To attract an audience for a new editorial series, Fusion is going to lean on Gizmodo Media Group. The millennial-focused Fusion, which has struggled to grow the audience on its owned and operated properties, will use tools and communities from GMG to cultivate readership for Rank and File, a recently launched editorial series about America and the military. Fusion hopes Rank and File will attract a different kind of reader and point the way forward for how the brands can all be linked together to support editorial projects.
“I think it’s for our audience, but also for people who haven’t discovered Fusion,” said Dodai Stewart, Fusion’s editor-in-chief and a former editor at Jezebel, one of the sites that’s part of the Univision-owned Gizmodo Media Group.
As a publisher owned by a television broadcaster, Fusion knows the power of series, and it’s spent years trying to find recurring editorial features that might attract a dependable audience. They’ve taken several forms, from silly recaps of English Premier League weekends to video series exploring young people’s financial struggles, but the goal with all of them is the same: “It’s an appointment,” Stewart said.
Stewart, who wrote a popular recap every Wednesday when she worked as an editor at Jezebel, knows how much an audience can come to depend on regularly scheduled fare. “If it was late, I heard about it,” she said.
Fusion hasn’t yet created something with similar impact, and efforts to grow audience on its owned sites have been mixed. The site gathered 7.7 million readers in February, according to comScore, a kind of regression to the mean after several election-fatted months of growth. It attracted 9.4 million readers the previous February, and had charged past 12 million in October, when the presidential race had reached a fever pitch, per comScore. Fusion spokespeople note that it tracks audience on a quarterly basis, and attracted 10 million uniques in the fourth quarter of 2016.
The series, Rank and File, debuted last week and installments are expected to roll out bi-weekly for at least the next two months; Molly Osberg, the Fusion staffer who’s heading up the series, said she’s hoping the series will build its own momentum. “In time, I hope it becomes generative,” she said.
It will feature a mixture of stories written by Osberg, essays by current and former armed services members, veterans-turned-journalists, and even local reporters that work closely with military and its communities.
Stewart said there are plans to possibly collaborate with veterans’ groups and other civilian-organized military groups around the project, which will help increase its distribution and promotion.
To get the biggest possible impact, it’s hoping to lean on GMG, which it will be more tightly integrated with in the coming months. Part of that integration is technical. Fusion will migrate over to Kinja, the publishing and commenting platform developed by Gawker Media. That platform will allow Stewart and Osberg to promote Rank and File stories to site readers in new ways, like Reddit AMA-styled Q&As with story authors or other military experts.
Part of it also will involve GMG audiences. Rank and File stories will also be shared with Foxtrot Alpha, a community focused on defense and military technology that’s operated by the GMG property Jalopnik. Overall, Fusion Media Group, which Fusion and GMG are part of, gathered 57 million readers in February, per comScore.
As Rank and File continues to roll out, Stewart said there are a few other tricks she might try too, and she expects there will be more opportunities to. “That’s the beauty of the internet,” Stewart said. “You can just try things.”