On this week’s episode of the Brand Publishing Show we spoke with Activision Blizzard’s editor-in-chief about the company’s ambitions to use content to deepen relationships with its 500 million customers.
Andrew Nusca was a top editor at Fortune and the first executive editor at Morning Brew. Now, in a newly created role at Activision Blizzard, he’s figuring out how to create a publication that can speak to gamers of all walks of life – whether they consider themselves gamers or not.
“What I’m here to do is create a direct relationship with our customers. We already have that with our games, quite successfully. But we’re interested in reinforcing them. I’m here to do that through some pretty old-school technology: Text, images, newsletter,” he said.
On this week’s episode, Nusca talked about how and why Activision sees content as an important part of how it engages with customers, why it launched a newsletter on Substack, and how he’s working with internal insights teams in order to build a picture of what the Activision Blizzard customer base looks like.
Why brand publishing is a necessity
“It’s good business regardless of the business you’re in. Do you want to be a brand or company that sells commodities to people? Brands want to have this deeper connection. They don’t have intermediaries anymore. They don’t have to own a printing press to reach their customers. So they’re trying to use the same tools media companies are using but in pursuit of a slightly different mandate. I think what’s happening is a resurgence of something that started a long time ago, but is bigger now. Walt Disney has this famous chart of his business, unearthed by Jeffrey Katzenberg. It shows the various parts of what we recognize as the modern media company, including the Disney magazine and other things. Brands are getting wiser to that.”
On building a new muscle inside Activision Blizzard
“I’ve been granted a tremendous amount of independence. I have to communicate what it is I’m trying to do. Repeating that over and over. We’re a huge company, we have thousands of employees all over the world. It’s going to take time for people to get used to this effort. A lot of my time is spent doing that, feeling out where there are mismatched expectations or friction. That’s where I’ve been spending my time in the earliest days.”
Figuring out the audience for ABK
“We are a company with such a large customer base and having to serve them all is like huffing oxygen. One of my first calls was to the head of data analytics and customer insights with each major division of the company. I wanted them to tell me about their customers. In classic editorial, we have personalities, like “Jane is a 45-year-old entrepreneur, she reads Fortune.” I have to do the same thing here because it’s bigger, because gaming is mainstream. You have teens in mom’s basement, people like my wife who don’t consider themselves gamers, but totally do stuff on their phone.”
Launching a newsletter – on Substack
“Activision Blizzard is really good at making games, but it’s not in the habit of making publications. So, we needed something from a third party that would be easy to support for a small or mighty team.”
“The reason newsletters are so in right now is we just got finished with a decade of lots of content production, lots of content distribution, and not a whole lot of relationship with your audience. The reckoning is happening with media companies right now, and social media companies that are platforming that content. It turns out that having a direct relationship with your reader, viewer, is the core of every good business. I don’t have to make every single post fight for its existence like I did in the heady days of web publishing. Starting with a newsletter gives me a firm, stable ground to build many other things. We have a subscription list to start with.”
This episode was edited by Eric Johnson at LightningPod.fm.