Senior Director of Audience Insights and Research, Cory Allen, and Senior Director of Digital Content, Tory Starr
Cory Allen (left): Nikki Cole; Tory Starr (right): Meredith Nierman

GBH audiences are spending more time on digital platforms such as YouTube. We talked with Cory Allen, senior director of audience insights and research, and Tory Starr, senior director of digital content, about what viewers like best and how “wins” in one corner of GBH are feeding innovation and success across the organization.

We’ve heard about GBH becoming more “data-informed.” What does that mean?

CA: People can find our content in a lot more places, and all those platforms have their own analytics and detailed information about audiences. The good news is that we have data that shows that our storytelling and reporting work on the newer platforms, such as YouTube and TikTok.

TS: To produce content for these new platforms, we don’t need to transform ourselves to become a video organization. We are already there. Visual storytelling has always been one of GBH’s core strengths.

What are some of the most interesting numbers?

CA: The average viewer is spending about 45 minutes a day on YouTube, a very dramatic increase, which has cut into television viewing. We’ve also seen research suggesting the YouTube app is the most popular app among smart TV owners. For GBH that can be good news. FRONTLINE programs had 217 million views on YouTube in 2022, for a total of 99.6 million hours of viewing. That eclipses views on any other platform. Similarly, GBH News has grown its YouTube audience by 621% over the last year.

A line graph depicts FRONTLINE's audience growth on YouTube between 2014 to 2022.

What do you do with the numbers?

TS: As media habits continue to change, all the production units — such as NOVA, ANTIQUES ROADSHOW and GBH News — have become more comfortable evaluating data and changing to meet audiences where they are. It's been a huge advantage for all of us to be living inside the GBH ecosystem, to share cross-production insights so everyone's learning from each other. For example, MASTERPIECE has had huge success with email newsletters. They have more than doubled their digital audience through focusing on emails. So, subject matter experts in MASTERPIECE share their strategy and techniques with others. A win in one production unit turns into an insight for another production. It’s making us smarter.

CA: We track reach, loyalty and engagement across all of our platforms. Reach — numbers of people who consume our content — is the easiest to measure, since it can be done in the most standardized fashion. When we combine all our audiences in the aggregate, we’ve recouped and are right back where we were before the pandemic. Our YouTube channels did a lot to expand that footprint.

How can you use those numbers to help GBH continue to grow?

CA: The more touch points people have with GBH the more they like us. When a viewer becomes interested in one extra thing, it helps develop membership and creates a relationship that's positive for everyone.

TS: Having a feedback loop with people that are consuming our content is something that we take super seriously. Social media is a key way for us to gather these insights from our audiences. It’s part of every production's DNA and we act on what we hear. We bring back series based on fan reactions. We dig deeper into story lines or reporting based on how deeply it's resonating. We can be much more tapped into what our members want and need than we were before.

What’s the biggest change that’s come along with all the new platforms?

TS: We used to have a broadcast channel that always reached a certain number of the American public. We don't have that guaranteed audience anymore, so we need to be more aggressive in being where our audiences are.

CA: People love our content; they just don’t watch television the way they used to. There was a learning curve on this within GBH and among our longstanding audience. But I think it’s clear now that we are certainly not abandoning the legacy platforms we all know and love, and I think everyone realizes we need to be where the future viewers are.

Check out GBH’s YouTube channel here.

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