How Publishers Can Benefit From Today's Behind-the-Scenes Trend

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I was watching Jeopardy last night, questioning how one player could miss such an obvious answer as Wuthering Heights, when this announcement came up at the end: "Go to the Jeopardy website to go behind the scenes with your favorite show."

Sure enough, when you go to the site, there's an article titled, "Behind the Scenes: Shooting Clues With [weatherman] David Muir" (they have video clues now); a photo montage titled A Day in the Life: Alex Trebek on a Tape Day; and a video with actress Audra McDonald.

I thought about this after two other behind-the-scenes mentions this week. One came from Ken Wheaton, editor of Advertising Age, who credited some of his publication's Grand Neal Award to a first-ever Anatomy of an Ad feature that took readers behind the scenes of the making of a Super Bowl commercial. The other mention came from an article in Editor & Publisher by former Digital First Media publisher Matt DeRienzo where he ponders the membership model for publishers. 

DeRienzo talks about the value of taking your audience behind the scenes—including "them in the process of local journalism at every step." But you could easily substitute "good" for "local." As B2B publishers think more in terms of membership and building communities, this behind-the-scenes thinking could pay dividends. "People like it," Wheaton said. Just like you let members past paywalls, an inside look at something you do takes them through real walls into your back rooms.

We could see how a reporter chases an important story or watch two financial analysts informally discuss the market. Photos of A Day in the Life of a Publisher or Preditor (what Wheaton calls a talented production person and editor) could reveal facets not previously considered by your audience. A video showing exhibitors setting up at an event could be a good promotion for more exhibitors. Andy Swindler used to post brilliant videos of his Astek staff meetings. They were mostly for comic effect but still seeing a closed-door event was appealing.

It used to be that we could only wonder what went on backstage at a big sporting event, the Oscars, or a political campaign. But now we get cameras inside the locker rooms of winning football teams, in the dressing rooms of Hollywood stars, and backstage at awards shows. TMZ's popular TV show takes place with everyone in front of their computer screens. Saturday Night Live often goes into the back corridors for their sketches.

As for publishers...

  • W Magazine ran a beautiful spread called Behind the Scenes with [photographer] Peter Lindbergh where the actors he's with appear very laid back.
  • GOLF Magazine (this is Masters Week after all) recently posted a video titled Billy Horschel: Behind the Scenes at the GOLF Magazine Cover Shoot. Again, it's giving us shots we don't usually see.
  • Time ran a three-minute video in December titled Behind the Scenes of TIME's Star Wars: The Force Awakens Photo Shoot.

Wrote DeRienzo: "If publishers want readers to identify with and support their brand so much... they will have to genuinely, intentionally, actively and consistently listen to them. That's going to mean a loud and immediate wake-up call about all aspects of user experience and customer service. They'll want the popup ads, Google surveys and lousy mobile sites to go away. It doesn't mean publishers can't make the case for some of that, or explain the transition they're in, but they can't just ignore the sentiment if they ask for that dialogue."

Ronn Are you subscribed to the SIPAlert Daily?
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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…