MLive.com, comprising 8 newspapers and 10 office locations around the State of Michigan, has had a really great thing going with a content collection known as Michigan’s Best. Popularized by two central figures that hosted searches for Michigan’s Best Mexican Restaurant, BBQ, College Eats, and Bakery in 2018, the Michigan’s Best Team generated big traffic for our publishing company. Add to that the success of the selected winners and their own increased popularity resulting from the readers of MLive, it felt like a great idea had really solidified.

But when is a great idea ripe for development into something more? And what goes into crafting the next stage of something already so large?

Our Learnings

Michigan’s Best, concentrating through 2018 on just the flavors of our State, were seeing giant pageview metrics. The Mexican Restaurant Search, for instance, saw the highest volume, with more than 4.5 million pageviews. But videos and photos comprised the lion’s share of the attention. It was obvious our readers wanted to participate visually, seeking images of the foods being tasted, shots of our Journalists in the market and interacting with favorite restaurants old and new.

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Social media was generating more than a third of the referring traffic to the searches. Facebook was the greatest contributor, referring just less than 800,000 readers to our content on MLive.com, and encouraging an average visit time of just shy of three minutes.

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Our readers were also recommending the next searches and voting on the current search. They were interacting with our team in social media and in person, speaking up to be sure that our Reporters knew what they desired to read about next. Unfortunately, many of these recommendations didn’t fit the mold of “best flavor” or “best item.”

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More males than females were participating in the searches. Though the ages spanned 18-65 years, ages 45-54 were the greatest proponents of Michigan’s Best, at 23% of the audience.

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What we had was a popular category of content followed and shared largely on social media; and video and photos were the most popular of the interactions.

Dipping Our Toes

The obvious growth category for our test was Travel & Adventure. A spinoff of “flavor,” travel would appeal to a large cross-section of the original audience. With an eye toward exceptional storytelling in social media and doubling down on the place from which the largest reader group was originating, this test needed a new vlogger at its center. Nick Behling began to host 3-5 minute vlogs featuring the communities and activities of MLive Media Group partners. Intentionally crafting each piece, Nick would tell the story in the way he’d be most likely to consume it—for a social media audience desiring to share fun, uplifting content.

The results were immediate. Nick’s adventure vlogs were highly shareable. With the ratio of view-to-share sitting at a consistent 10%, our team knew that we could turn up or down the viewability through audience size, promoting and boosting in Facebook and other social channels.

A Movement is Born

With additional conversation, a partnership between our creative and editorial teams was forged. Expanded topics were generated to include business, technology, community, and arts, among others. And various methods for telling these stories were brainstormed. Now, through the use of video, photography, and narrative content, a groundswell of Michigan’s good news has been collected in one place.

On February 14, 2019, Michigan’s Best has been relaunched in a new website, www.thisismibest.com. A collection of partner branded content and editorial content can be found, side by side. This repository for the good news of the Great Lakes State will be shared in social media, boosted to ensure visibility, and housed in a single place, where readers can sift content by topic.

What began as a very popular food search has grown to include Michigan’s good news, and the joint teams responsible are poised to see what new heights will be reached.

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