5 Things About My Audience: Ben Young - Nudge

What we know and don’t know about our audience’s attention

Hi there, Attention Matters subscribers!

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Right, who do we have this week? We’ve chatted with Matt Carlstrom from Quanta Magazine, John Stack from the Science Museum Group, Riham Mustafa from the International Finance Corporation and Abbie Morris from Compare Ethics so far. This week, we have Ben Young, founder and CEO at Nudge.

We’re back with 5 Things About My Audience, a series where we interview people who are trying to reach different kinds of audiences, to understand how they approach audience engagement - and how that’s been changing over the years.

Over to Ben Young:

I’m Ben. I’m the founder and CEO at Nudge. We have worked with the top advertisers in the world to figure out what analytics they need and made them accessible to everyone. It turns out attention is very important. 

At Nudge I do a weekly note, covering the intersection of content, media & marketing. Recently we passed 400 editions! 

1. Who is your audience? Tell us a few things you know about them. 

Our audience are intellectual omnivores (yes Why Is This Interesting - I stole that) who work in media, buying, selling, creating, planning & strategizing advertising and marketing. They like to keep an eye on the market, so that they can be best prepared & informed, to help with their own plans & strategies. We purposely do our note on a Friday, to close out the week, hopefully with stories they've missed, and a POV on what it all might mean. We like the breadth from stories, to deal making, to good work, smartest commentary & data points. It gives a rich view and in any given week, one area may be more interesting than another. And it gives our audience a broad view of the key factors impacting the industry. 

2. What research or tools do you have that back up your understanding of them?

I am attentive to any feedback that comes in, and we keep a log of it in a folder full of screenshots, to share internally, this helps remind us of the value we are getting from putting the work into it. So if you read a great newsletter, don’t be afraid to hit reply and let them know! It is nice to see, when one person signs up and then a couple of their work colleagues do. 

We capture the regular email metrics, keeping an eye on acquisition & click rates. Open rates are less reliable these days. And to talk shop we do use our own platform, Nudge, which provides analytics on things like attention, measured second by second, how far folks scroll down (and drop off). And compare this to other traffic sources. Key metrics are how far they scroll, what was the most engaging part. We use this to see how each edition performs and what the best parts are. We tend to find more engagement earlier in the morning, with people reading before, on the way to or once they get to work. With a subset revisiting to grab links, or data to share later in the day. Nudge has this neat view that shows you time of the day and days of week when your attention is higher than normal. 

We love to see word of mouth drive search traffic come in looking for the Nudge newsletter. To estimate the total business value created, we check back, to see what deals originated from or were assisted by the newsletter. Given the word of mouth, that can be hard to fully quantify but we get enough directionality to give us confidence in how subscribers generate business. And have an idea of our ARPU. 

We have asked (and accidentally posted a testing link) to charge for the newsletter - and there was appetite. But it’s not something we’re pursuing. 

Finally, we have hosted dinners & drinks, as well as panels. To get the audience together in real life, which is always a treat. And you get to chat with folks directly. 

3. Have you noticed any interesting behaviour changes in your audiences over the last 2 to 3 years?

Over the past couple of years the receptivity to a newsletter is much higher - it is the in thing to do right now. Especially for thoughtful content. Substack can take the credit for making being a newsletter reader cool again. 

We have seen a halo effect from that, where it is seen as more useful to get critical information via email. I like that Substack has brought attention to a minimal but punchy email format. On the other hand, it also has brought new competition to the table! 

A tactical thing is, we swapped the ‘view as a webpage’ link to a copy of the newsletter on our blog, rather than the default MailChimp link. And folks seem to prefer it. So we stuck with that. 

4. What’s the one thing you would really like to know about your audience that you don’t know?

When you pick a medium like email, you naturally attract those that want the content in that medium. Email newsletters attract those that want info via email. And that’s not everyone. 

It would be handy to understand where else or what other form they may want this content: if not email, what else? Is LinkedIn where they want the tidbits, should we syndicate it as a column in the paper, or an audio chat? 

A bonus - it would be nice to know, when we strike a chord. When someone gets an email and goes, this is exactly what I was looking for today. Sometimes they do tell us! Which is wonderful. 

With our format, it is anchored on what’s happened, so some weeks it comes together and it has this wonderful harmony between the stories. And you just feel it has this nice balance. Others, you have to work to find that, or use the intro to help weave the connective tissue between the stories. 

Other weeks it’s just, nothing has happened. And we’re OK to just acknowledge that - it’s a quieter week but here it is. That in itself is informative.

5. Is there a project that you’re really jealous of, that you wished you’d done?

I’m not the type to get jealous, and I can’t think of any one project I’d like to do. but here’s some work that inspires me. When I read something well written, that gets me fired up. 

Ben Dietz does a weekly note [SIC] Weekly that bridges media in a different way, across fashion and culture. I love the intersections he finds, each edition is so so deep. Sara Fischer’s Axios note, because she sees all the stories and I feel that the ones they pick are the most relevant to the broadest audience. 

I had heard this on a podcast, that Oprah worked to elevate the guests, to lift them up and present them as they are, but to tease out the best from them. That’s something I think about: if we feature someone or their work, are we helping elevate and getting the audience to focus on the right things? 

A few others: John Wall Street does a note looking at the intersection of sports and business, which I enjoy because it’s like a mini Stratechery for the space, but less strategic management speak. A friend does a private daily note that’s part-finance part-philosophy and world events. I enjoy that. The BBC From Our Own Foreign Correspondent podcast, which is brief updates form reporters in the field, shared factually. Would be a neat thing in media - Monocle kind of does that with their event reports. The report on Milan Design week was one I recently enjoyed.

I feel like meme accounts are overlooked too, not because they’re light and easy but because like comedians, they find interesting takes on what’s happening around us and help reframe it in different ways: @TurnerNovak, Litquidity, @media_lad and @adtechgod are some. 

Brian Morrissey’s The Rebooting - he often concludes things that I vehemently disagree with, but I usually come around after sitting with it for a few days. Ages ago, at DigiDay, he used to host podcast recordings, with drinks before/after. Which was fun.

Well-trained journalists are so good at guiding a conversation with pointed questions that help unfurl a story. I enjoy seeing or observing that when I can. And would love that superpower. When he is in his element, Howard Stern is a wizard at this. If you can remove yourself from the interview itself; it’s a pleasure to see how he unfurls the story, whilst keeping the guest engaged & relaxed. He’s so smooth. 

A New York agency, Media Kitchen, that no longer exists, used to take their commentary and print it in a book for clients. I liked that. But admittedly never read it.

In that vein, printing it and sending the Nudge notes would be neat, but the timeliness falls off. So maybe better suited for another project.

As you’re someone who deals with metrics day after day, it’s been good to know your views on growing your audience and community - thanks Ben!

If you can think of someone who might be a good interviewee for this series, drop us a line in the comments - we’d love to reach out!

And if you like this newsletter, here’s a button to easily share it with friends, family or colleagues - we’d love to add them to our Attention Matters family!

Bye for now!