Programming at the Speed of Now

By Madison McVan | Investigate Midwest

In an environment where news organizations are facing increased competition, speed is even key in reaching audiences. 

Zach Wade, a senior producer with CNN Digital’s Global Programming team, has spent nine years working on strategies for getting CNN content in front of the audiences who want it. 

The global programming team constantly iterates on its processes for capturing readers’ attention. They have to work quickly because getting push alerts out ahead of competitors or reaching Google’s index quicker will get more eyes on the story for days to come. 

“It’s really about relevance and timeliness, especially in this environment where news is so competitive,” Wade said. 

By constantly testing new strategies for reaching readers, the team can boost the click-through rate of content. For example, the team tweaks headlines, photos and layouts until it finds the optimal presentation for a piece of content. 

“We can monitor analysis and what people are doing on our sites, but what are the levers we can pull across our content and sites that are greater than the sum of all of the parts?” Wade said. 

In the process, Wade and his colleagues learn a lot about what topics, angles and formats consumers are interested in. They provide internal feedback to other teams, so that reporters, editors, producers and product managers can work in tandem to create content readers want.

Wade said for slow-moving, complex topics like climate change, it can be hard to capture readers’ attention. 

Through analytics, the programming team found that readers were most engaged by stories that captured the impact of climate change on people and local communities. Then, they communicated the information back to the climate change team, who could then report more of those stories. 

Wade writes an internal newsletter each week to communicate “what works” in capturing readers and viewers. 

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