Connecting with InformationWeek’s Susan Nunziata on the Importance of Community Readership
Sep 14, 2015 Rachael Tucker
For this reason, I spoke with InformationWeek’s editorial director, Susan Nunziata. InformationWeek has long been a top source of technology news for business and IT audiences, and in the past year it’s developed a much stronger community dialogue with its readers by appealing to broader lifestyle topics beyond the IT desk. As editorial director, Susan is responsible for the publication’s strategy and planning for its future. This is a challenging role given how quickly the media changes, and one that Susan enjoys. We discussed where her career began and where she thinks InformationWeek is heading under her direction.
Q: Can you tell me about your background and how you came into your current role?
A: I’ve had an interesting path through the technology world. I started my career early on at a publication called Pro Sound News that covered technology for studio recordings and live concert sound. From there I went on to become a reporter for Billboard covering consumer electronics. I always had an interest in technology and in that job morphed into news editor and then became the managing editor at the publication. That’s where I became very interested in logistics and how everything comes together to create, at that time, the magazine, and later on the website. I was at Billboard for 10 years and I always had an interest in how technology in particular was affecting, and in fact, disrupting the entire music business. Then I went on to become executive editor of Entertaining Marketing Letter, which was subscription only publication for marketing executives at large corporations as well as at entertainment companies. I started to get really interested in mobile technology and was intrigued with the early efforts at promotions on mobile phones. I decided to move on to become the editor of Mobile Enterprise [which then] led me to pursue an opportunity at CIO Insight, and that’s when I began to focus more on a broader subject matter of IT from the CIO perspective and IT professional’s perspective. And I became the editorial director of their brand portfolio. Then the opportunity opened up to join InformationWeek. I’ve been with the company since 2012 and was promoted to editorial director in January of this year.
Q: What does your current role as editorial director entail?
A: It’s a little bit of strategy and hands on execution. My role involves setting the strategy for the publication, overseeing plans to migrate the website. I’m overseeing the general strategy for moving InformationWeek to a fully web-based property. Our CEO decided to discontinue print and also to eliminate the print-oriented digital editions that we had been producing, and so we became strictly a web property as of this year. So my role is partly shaping what the new InformationWeek is going to look like and what events we are going to be creating and working on. And on a day-to-day basis hoping to direct the coverage and working with subject matter experts on a variety of topic areas, and driving how we want to approach the market and how we want to approach our coverage. Also hands on editing and managing the freelance staff. That’s my role in a nutshell.
Q: Do you think the shift to online-only is a trend in tech media?
A: I think it’s reflective of a broader trend that has been shaping media over the last 10 years. The media business like any other has been disrupted – I know that word is overused, but there really is no better word – by digital and by the changing habits of people that are reading the content we are creating. All media is working to figure out how to serve our readers in places they want to be served. We are seeing a big change in how people are even consuming information. Many folks are looking at their social media feeds, particularly Twitter and Facebook, to provide them with their news. So what does that mean for any media company in terms of how we are providing information going forward? What kind of formats do we need? What does the page-level experience have to look like for those visitors if their first association with us is coming from a Twitter referral for example? I think media in general has to grapple with a lot of these changes. But there is also a counter trend where some organizations are looking back to print and creating print publications again. So I think it’s just symptomatic of an industry that is very much in transition and trying to figure out the best way to serve readers.
Q: How do you identify a great story and have you noticed any trends around content that is driving the most traffic?
A: The deciding factors for what we are going to cover are a couple of things. We look for a human component to a story. So we are very interested in speaking with the end users of the technology that we write about. Talk about how it has affected them in their roles and how it has created business results in their organization. We also look for topics that we know are of interest to our audience based upon not only page views, but what the level of engagement is, what the level of comments and participation in our discussion boards is, and so we tailor our content around what our readers are gravitating toward and asking for. We’re also working to create more of a way to serve our readers, so providing different ways for people to digest and access the information they need. We haven’t quite nailed it yet. We’re working on ways to get readers the crucial pieces of information they need to do their jobs. And how do we help the people that make IT happen in organizations on the business side or in technology roles. What I’ve seen from the tech media in general is there used to be a very heavy focus on what the hot new iterations of products X, Y and Z are and although that is still important, I think readers have gravitated more toward what the business implications of various technologies are because the role of the IT professional has changed to be much more of a supporter for the business. We try to deliver that level of insight through our in-house subject matter experts, freelance reporters and contributors.
Q: How do you select contributors, do contributors need to have a journalistic background or are they experts in their field?
A: We have two types of contributors. The traditional journalist freelance contributors and practitioner contributors. Those are the folks that working in the industry – their primary role is not to be a writer but to practice the art of IT. Whether they are a CIO or a programmer or a SysAdmin or whatever that might be. And so for those practitioner contributors, we look for less of the opinion pieces about trends and more on their own personal experience to get back to that human voice in the art of storytelling. What has their personal experience been with a technology problem or a leadership challenge? We are developing guidelines to help clarify what we are looking for from those practitioners. Those are the ones that resonate with our readers.
Q: Do freelancers accept pitches or do they do their own research to identify topics to write about?
A: It’s a little bit of a mix. We have some freelancers who are more news oriented and they are more likely to look at news pitches. Then we have some freelancers who are more business analysts and thought leaders and they are more likely to want to develop their own topic ideas and reach out to industry experts who can provide context around their ideas.
Q: Are there any trends that you think are really interesting right now that InformationWeek has been covering or any interesting emerging trends?
A: Hard to avoid anything related to Windows 10, and the challenges it creates for the IT organization. How Windows 10 will impact their strategy and road map going forward. There is also the continued interest in enterprise mobility, of course, and what the changing trends are right now. Security is obviously huge this year. We are seeing, going forward, a lot of interest in programming languages and seeing a lot of interest in what the Internet of Things will mean to technology organizations and digital businesses in general. Social does not seem to be a big area of interest for our audience, but we continue to cover important developments there. Cloud and virtualization continue to be major topic areas because although the industry has very much moved forward and made huge advances, I think a lot of enterprises are still working through exactly how cloud solutions apply to their businesses. We are seeing this whole application economy and the role of platform-as-a-service, infrastructure-as-a service and all these various cloud based options coming into the enterprise so that is going to be a hot area for us going forward.
Q: What sets InformationWeek apart from competitors in tech media?
A: We have, first of all, our team of subject matter experts – folks like Charles Babcock and Curtis Franklin Jr. who have been writing about this industry for decades, frankly, and provide a certain point of view that is both analytical and very explanatory for a lot of folks in the industry. We also have a growing community around some of our sub-categories like IT Life, which has spawned a really active community and become one of the most read sections of our publication. That’s where we look at things that are meaningful for IT professionals that are not 100 percent technology related. So career, natural challenges and things like that. We have the opportunity to create live events and be involved in a number of events that we are already producing like the Elite 100 and we will be looking at other events that are designed to bring these communities that we are interacting with online together at face-to-face, live events.
Q: What has been driving the success of IT Life? Do you accept contributors for this section?
A: Actually there is another thing we are doing that is a differentiator. IT Life has a weekly online radio program and we also have weekly InformationWeek and Interop programs that are available as podcasts. For IT Life, for example, we often look for guests not only to contribute written content, but also to participate in the radio program. And the podcasts are getting quite good traction so far in terms of getting audience off platform.