talk about how difficult it was to getting to see him or her, and how many calls they didn’t take in the things that they rejected.

(47:02)Well the problem with that is you had people in your organisation now who are perfectly willing and happy to call around you and bring in the technology that they need. So there’s real pressure on IT today to make sure that they understand what’s happening in a start-up landscape, and that they can start to be the conduit to bring those new solutions into companies.

(47:21)Now that said and I think that’s a wonderful thing for a start-ups, it’s still around this challenge of figuring out who in the organisation do I need to reach? You probably don’t need to reach the CIO yet. You need to find the person in the organisation that’s going to be the passionate, advocate for your technology. And that’s really around articulating the what problems does it solve, what opportunities does it open up, and finding the person that those messages are going to resonate with.

(47:53)And that’s hard work. Once you do that, you can connect with the influencers in the social sphere, and the influencers in the media and bring the message to them and tried to get them to understand that value proposition.

Michael:         

(48:06) So if we can summarize it then it’s three things, and correct me if I have miss understood this. Number one, create a clear value proposition of what you’re actually offering. Number two, identify the appropriate people inside your target market. So if you’re selling to the enterprise, that means not likely the CIO – I mean it’s possible yes, but for most start-ups that initially is not going to be the case. Then number three, find the appropriate journalist and take that clear succinct value proposition and presented to the journalist.

John:   

(48:49)That’s exactly right, it’s around having a content strategy that is part of a larger marketing strategy. And when I talk about journalists by the way, there are a wealth of folks, there are independent bloggers who are not affiliated with the media brand, but are hugely influential in their realm. They may understand software defined networking better than anyone. They may understand marketing technology or biotech or healthcare IT better than anyone. So it’s understanding who is out there in the independent blogosphere. Who within the bigger media companies is really passionate about these technologies, because you see them writing about them and they’re are at the right conferences.

(49:30) I think the message here is like everything else, the media has gotten to be less about mass and more about targeted, and it’s targeting the message and targeting the people that you’re trying to reach.

Vala:   

(49:44) You’re dropping a ton of science and I can barely keep up and I’m pretty practiced at this. So I’m going to make sure that my entire staff watches this session. Incredible, incredible advice in terms of content and marketing and how to sustain relevancy. Thank you so much John

John:   

(50:05) Vala, pleasure.

Michael:         

(50:08) John do you have another few minutes?

John:   

(50:09) Sure.

Michael:         

(50:11) So you mentioned bloggers, as interested in this as anybody else. So you mentioned bloggers, you’re saying go talk to bloggers, but aren’t bloggers in a sense of your competitor today?

John:   

(50:29) Michael, I could look at the world like that, but unfortunately that would create a landscape that is almost too big for me to deal with – yes, bloggers our competition just like our traditional media is competition, just like a growing number of vendor’s our competition.

(50:47)You know we see some companies like I mentioned IBM, and Cisco is also in there. People are doing terrific things with content, so yes that’s competition and we’re all competing for people’s time, but there’s a value proposition that everybody has to complete here. And if somebody can provide you with additional information that makes you successful in your job, that’s great and you should know about those people. You’ll probably spend less time with someone else because of that, hopefully that will come out of my hide because I’m doing the right things to maintain the time that you do spend with me. But yes, we have to be careful looking at it and everyone is competition because there’s lots of it out there.

(51:28)You know even really good folks on social media we can consider them as competition. But that’s our way I think of too pessimistic to look at the world today.

Vala:   

(51:38) Again terrific advice.

Michael:         

(51:41) Well I guess it is that time isn’t it?

John:   

(51:46)This is fun, we can go on for another two hours.

Michael:         

(51:50) Well I think you can come back another time and we will, because I think there is a set of topics that we’ve been talking about which is first what is happening in the media business, and now if you’re a vendor or a large company or small company, and you want to reach journalists and do that effectively and how do you do it, it’s a pretty interesting set of issues.

John:   

(52:11) Yeah, and I think one of the things that’s wonderful to see, I think you know 10 years ago there was this dialogue around journalism being dead or the web was killing media and things like that. I don’t think there has ever been a better time to have the skillset that we have as journalists, because we understand audiences, we understand how to create things of value to those audiences. And increasingly, we understand the different media for doing that and there is a rich array of tools to do that. If you love to podcast – wonderful, create a podcast realm and own the podcast world and just wonderful ways to do that today and it’s never been better.

Michael:         

(52:53) Hey Vala, let’s  try to do that on CXOTalk, what do you think?

Vala:   

(52:56) We would love to do that!

John:   

(52:57)You guys are well on your way.

Vala:   

(53:00) Hopefully you’ll get a chance to look at the Twitter stream, Frank Scavo, an incredible analyst and technology thought leader just tweeted, John Gallant just gave a college lecture on tech media relationships, so you know you have big fans including myself and Michael, thank you so much.

John:   

(53:19)It’s been my pleasure, thank you guys for having me. What an honour to be the 100th guest.

Vala:   

(53:24) We expect you to come back on our 200th episode.

Michael:         

(53:27) Well this has been an honour for us. We have been talking with John Gallant, who is the Chief Content Officer, responsible for IDG Communications, US magazines and that’s a whole lot of magazines. This has been episode number 100. I am Michael Krigsman and my glorious, let’s say glorious and friendly co-host Vala Afshar. John thank you so much for taking the time today.

John:   

(54:03) Gentlemen, pleasure I appreciate it and thanks to everyone for listening.

Michael:         

(54:06) For everybody watching, come back again next week because we’ll be back same time next place for CXOTalk in a week, bye bye.

Companies mentioned in today’s show:

IDG Communications                             www.idg.com

IDGUSMedia                                            www.idgenterprise.com

IDG world Expo                                       www.idgworldexpo.com

PC World                                                  www.pcworld.com

MacWorld                                                www.macworld.com

Tech Hi                                                     www.hitech.com

Greenbot                                                 www.greenbot.com

CAA                                                           www.caa.com

Apple                                                        www.apple.com

Adobe                                                       www.adobe.com

Chartbeat                                                 www.chartbeat.com

Parsley Performance Solutions            www.parsleyperformance.com

YouTube                                                   www.youtube.com

Gartner                                                     www.gartner.com

Buzzsumo                                                www.buzzsumo.com

Brandwatch                                             www.brandwatch.com

Google                                                      www.google.com

LinkedIn                                                    www.linkedin.com

Twitter                                                       www.twitter.com

Facebook                                                  www.facebook.com

Reddit                                                        www.reddit.com

StumbleUpon                                           www.stumbleupon.com

IBM                                                             www.ibm.com

Cisco                                                           www.cisco.com