Bell Media refreshes The Loop, promotes sharing

Revamp comes less than two years after rebrand of the former Sympatico

As part of an ongoing review and refresh of its digital properties, Bell Media has re-launched its lifestyle and entertainment hub with a new visual identity and a greater emphasis on shareable content.

Mark Swierszcz director, digital specialty content for Bell Media, said that everything from how headlines are written to how video is shot is now being done with an eye to increasing its shareability, which he said has surpassed search as the primary means of online discovery.

The power of this new approach was demonstrated when a recent content piece that reached more than 300,000 people via social media produced a 60% spike in unique visitors to the site.

“This is exactly why we built this,” said Swierszcz. “Publishers are trying to get new audiences and push video. That used to be through search engine marketing and optimization and Google, but sharing is the new way.

“Stories that have blown up on Facebook and Twitter, what they bring back organically is a fresh audience, and that’s really exciting to see. It’s about people sharing really good content – that’s the space we’re trying to play in.”

The site now has a BuzzFeed-like feel, with a constantly updated content stream built around the pillars of celebrity, style, health, fitness, humour and everyday how-to’s.

Recent features on the site have included “The most outrageous things ever confiscated at a Canadian border,” “8 times you should absolutely not take a selfie” and “These are, without a doubt, the funniest GIFs you’ll ever see.”

The site also aims to bring a Canadian identity to this content, with Swierszcz saying that a lot of Canadian content previously buried under click-generating headlines is now presented “above the fold,” and in a more refined manner.

While it will take time for comScore data to reflect the changes, Swierszcz said that internal analytics have shown a “nice bump” in unique visitors and a 30% increase in video views, which was one of the key priorities of the re-launch. Bell also said that the site has seen a 27% in social shares since a soft re-launch last month.

The re-launch also featured a partnership with Value Village called “Style on a budget,” a video series in which The Loop’s editorial team transformed cheaply bought items from the store using some simple DIY approaches.

“It’s a great example of creating content that’s completely relevant to the consumers, customized for the demographic of the property it’s running on,” said Nancy McConnell, Bell’s vice-president of digital sales. “They’re really simple, fun and very shareable pieces that really take advantage of the content creation skills that Bell Media has.”

McConnell said there will “absolutely” be more bespoke content initiatives like this from Bell Media. Whether it’s large-scale shows like The Amazing Race Canada or smaller ventures such as the partnership with Value Village, the company has considerable expertise in creating “culturally relevant” content that clients are eager to associate with, she said.

The site is also offering a full suite of advertising options, including the IAB’s Rising Stars ad units.

The Loop revamp includes a visual update, also developed in-house, featuring a new colour palette and revamped logo, with the “O’s” in the word “loop” now made up of the infinity symbol.

The update comes less than two years after Bell rebranded its portal as The Loop in December 2012. With close to 1 million monthly unique visitors – plus a sizeable international audience – The Loop was one of the priorities for Bell Media in an ongoing refresh of its digital properties that Swierszcz said is about one-third complete.

“I didn’t want to move forward with anything else until we did this one properly,” said Swierszcz. “We were able to put the right message in place for data collection and testing, and how to properly apply the learnings from that to create better content that people would share more.”

The revamp is being supported by a month-long promotional campaign across Bell Media properties.

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