Need to grow the audience for your work? Bring in a growth editor.

Every organization has a story like this one:

You invest countless hours over many months to a big, important publishing effort. You pore over messaging and endlessly edit the copy. You prepare for the big launch moment. And then… you don’t see the traffic you expected. So, hoping your target audiences will come around to it later, you move on to the next big thing.

A recurrence of stories like this can turn into a frustrating publishing cycle. But it doesn’t have to. There’s a new role in newsrooms and organizations that focuses on improving your return on investment for each individual content effort.

The “growth editor” is specifically in charge of growing the audience for an organization’s work. Their daily responsibilities include mining analytics to understand (and act on) audience interest, crafting content tailored for specific social media platforms, and pursuing content partnerships.

Thomas McBee, Editorial Director for Growth at Quartz, put it this way: “My editorial mandate is to look for opportunities to fold in our editorial strategy with our strategy to reach more people.”

The Atlantic has found that one of the most effective ways to do this is by resurfacing relevant content from its archives at the moment its audiences need it most. Smart resurfacing is a powerful tactic that organizations without a growth editor tend to miss.

Without anyone to own this task, it becomes a nice-to-have rather than a must-have. But if you make it a must-have, the results are significant and measurable. At The Atlantic, more than 50% of the traffic in a given month comes from content not produced in that month.

That’s the result of a concerted effort by Caitlin Frazier, Senior Editor for Social and Audience, who leads a team of five at the helm of The Atlantic’s home page and social media strategy. Of the 60+ Facebook posts The Atlantic publishes per day, 10–20 of them come from The Atlantic’s rich archive of content.

“Their job is to go shopping on our site for the best stuff,” Bob Cohn, president of The Atlantic, told participants at a recent growth editor training.

In some cases, they resurface evergreen pieces that were already a hit but still have relevance, hoping to reach additional audiences who will value it. In other cases, they devote extra energy to high-priority content because of the time investment that went into its creation.

“Stories that are important and need a little extra love are called “babies,” Frazier explains. “It’s a story that the author put a lot of effort into, and it’s not an obvious traffic hit, but we want to draw people’s attention to it as much as possible. We give it special attention on social, we tweet it several different ways, we post on Facebook several times in one week.”

An aggressive resurfacing strategy has helped The Atlantic to increase traffic significantly, setting an all-time audience record of 31.5 million monthly unique visitors in November 2015, following the timely resurfacing of its cover story, “What ISIS Really Wants.” Organizations can use this same approach to improve what can often be a disappointing time vs. payoff ratio for their content.

Just like The Atlantic can resurface evergreen hits, like “Here Is When Each Generation Begins and Ends, According to Facts,” organizations can revive reports — or nuggets within a report — that continue to be relevant today.

Across the organizations that Atlantic Media Strategies works with, we’ve found that those without a growth editor tend to spend about 80% of their time on content planning and creation, and just 20% on distribution and resurfacing. After a growth editor is added, that split improves to about 50%-50%.

This ratio can often be achieved with existing personnel and resources because a dedicated focus on resurfacing reduces the pressure to constantly produce new pieces. Put more simply: you are reaching more people with the same amount of effort — or even less.

However, that doesn’t mean growth editors aren’t still thinking about content planning and creation. Given their obsessive focus on audience needs, social media, and analytics, growth editors amass useful insights into what makes great content. They often independently produce content tailored for specific platforms and advise other content creators on the best angles and approaches to reach their audience.

Taken together, growth editors provide a much-needed focus on making sure the great ideas that you publish find the audiences they are intended for.


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