Bill Simmons’ “The Ringer” and the Power of Branded Content

On February 17, Bill Simmons announced the launch of his new website, “The Ringer.” Quite a few people have been eagerly awaiting word on the latest Simmons project after the highly publicized shutdown of Grantland. Right now, all we know is that it will be home to Simmons’ written material. The staff is populated with many ex-Grantlanders, signifying a similarity in tone to the retired website. Unlike Grantland, however, debuting parallel content prior to the site’s launch will allow The Ringer team to capture and study vital audience demographic and behavioral data.

As of now, visiting The Ringer will take you to a single page asking you to sign up for a newsletter before the website goes live (expected sometime in early summer). This newsletter, likely delivered to your inbox two to three times per week, will house “riffs from Ringer writers” and website-related updates. More importantly, the segmentation and optimization powers of email marketing will let The Ringer’s digital team get a jump start on analyzing the performance of a whole host of things, such as content, imagery, calls-to-action, timing, and stylistic template choices.

Alongside the newsletter are the The Ringer’s Twitter and Facebook platforms, both of which are active and have already amassed a huge following. Right now, it seems like Simmons or one of his editors are writing the copy themselves. Since it is important for a digital venture to establish tone and voice immediately, this is probably a good thing. However, maintaining social media platforms will be a full time job for such a big enterprise. Not everyone can develop a holistic strategy, plan media buys, design and optimize native ads, identify influencers, unify copywriting throughout all viable platforms, maintain community engagement, and ensure that everything is resonating with targeted, high-converting demographics. This is why social media is so important and why it takes time and careful attention to maximize ROI.

As someone who works mostly on the digital side of communications, I know exactly how valuable data and strategy like this can be. Plenty of firms drive entire campaigns based upon key metrics collected in the first few months. And why wouldn’t you? There is no better way to verify that your messaging and tactical implementation are effective than seeing it spelled out in front of you in impressions, engagements, and conversions.

The path before Simmons is full of possibilities. He has an opportunity to unify his wildly successful podcast (and its offshoot network of podcasts), his new television show, his website, the newsletter, all social media content, and whatever else he has planned. In order to keep up with what is sure to be an innovative and fast-paced environment, his branded content operation must be able to keep pace. Introducing supplementary channels like a newsletter and social media provide indispensable opportunities to design and tailor content that will work efficiently and effectively. This was a smart decision; all that’s left is to capitalize on the data. His ringer, in other words.

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