EES Keynote: Use Your Data to Adapt to Audiences

LOS ANGELES — In April of 2021, Rob Hayes came over from NBCUniversal, where he was EVP of NBC Entertainment and Peacock, to Dow Jones, in the newly created role of chief business officer of new ventures. His charge was simple: catch the products of Dow Jones — The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, MarketWatch — up with the times.

“How do we evolve our business categories to ultimately drive subscribers, increase monetization?” Hayes said, of his role during a morning keynote Sept. 21 at the Entertainment Evolution Symposium (EES).

“Our mission is to grow the news category, and the way people are consuming news is very different that just two, three years ago, specifically the younger generation.

“We have to adapt and evolve very quickly.”

That meant less text, more multimedia, thinking mobile content delivery first, optimizing search capabilities, deeper personalization, and treating quality of content and engagement with equal importance, Hayes said. It’s about understanding — and catering to — this next generation of digital natives, who are connected to everything and demand content their way.

It means brands are faced with a new challenge: engaging these new, connected consumers on their terms and in ways that appeal to their lifestyles.

And for older brands, the approach requires a fresh perspective on collaborative tools, partnerships, and platforms.

“It’s a challenge everyone is facing right now, not just the news,” Hayes said. “I saw a huge opportunity for us to embark on that.” Take The Wall Street Journal: you’re first thought is “newspaper” when you hear the name. But today, approximately two-thirds of content consumed that comes from the outlet is audio and video, according to Hayes.

“We’re all competing for consumer attention, and we need to be prolific on as many platforms as possible,” he added. “Engagement is critical and the user experience has to be premium. To do that there needs to be a lot of cooperation [within the company].” For Dow Jones that means applying data-driven insights throughout the company, and being sure every stakeholder has access to that data. It’s a formula Hayes recommends to every brand that relies on delivering content.

“[Available data] helps drive value for the company, and ultimately the end users,” he said. “Always keep your eye on the consumer and where the consumer is going, because it’s harder and harder to break through on all the different platforms out there.

“Great content ultimately prevails.”

The Entertainment Evolution Symposium (EES) was presented by the Pepperdine Graziadio Business School Institute for Entertainment, Media and Sports (IEMS) and the Hollywood IT Society (HITS) and was sponsored by Iron Mountain, Signiant, Whip Media, Atos, Fortinet, FPT Software, invenioLSI, Perforce, Vision Media, and EIDR.