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SU Innovators: How Aneesh Raman is Building a Movement at OZY

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Welcome back to StumbleUpon Innovators, a weekly interview series with publishers, platforms, and digital media experts. Each week we’ll investigate strategies, new tools, and trends with some of the brightest minds in the business. Our aim is to provide you with actionable practices to improve your content choices, distribution, marketing, monetization, and more. In case you missed our last edition with Adam Soldinger of Tempest, it’s right here.

Q&A with Aneesh Raman, VP of Marketing & Audience Development at OZY

Please introduce yourself and your company.

OZY is one of the nation’s fastest growing digital magazines and has quickly become a must-read for the curious around the world.  Every morning, OZY gets readers up to speed with the Presidential Daily Brief, a smartly curated selection of the most critical news. We then vault you three to six months ahead of traditional media with original features on “the new and the next” — people, places, trends and ideas ahead of their time and worthy of yours.  As for me, beyond being a proud son of Boston, I’m a former foreign correspondent for CNN and speechwriter in the Obama Administration.

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What is OZY all about?

OZY believes more is possible. We’re a magazine today but plan on becoming a movement tomorrow – a global nation of intrepid citizens who, in seeing more of the world through our stories, are empowered to do more in their own lives. That may mean solving big problems more effectively. Or building game-changing inventions more rapidly. Or bridging historic divides more easily. Just imagine one day coming to OZY and reading a story on brain implants (we just had a great one on the site), then taking an OZY course on neuroscience, then attending an OZY event on bio-tech, where you find a partner for a start-up that breaks new scientific ground. That’s the idea. Giving our audience access to information. Accompanying that soon with ways to connect and eventually ways to act, based on sophisticated analysis of user habits and interests. That’s the movement. As the person leading our marketing and audience development efforts, I am responsible for building that movement. Today, we’re focused on being the best digital magazine imaginable. But very soon, you’ll see us bring more tools of the movement to market.

Who is your audience and how do you reach them?

We’re proud that our audience is a good mix of age, gender and race, and geographic and socio-economic backgrounds. We’ve had enormous success with partnerships as a way to introduce OZY to new audiences through established publishers such as CNN, USA TODAY, NPR and Huffington Post. We’ve also begun partnering with education companies, like Nearpod, bringing OZY content into the classrooms. In our second year we’re set to launch partnerships with platform providers and retail brands, taking our distinct content to a much broader audience. And we’re focused on building a sophisticated analytics system so we know, in great detail, what our audience wants, when they want it, how they want it and what compels them to not just to read or watch but act.

What’s your publishing and/or content marketing strategy?

Everyone is tired of the “MUST-read”, “10 ways”, “OMG” content marketing strategy. At the end of the day, quality content will always win – but it’ll win easier with quality packaging that is equally distinct. That’s what we’re doing at OZY. For us, right now, it’s about finding the right match with the people who look at the current news landscape and are fundamentally bored. That’s the start. Then it’s about delivering the best, every day. We deserve better than what the news gives us today. We deserve the type of television that HBO brought to market. We deserve the type of technology that Apple brought to market. And we deserve the type of news that OZY is bringing to market. The best. Nothing less.

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What are you biggest challenges and how are you tackling them?

We’re living through a revolution in news. Every day people are coming up with new ways to produce it, to distribute it, to mobilize action around it. That’s both chaotic and compelling. And that’s the biggest challenge. To me, the best way to meet that challenge is being agile and inventive. Thankfully, that’s easier to do when you’re a start-up and not a decades old, bloated media company.

What are your best tips and tricks for publishers and brands?

Think big. Take risks. Most importantly, have a mission and a voice. You don’t need to be partisan to have those, you just need a sound point of view.

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Rapid Fire with Aneesh Raman

What is your media diet?

OZY first…and then New York Times, Drudge, Huffington Post, CNN, ESPN, TV Newser (old habits die hard), whatever stories dominate my FB and Twitter feeds, and Netflix documentaries as often as my six month old’s sleep schedule will allow.

Who do you admire?

Barack Obama.

Who’s your dream client?

It’s a company or organization that shares our belief that more is possible.  And isn’t afraid to work hard and take the risks needed to make that belief a reality.

What’s one thing that your coworkers don’t know about you?

I like to sleep like it’s my job.  I just don’t get to do that anymore because of my actual job.

How can people reach you?

I’m old school. By calling.

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