On the upcoming Feb. 5-7 Innovation Mission, attendees will meet with Cox Media Group, one of the most progressive companies in local media. We spoke with Eric Myers, Multi-Market VP of Sales, about some of their newest developments.

Q: CMG is seen as an industry leader in audience development. How are you building experiences that create strong audiences that can be monetized?

Through a focus on data and distribution.

On the data side, we have several audience listening tools that allow us to see how our audience is responding to our content both in real time and over an extended period of time. We know what our audience is looking for (thanks to search trends) and we know what they’re talking about on social media (thanks to CrowdTangle and other listening tools). We move quickly to create stories that will connect with our audience. And we track our performance on an hourly, daily, weekly and monthly basis to see if we’re measuring up. We then take that deep knowledge of our audience and apply it to brand-safe “revenue” content areas. We work closely with our sales staff to determine what products our clients want to see from us, and we use our digital smarts to bring those to life.

On the distribution side, we are aware of our various distribution platforms, and we understand how to create content that will uniquely connect on that platform. From the beginning of the story creation process, we are thinking “How are we going to get this to our audience?’ Is it a search play? Social? Homepage? Do we have an existing channel to deliver this content to the desired audience or is it a mismatch? By answering all these questions on the front end, we understand how to customize our content to fit the proper audience. And if we need to rework a piece of content for a different platform, we do so.

Q: Sales transformation in the digital realm is something that local media orgs have been grappling with for years. How are you addressing this?

We believe that everyone in our industry that is having success in constant digital transformation is doing the same thing…ignoring the rearview mirror. We believe the advertising structure needs to walk away from the first couple generations of the “digital helper” model and focus on having an entire local sales force and applicable management team that possess significant digital chops. More importantly, they need to be relevant advertising pros that are trusted leaders in the digital space, locally. But, probably the most important characteristic is strong internal collaboration with every aspect of their organization—audience development, content and sales.

Q: You’ve also been an early mover on newer platforms such as OTT video and smart speakers. What have you learned about your brands and audiences on these platforms so far?

Smart Speakers: We’ve found advertisers are curious about the new medium (Alexa), but how to measure the success is still to be seen. We are sharing how many listeners are accessing our content and their advertising message. But the biggest challenge is how to make these mediums discoverable to our audiences. We are running internal marketing campaigns for awareness and our advertisers are helping to cross promote. Advertisers are curious to partner with us so they can start to understand these new landscapes.

OTT – We have started an OTT collaboration between our radio, TV and newspaper sites for entertainment OTT content – AccessAtlanta. These are one-hour weekly shows which contain paid sponsored video content and editorial video content. Again, we are still learning how to make this discoverable to our audiences. Our advertisers want to partner with us to help learn the landscape. We believe being leaders in this space will help us secure long-term partnerships with existing and new clients.

Q: For Innovation Mission attendees, what kind of discussion should they expect and what do you hope to hear from them?

We think the discussion that we are looking forward to on both sides of the fence will range from constant ideation to granular execution. We believe that one without the other is too often the case when talking about innovation. The macro model that drives everything that we have had executable success on, is water-tight collaboration between audience, content and sales. (e.g.- Monetization is at the beginning of all innovative discussions, not a patchwork later on.)

You can register for the February 5-7 Innovation Mission here.