Fake it ’til you make it… as the head of content

Matt PinkneyIn a piece that first appeared in EncoreMatt Pinkney, head of content for AFL Media, tells us how to do his job.

What exactly do you do?

I manage a team of multi-disciplined pros who analyse, deconstruct, document and celebrate AFL footy across a range of traditional and digital platforms. I also wrestle with the question of how we can continue to provide compelling, sticky content experiences to punters in the age of digital promiscuity.

What skills do you need to be good at the job?

An ability to channel the inner footy geek into engaging footy products and content. A diplomat’s approach to the many stakeholders who want a piece of the audience that comes to our platforms. The perspective to realise that while we’re not saving lives, we’re contributing to an important part of Australia’s social fabric.

What are the most common misconceptions about what you do?

That we’re a League propaganda service staffed by reporters who march to work like Kim Jong Un’s minions. In fact, we’ve worked really hard to report the good and bad of footy without favour and only the tiniest bit of fear. We demonstrated our approach last month when we gave huge coverage to James Hird’s court allegations that our two most senior executives had lied. There’s not too many media organisations that would be so open.

Who are the people you work closest with?

My boss Pete Campbell, my colleagues Michael Solomon and Clare Vague and my key content guys Mick Tormey and Val Veo as well as Mick Lovett, Matt Price and Tyson Densley. All so different and each a great source of counsel, inspiration and innovation.

Is there any lingo we need to know to do the job?

Never, ever use plain language if you can find an acronym to confuse and obfuscate. So at any given time at AFL HQ you’ll hear WEM (web experience manager), STP (secure transfer protocol), CMS (content management system), ARPU (average revenue per user), SDS (statistical database service), VMS (video management system), DT (dream team), UX (user experience), IA (interface architecture) and more. All in the service of ROI (return on investment).

What does a typical day on the job entail?

Start with the papers to see what they’re saying. Send emails and text messages at breakfast and on the way to work. Meet with the key content guys and girls to get a sense of how the day’s looking. Deal with mini-crisis number one, go to at least four or five meetings with a range of internals and externals, deal with mini-crisis number 10. But generally, spend most of the day talking about how we cover footy now, next month and in three years time.

What’s the best part of the job?

Terrible cliché, but the people. My colleagues love what they do. They spend all week neck-deep in footy and then choose to go to the games to relax. Watching experts from product, design, development, content, video and commercial combine to attract massive audiences is brilliant.

What’s the biggest challenge?

Designing a multimedia newsroom and content strategy that is flexible enough to remain engaging, cost-effective and innovative in a digital future that will make today look like the Stone Age. Dealing with the old media naysayers who attack alternative content models only because they threaten their revenue streams.

How does one get into a gig like yours?

Nurture the propellor on your head – whether it be football, politics or cooking – immerse yourself in your topic and understand what people similar to you want to read and experience. Don’t be scared of change whether it be a business model or new technology. Use new apps, look at what kids are doing in social media and think about the ways you can create and exploit new platforms. Respect your readers, be responsive to them but also make sure you surprise them.


Encore Issue 30This first appeared in the weekly edition of Encore available for iPad and Android tablets. Visit encore.com.au for a preview of the app or click below to download.


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