Gorkana’s Ben Spencer catches up with Ian Betteridge, editorial director of Dennis’ tech title, Alphr, to find out how it has established itself as a top tech brand, why he decided to embark on a tour of key tech PR firms and how it’s built a more gender-balanced audience than your average tech title.
It’s just over a year since we last talked to Alphr. What have been some of major changes since then?
We’ve achieved an awful lot in that time, including all the major goals which we set ourselves when we started. We grew traffic significantly, doubling it from September 2015 to 2016. We won three awards, including the AOP’s digital launch of the year.
We also established ourselves as a brand, which, when you’re effectively starting from no profile whatsoever, is important. Just as important as all that, though, we’ve had a lot of fun and created some really good content too.
You recently embarked on a tour of key PR companies. What were some of the latest technology trends that were discussed?
The reason we decided to tour the PR companies was simple: we realised that PRs spend a lot of time coming to visit us and talk about what heir clients are up to, but we barely ever go out to them to tell them about what we’re doing. So, we decided to head out on the road – and also take breakfast.
It gave us the chance to talk about all of the Dennis Technology brands, including Alphr, Expert Reviews, and IT Pro, and also about what we saw as the most important technology trends for us over the coming year.
Those include the smart home – if you can think of an object, someone’s making a “smart” version of it – diversity in the technology industry and how consumer and business technologies are moving much closer together.
You mentioned last time that the site has channels for business, science, life and culture, wearable tech and cars. What has been some of the most interesting piece of content on these?
I think my personal favourite was a long form piece by one of our staff writers, Thomas McMullan, on how Virtual Reality will change how we see violence. It was everything that I think Alphr is all about: smart, thought provoking, and highly-original.
The title aims to “explain technology to everyone”; making it interesting and entertaining without dumbing it down. Has your readership changed or expanded in any way in the last 12 months?
One of the most interesting things about launching a new brand is seeing how different audiences pick up on your content, and letting that steer your direction a bit. We’ve found that articles around how technology is changing business, particularly about startups, have been really successful.
Likewise our coverage of cars has expanded a lot, because we’ve found there’s an audience that wants to know everything about the cutting edge of automotive tech. But the figure that I’m most proud of is that we’ve managed to gain a better gender balance than you normally see for technology sites: 42% of our audience is female.
How is the editorial team structured?
We keep it very flat, but also very fluid. As editorial director, I’m in charge of the overall direction and tone of the site, but my team of writers and have a lot of freedom in terms of what they work on.
Curtis Moldrich, for example, has pretty-much steered the car coverage himself – it’s something he’s passionate about. All of our writers also commission content from freelancers with me mentoring them on how to commission and edit. And at the centre of things is Monica Horridge, our amazing managing editor, who keeps everyone on the right track.
How can PRs help with specific areas of the site?
All of the people who work on Alphr have their own specific areas of interest, so it helps if PRs know what our passion points are. We’re always open to pitches, especially if the idea is a novel one. The most important thing is for PRs to do their homework in terms of what we cover: take a look at the kind of content we write, and pitch accordingly.
What are your plans for the year ahead?
The most important thing is to keep pushing the boundaries of what a tech site can do. Keep creating great content which is true to that idea of being smart, thought-provoking and original. I’d expect our automotive coverage to keep developing, including reviewing more cars as technology becomes more central to them. But the most important thing is maintain the high standards we’ve set ourselves. If we do that, we’ll be on the right track.
- Ian was talking to Gorkana’s Ben Spencer