Omeda Asks is a new interview series that we launched starting in 2020.  The conversations are structured around sitting down with our clients to gain insights on the media industry, topics we’re passionate about, and anything else that comes up. We most recently talked with Joyce Neth, Vice President and Director of Audience Development and Research at WATT Global Media. Not only did she impart great knowledge that she has acquired from her impressive and robust media career, but she also had extremely helpful advice for the current social distancing situation and the work-from-home structure that so many companies have had to implement lately. Read on to learn more.

About Joyce Neth:

Joyce Neth is the Vice President and Direct of Audience Development and Research at WATT Global Media. Joyce is originally from Pittsburgh, PA, but is quite the adventurous spirit having lived in five states, 11 ZIP codes and four different time zones! She became a media junkie at a young age through hanging around her father’s work as a stagehand at a Pittsburgh TV station. Some of her passions include golf, reading, and learning about different industries and cultures. She has been at WATT for over 14 years and leads a team that provides insights from audience behavior to the content, marketing and sales teams for continual product improvement, new product development and, ultimately, monetization. Joyce is happy to be a part of an extraordinary team of people who are passionate about the role WATT plays in feeding the globe by serving the agrifood and pet food industries. Get to know more about Joyce and be inspired by her wisdom.

What has your career path in media been like?

After trying a different career in marketing and PR for the energy and environmental industries, I started my career in media via research at a newspaper in Pittsburgh just as the papers were starting websites. I was hired as the first research manager for the Tribune-Review (now Trib Total Media). We were the #2 newspaper in Pittsburgh, which is one of the last 2-newspaper markets today. It was a lot of fun being the underdog and competing for readers and ad dollars. I learned a lot about audience targeting there and worked closely with the circulation and advertising sales departments. Following that role, I was lured away from Pittsburgh to another research position at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. There, I had a research team and my role expanded to include working with the marketing department and editorial staff in addition to sales and circulation. After 9 years in mass media, I joined WATT and was introduced to B2B media for niche markets.

Let’s talk a little bit about your time at the Tribune-Review. How did you handle being the underdog – #2 newspaper in town? What strategy did you go after to attract more readers and expand your audience?

It was interesting because the Tribune-Review was a suburban newspaper that created a city edition while the two major newspapers at the time went on strike. We started to build an audience when readers were desperate to have a daily newspaper to consume. Once the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reopened, we focused on our great value proposition to be competitive. It was difficult to cut the price much, so we emphasized the fact that the Tribune-Review had a different perspective than the Post-Gazette to gain a larger audience.

One strategy we used to grow revenue was to target certain zip codes that the preprint advertisers were interested in. We focused on gaining additional subscribers in those areas so we could go to the advertisers and negotiate deals for the A spot advertisements. We may have been the second largest newspaper, but we had the audiences that the advertisers wanted so we were able to win the A spot ad buys.

Do you use this strategy in the digital space today?

Absolutely. The same idea exists today that you must have a value proposition and to offer your audiences what they want. Your content has to be different, better and relevant to your audience’s needs.

How do you check-in with your audience?

Really understanding an audience for B2B markets can be hard because it is geographically diverse so it’s harder to bring your audiences together. We do try to use research check-ins to understand who we are trying to target.

Every 2 years, we implement a major research program where we send out a lot of in-depth questions about what our audience’s interests are. We use the topics in the study to then tag our content that way so that there is congruency throughout. Some of the dimensions of the study include:

  • How important the topics are to their business
  • Satisfaction of the quantity of the coverage on certain topics
  • Satisfaction of the quality of the coverage on certain topics

To further understand our audience, we then turn to our website to understand their behaviors. We like to see if our audience members are in fact consuming the topics that interest them. If they are not, we either need to promote the available content more or to create stronger content for those topics of interest.

Do you feel like you understand what the advertisers are looking for?

Overall, WATT knows and understands its markets very well, but we strive to learn more every day. I think it is hard to lump the advertisers into one group. There are the multinationals that have sophisticated marketing teams, the agencies that are so smart and really understand the space, and then the smaller businesses that sometimes need more help. Each advertiser group has strengths to working with them. I love working with the agencies because you can always learn something. Although, I will say they are typically impressed with how much knowledge we have at WATT on the market. The smaller businesses are fun because we can impart some of that knowledge onto them and help them determine the best strategy. Regardless of which type of advertiser we are working with, we aim for a true partnership with them where they can look to us as a source of advice.

Is there anything you are working on currently that you are particularly passionate about?

Before the pandemic, we had launched a Sales Enablement initiative to our entire team. Little did we know the extent to which this would be a strategic advantage. We are in a good position because of it to be laser-focused on our audience’s needs and how we can be better partners to our readers and clients. This is extremely helpful to have flushed out now as we are trying to help our customers thrive during very uncertain times. We can focus on the execution of transitioning events from in-person experiences to digital experiences and ensure value for attendees and sponsors.

What does the Sales Enablement initiative entail for your department?

The Audience and Content teams are working closely together to align on our goals. Through developing new KPIs together, we have gotten everyone working toward common strategies to attract, retain and engage our audience by delivering great content on a variety of platforms. Further, Audience is supporting the company-wide effort to create value messaging for all our products and services, looking at the benefits for readers and advertisers.

Speaking of platforms, are there any new platforms you’ve tried or discussed using lately?

I would say that recently, we have made a return to video. In the past, every once in a while we would try video for our brands, but it had low reader engagement. During the pandemic, it seemed like every brand was starting to implement video, so we figured we had to give it another shot as well. The experience has been exciting and surprising. One of our editors, Austin Alonzo, has video experience so he really took on the initiative and helped the other editors get on board as well.

So far, the teams have created 10 videos on the agrifood side and 4 videos on the pet food side. Overall, the experience has been great, reader engagement is high, and we are learning with each one. One lesson I’ve learned is:  Don’t let a good crisis go to waste. Now is a great time to try new stuff for your brands.

We also started a focused COVID newsletter that pulls together the best of our content and puts it all into one newsletter to be deployed every weekend. We have found that really focused topic newsletters perform well with our audience.

Speaking of the pandemic, how has WATT as a company kept a sense of normalcy with the COVID outbreak and social distancing implementation?

In the aspect of working at home, it is business as usual because WATT is a Results-Only Work Environment, or ROWE. This concept was developed specifically to help companies transition from working in an office together to employees working remotely. We adopted our ROWE nearly eight years ago, so we are used to working from many different locations.

One element in a ROWE that is extremely important to remember is that, work isn’t where you go, it’s what you do. Managers are “Results Coaches” and we manage the work, not the people. We have staff in 18 U.S. states and 5 other countries.

In other aspects of our current national situation, we have realized that in times like these, you care even more about your people. I have been at WATT for 14 years, and we have staff with 30+ years here. It sounds cliched, but we are a family. In our daily communications with our co-workers and customers all over the world, we are aware of the uncertainty on the personal level as well as the business level.

Additionally, Greg Watt, our president and CEO, is hosting “Coffee with the CEO” sessions every two weeks with business updates and fun activities (such as interactive poll questions and trivia). We are staying connected remotely. Typically, we bring everyone together once a year, in the summer, for our annual meeting. This year, we are planning a series of virtual sessions over 3 days. This is a great way to be “putting our mouth where our money is” and using the same tactics and techniques for these sessions that we are employing for our reader events.

On a personal level, my husband and I moved from Rockford, IL to Colorado Springs, CO in mid-March. I miss my Rockford WATT family, but it has been easier knowing that I wouldn’t be “seeing” them anyway!


The Omeda Asks interviews are conducted by Kate Ferrara, one of our Marketing Managers at Omeda. Please reach out if you’d be interested in learning more or participating in the series at marketing@omeda.com.