Agile content development is an iterative process of storytelling
Unlike traditional waterfall strategies, agile content development relies on a feedback loop that monitors real-time audience behaviors and interactions. By releasing content iteratively, and tweaking that content based on audience feedback and analytics, publishers can deliver the right content, to the right audience, at the right time.
Agile publishing delivers content-market-fit
Content-market-fit is an extension of the startup philosophy of product-market-fit, the point at which a product effectively solves a problem such that customers are willing to pay for that problem to be solved.
Legendary investor Marc Andreessen asserts that market is the most important factor in an organization’s success or failure: “In a great market — a market with lots of real potential customers — the market pulls product out of the startup.”
In other words, consumer demand determines the product that should be built. Content is the product of publishers and Andreessen's logic still applies: the market pulls the content out of the publication.
Today’s leading digital publishers leverage lean principles to guide content development. At NewsUp, we deploy a strategy called agile content development to determine what content our audience - and our clients’ audiences - demand.
There’s no “silver bullet” to guarantee your content team releases the perfect story for your ideal audience at the exact moment in time that audience is ready to consume that content - but agile content development can get you pretty close.
Agile content development creates a transactional content strategy
Readers want to get something done: to learn something new, to be entertained, or to seek guidance in their purchasing decisions.
Publishers that consistently solve audience problems with outstanding content win the loyalty of an active and engaged readership. So maintain the transactional approach to content creation: give the people what they need and only what they need.
Agile content development is useful because it generates feedback from your actual audience and helps you focus on the content that is most valuable to them. In short, agile content development allows publishers to nail their audience personas. Understanding your reader’s mental state is the key to developing truly valuable content.
Audience personas are at the heart of agile content development
Personas are simple descriptions of the reader’s identity, goals, and desired benefits, told from the perspective of the person who will consume the content. The formula breaks down like this: “As a [identity], I want to [goal], so that [benefit].
A political magazine might have the following audience persona: “As a voter, I want information about a candidate’s policies, so that I can go to the polls informed.”
NewsUp recently worked with the National Aquarium on their 48 Days of Blue campaign. The campaign, which challenged the Aquarium’s audience to adopt some eco-friendly behaviors, had the following audience persona:
“As an environmentally conscious lover of marine life, I want tips on eco-friendly behaviors, so that I can reduce my carbon footprint and protect the ocean and its animals.”
To that point, agile content development starts and ends with audience feedback and therefore requires content creators to engage readers frequently. Generating both qualitative and quantitative feedback in weekly iterations allows publishers to meet audience needs and desires.
Deploying the lean publishing loop
Agile publishing works by developing audience personas, identifying problems that challenge those personas, and then prioritizing content which solves those problems.
NewsUp’s editorial team deploys content in “sprints” that typically last one to two weeks and each sprint begins with audience research. We have a pretty nice head start here because we’ve clearly defined our audience personas. However, each persona might encounter a new challenge which means a new problem to solve with our content.
At this point, we’ll make an educated guess - informed by our data and audience insights - then draft and publish the first version of the quiz. Lean Startup philosophy champions the deployment of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), the most basic, working version of a new product that allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least amount of effort. We like to think of the first version of a quiz as “minimally viable content,” and in that vein, produce and release new quizzes as quickly as possible.
Following the end of a sprint, the team conducts performance reviews to measure the effectiveness of the content in hard data. Then the content team explains the data using audience feedback gathered from social channels and direct audience outreach.
Finally, we start the iterative process all over again, only, this time, we incorporate the lessons learned from the previous sprint. Every time we run through the lean publishing loop, NewsUp publishes or updates content that gets closer and closer to the audience’s needs.
Agile content drives editorial innovation
Agile helps publishers focus on the things that matter most, and this is particularly important in complex organizations where there are often competing priorities.
One thing all publishers can agree on is the need to innovate new editorial products and formats. At NewsUp, we turn to agile content development as a way of driving audience engagement. Our partners have confidence in the process as well.
Publishers as diverse as Mic and the Human Rights Foundation are benefiting from NewsUp’s proven agile publishing process. As a beta-partner of “Quizzes by NewsUp” Mic confidently syndicated several quizzes, including “Who Did It: Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton?” and “How Well Do You Know Bernie Sanders?”, knowing that our editorial team validated the content through our agile development process. Along these lines, organizations like Human Rights Foundation and National Aquarium entrusted NewsUp to develop custom content to support their respective campaigns.
In closing, implementing lean publishing principles allows modern media companies to deploy agile content strategies that meet the evolving demands of today’s digital content consumers.
Written by Brandon Chiat — Editorial Director