Group Nine Media is a leading digital media company with many highly visible, category-leading brands in its portfolio, which include Thrillist, The Dodo, NowThis, POPSUGAR, and Seeker. Group Nine’s digital media portfolio extends across written, video, and audio content, reaching more than 145 million audience members every month. With a family of digital brands aimed at younger consumers—millennials and Gen Z making up 70% of its audience—Group Nine continually strives to stay on the cutting edge and meet consumers where they spend their time across the media landscape.
Gaining a full view of digital audiences remains elusive
Distributing digital content is a tall order, especially when consumer attention is so fragmented with many different ways to consume media. Group Nine’s brands produce content for more than 40 different distribution channels, including every major social media platform as well as streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, and Apple Music. With so many sources of truth to pull from and different customer experiences to account for, getting a 360-degree view of every audience member proved to be a major hurdle. Throw in data access restrictions, privacy regulations, and inconsistent metrics across different platforms, and the task becomes even more challenging. Gaining that insight is critical to continue delivering content that delights audiences—especially as media consumption habits have shifted during the COVID-19 pandemic and will likely continue to do so in the coming years.
Keeping pace with evolving audience preferences
Due to the multi-faceted nature of the challenge facing Group Nine, solving the problem with a silver bullet was unlikely, to say the least. The company approached the issue from multiple angles to tackle each variable in turn.
First, Group Nine began working more closely with the social media and digital platforms audiences use to view its content. By collaborating with these platform partners to define and implement data collection best practices, Group Nine now has access to more consistent and accurate customer metrics across every distribution channel. Those conversations with platform partners have been very fruitful in other ways, as well, sharing ideas to further innovate and engage core audiences.
Group Nine also ramped up its customer insights efforts, holding regular conversations with target audiences to better understand shifts in media and content preferences. The company built two distinct customer insight communities—Laboratory Nine and POPSUGAR Bright-Siders—to gather feedback and input directly from both avid fans and less engaged audiences. With 12,000 panel members across both communities, Group Nine has an enormous audience to tap into and drive ongoing customer insight strategies.
The lingering fallout from the COVID-19 crisis has dramatically impacted how people feel about Group Nine’s core content subjects, including travel, personal finances, and entertainment. The pair of insight communities offers a steady stream of input from audience members, showing Group Nine how customers’ perceptions of these target areas have constantly evolved since the onset of the pandemic. Knowing that people are spending more money with local restaurants, restricting travel and vacations to road trips, and exploring virtual fitness programs all help Group Nine tailor its content to its consumers' daily lives.
Continuing to change the game
Those customer insights have also fed into Group Nine’s business relationships and marketing partnerships. Every month, the company packages up the top nine takeaways from its insight communities into a newsletter and shares them with partners. By doing so, Group Nine is strengthening those relationships and establishing the brand’s thought leadership in the digital media and advertising industries.
With so much uncertainty about what the future holds for everyone’s daily routine and lifestyle goals, the ability to routinely check in with target audiences and directly hear their thoughts directly is a game changer. Group Nine has the ability to refine every piece of content around the subjects consumers care about most and deliver it through their preferred platforms.
The value of these customer insight communities will last long after the pandemic has been relegated to history books. Connecting directly with customer feedback, input, and sentiment will continue to drive Group Nine’s content and distribution strategies for years to come.
“Our experience really puts in plain view the value of not just customer research, but ongoing customer research. Having those ongoing conversations is huge for us. You need to make sure you haven’t just talked to your users, but you’ve talked to them lately and that you know what's relevant to them, what’s going on in their lives, and how that affects them.”
— Bobby Lacivita, VP, Research & Measurement, Group Nine Media