I usually advise people to avoid making one person their “social media guy/gal,” opting instead for a team-oriented effort. The problem is that if the one person leaves, your brand is left stranded while you look for someone else to fill the role. On the other hand, if you have someone that good or that well-known, you’d be stupid not to take advantage of their (quasi or actual) celebrity.
Think of it like this: No one says “Did you watch The Daily Show last night?” they ask “Did you see Jon Stewart last night?” Is that a good thing for The Daily Show? I don’t know. Right now, who cares, because they’ve got Jon Stewart locked up for a while. Once he leaves, though, what happens to the show? TV shows don’t have a stellar track record after they’ve attempted to replace main stars.
Social media isn’t TV, but the sting of departure is the same. In both mediums, you’re assigning an ambassador to connect with your audience. Relationships are built, trust is established and those aren’t things that seamlessly transfer from one person to the next.
I’m interested to see what happens with seattlepi.com’s The Big Blog—Mónica Guzmán, arguably the face of the franchise, just left and is being replaced by Humberto Martinez, who admittedly doesn’t know how long he’ll be on board. One thing I think they’re definitely doing right: giving the brand completely over to Humberto and his distinct voice:
…Martinez doesn’t plan on becoming a new Monica Guzman. He knows his personality differs from the uber-outgoing Guzman, and he’s okay with that. Martinez believes he’s a little more private, and while he’ll share himself with his readers, he wants to keep some things – his Facebook page, for instance – for his private life.
Guzman, for her part, believes The Big Blog should reflect Martinez’s voice.
“I think any blog is strongest when it adopts the passions of the blogger,” Guzman said.
Something I’ve been rolling around in my head: You don’t determine the value of your journalism, your readers do.
I’ve been thinking about how the paywall debate lacks a consensus over what constitutes value: Depending on who you listen to, we either need to charge for our work to make it valuable or we shouldn’t bother because technology has rendered it (monetarily) worthless. Really, though, I don’t know if either side can be right or wrong, given that the only variable that matters is How much does the audience value our work?
If a paywall can turn a profit, that’s awesome (besides at least one glaring problem), but you can’t just arbitrarily set rates and say Take it or leave it—that’s a strategy that’s almost certain to fail. Journalists, as seekers of hard numbers and facts, should know better and should take time to find out how much their customers value their product.
That’s not an easy thing to do, but I might start by looking at visitor loyalty, averaging that out month-to-month and determining how many “regulars” I had. Then I would average out per-month ad revenue (because ads are how free sites make their money) and divide it by the number of regular customers, essentially assigning a dollar amount to each person—that number would be (roughly) the amount I would have to charge to break even on a paywall (versus traditional advertising). Here’s what I’m thinking in traditional math format:
Average ad revenue per month / Average regular customers per month
Per-month paywall charge needed to break even
The hard part—the part that’s ultimately up to your readers—is determining whether that last number is “worth it,” though it’s pretty easy to figure what’s completely outrageous (hint: if your last number is anything greater than $3-$5, you’re probably better off sticking to a free model). That part will always involve some sort of risk, but if you’ve made good estimations and tinkered with the “equation” enough, you’ll at least be taking a calculated risk.