New Research Lauds Roundtables, Asking Questions and (Shock!) Newsletters

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Let's call today Research Wednesday. Three stories, several interesting takeaways.

Don Nicholas, founder of Mequoda, has moderated dozens of roundtables—and in so doing has gathered plenty of research. So reading his excellent post earlier this year on how to lead one proves illuminating. "To begin roundtables, I get all the attendees into the room and ask, 'If you could have the answer to one question that would help change the fundamental way your business runs, what would it be?'"

Nicholas then notes the most-asked questions and gives those the highest scores. "I begin roundtables this way for two reasons. First, this method leads us towards a list of questions that people want answered. Second, it helps us prioritize and forge the roundtable's direction. Some questions will be unique; others will be echoed by numerous attendees, clearly showing their relevance within our industry."

SIPA's 2017 Fall Publishers Roundtable, Sept. 13 in Washington, D.C., will bring a lively, intense, facilitated discussion to the fore, designed exclusively for CEOs, presidents, publishers and senior executives, on how they move from strategy to action. If you sign up by next Wednesday, Aug. 16, you will save $200!

Benefits that Nicholas lists for roundtable attendees include:

  1. It's not just about getting your questions answered. You will benefit by the joint knowledge in the room.
  2. There's a solid chance that at least one person in the room has experienced the same problem you face, and has solved it.
  3. You will receive unexpected, valuable information—problems that you haven't faced yet, but will in the future.

Ask and You Shall Be Liked

We're all in conversations or roundtables from time to time where we ask questions of the other people or the presenter. Who knew that it was increasing our likeability?

New research from a team of Harvard psychological scientists suggests that asking more questions—and in particular, asking more follow-up questions—increases people's positive impressions.

"Whereas prior data demonstrate that people tend to talk about themselves, our results suggest this may not be an optimal strategy," writes lead author Karen Huang and colleagues on the Association for Psychological Science website. "Instead, across several studies, we find a positive relationship between question-asking and liking."

This could be important for publishers for making positive impressions in face-to-face meetings with subscribers or sponsors. The temptation is to display knowledge—and, of course, done right, that's not a bad thing. But this study shows that listening and asking perceptive questions could win more business.

"The tendency to focus on the self when trying to impress others is misguided, as verbal behaviors that focus on the self, such as redirecting the topic of conversation to oneself, bragging, boasting, or dominating the conversation, tend to decrease liking," the researchers write.

"In contrast, verbal behaviors that focus on the other person, such as mirroring the other person's mannerisms, affirming the other's statements, or coaxing information from the other person, have been shown to increase liking."

I'll stick with the coaxing information part—not sure I like mirroring and affirming as much.


A Secret Weapon That Isn't So Secret

In the everything-that-goes-around-comes-around department, the Pew Research Center surveyed digital native news outlets that averaged 10 million unique visitors a month from October to December. They found that 97% of digital-first news outlets use email newsletters to reach their audiences.

It prompted Axios to call newsletters digital media's secret weapons.

Probably more interestingly, the study found that 92% have an official presence on Apple News. (I wonder if legacy media has that same percentage.) Three quarters of outlets also use podcasts to expand their audiences, and 61% allow comments on their articles.

"These outlets are also highly likely to use social media as part of their outreach," Pew writes. "Nearly all have official pages or accounts on Facebook (100%), Twitter (100%), YouTube (97%) and Instagram (92%). Far fewer (25%) have an official channel or account on Snapchat."

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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…