Anika Anand loves engaging with her readers, not just giving them “fly-by content.” She constantly asks, “What do we want people to do with what we’re making?”
Anika and her colleagues at The Evergrey and Whereby.us are pioneering a new kind of interactive journalism, always aiming to engage with their readers, and to encourage them to engage with their community. Their motto: “Live Like You Live Here.”
With this clear intention in place, a lot of her job revolves around measuring the impact of the relationships they create with users. This approach gives Anika plenty of opportunities to engage in one of her favorite activities: nerding out about content strategy.
Anika Anand is a cofounder of The Evergrey, a digital news publication that helps Seattleites feel more connected to their city with a daily newsletter, stories and perspectives, and interactive events.
She was previously the engagement editor for The Seattle Times Education Lab. Before that she worked for the education news organization Chalkbeat as a reporter, director of engagement and director of product.
She has been published by The Seattle Times, Chalkbeat, PBS NewsHour, MSNBC.com, Salon, the Center for Investigative Reporting, the New York Daily News and others.
She graduated with a bachelor’s in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has a master’s in business and economics reporting from the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism.
Here’s the video version of our conversation:
[Not an actual transcript – just my quick notes on first listen-through]
0:00 – intro
0:55 – Anika intro – Chalkbeat educational nonprofit – then Seattle Times briefly – and now The Evergrey – daily newsletter, experiments with social – Whereby.us – The New Tropic sister publication in Miami – her role has shifted to Storytelling Director for Whereby.us – four publications (two new ones launching next month) – goal: reader engagement, not just content sharing
3:55 – my hypothesis that journalists are so immersed in content strategy that they don’t even think about it
4:55 – “content strategist – what is that?” when I first approached her- but a common path for journalists – there’s so much more to content these days – hates the word “content” sometimes – they’re trying to help their users experience something new in their cities – sometimes written, sometimes a GIF, sometimes and event – all of that is part of her editorial strategy
6:45 – iteration and experimentation?
7:35 – OK, we put the story out – now what? so what? what was the impact – didn’t know – worried it was just another piece of fly-by content for people to consume on yet another platform – Joy Mayer a journalist amazing at engagement always asks, “What can I do with this?” – share and start conversation? take it city council meeting? – “What do we want people to do with what we’re making?” – “When you think about the intended impact in terms of actions, it gets to a lot more creative work.”
9:45 – metrics for success? one of her favorite questions to nerd out about – each organization has to figure this out for itself – way she thinks about impact – quantitative: time spent, social engagement, comments, etc. – qualitative: the informed actions that people take with your content – very hard to measure – when she looks at numbers about performance less excited than when she gets a nice note from a reader – values those reader interactions – also becomes a selling point for the publication, telling stories about the qualitative impact –
12:40 – how do you tell that qualitative story to advertisers, sponsors, et al?
12:55 – rudimentary impact tracker – had used a WordPress plugin for this at Chalkbeat (MORI) – showed funders and populated reports with that impact info – trying similar techniques at The Evergrey – they hear/learn a lot – looking for most substantial info – using Airtable for project management and loving it for editorial calendar and as CRM, collecting reader and interaction info – alongside, have built a simple impact tracker – helps make case to clients, partners, etc.
15:00 – MORI? Chalkbeat has open-sourced it – and other tools out there –
16:15 – journalists can be a lot smarter about applying content strategy – Moori was a good start – want more powerful tool than a spreadsheet – starting to take that up a notch now
16:55 – doing sponsored projects for clients – pricing set in part by these measures of impact – very dollars and sense way to address impact
18:15 – other tools for measuring impact? Sprout – Whereby tables – Mailchimp integrated with a Google tool (pivot tables>) – a more organizational tool is OKRs – tracking in a spreadsheet –
19:35 – Skimm staffing 4-5 eds and 20-30 coders – what about Evergrey/Wherby?
20:00 – they’re a journalism and media company – tech team about the same size – 4-5 people, but tech team could use 20 more tomorrow – they’re working on referral tool, way to build subscriber base, and a promo tool automatically pull ads into the website and newsletter – team built WordPress backend email template integration with Mailchimp – lots of tech help tracking metrics – evaluating cost of new user via each channel, e.g., – as much as she’s excited about their editorial strategy, she’s really appreciating the tech tools as well, especially re measurement
23:15 – how the chose CMS – happened before her time, Whereby.us was already using WordPress – but a no-brainer
24:30 – one last thing – likes to shared challenges and struggles – a challenge they have is between project-based work and daily work – goal: crank out good content without falling into daily blogger mentality – there’s some value there but so much content online and people are overloaded, so wanted to be thoughtful – while still putting stuff out on a regular basis – what makes a newsletter substantial enough to send out each day – still discussing this on a regular basis – currently one piece a day of their insight, experience, or other value-add – trying to push back against routine churn and always focus on good new stuff
28:00 – insights from this approach? they’re going all-in on projects – e.g. transplants video – went OK, but not as successful as they’d like – ongoing: finding that balance between project and daily work