While others shy away from teleworking, Zurich journalist Leila Alder is developing her own online magazine. She explains how to create engaging content as a freelance journalist in the age of Covid-19.
During the coronavirus pandemic, she founded her own online magazine, among other endeavours. This is how 25-year-old Leila Alder, originally from Zurich, got ‘akut’ off the ground during lockdown. ‘For me, it was definitely the right time. I usually trust my intuition when it comes to big decisions. This was the case with akut. Although this may sound naive, my intuition has so far never failed me’, she explains. The founder and editor-in-chief adds that crises often provide opportunities for creation and innovation. In her opinion, this is exactly what the Swiss media sector is crying out for.
Owing to viral marketing, Leila Adler has been able to gain both notoriety and larger audiences for her magazine. ‘In fact, we have invested little to no money when it comes to marketing. From the start, our intention was to develop organically. I therefore made use of my contacts and, crucially, had great confidence in our product. For the launch, we shot a video that, as expected, went viral on social media. This gave us a flying start’, says Adler. Today, she still applies the same content marketing strategy, thereby reinforcing her company’s image. ‘Being independent allows us to follow the same content marketing strategy that I had originally envisioned. Our content is very personal and transparent, giving us a unique and authentic feel. As a result, our DNA is further defined with each new article, thereby enabling people to better identify with us. We feel the same way. The response to individual articles has been immense. I have never experienced anything like this at any of my previous employments’.
It is commonly observed that ‘any difficulties encountered with teamwork become twice as troublesome in the virtual space’. Initially, teleworking also presented its own challenges for Leila Alder. ‘Unfortunately, since our launch in the middle of lockdown, we have never had the pleasure of working together in the same office. We have had to accept the circumstances from the very start. In fact, at the beginning, I was most worried about how I would be able to make a team function when nobody really knows each other or has ever actually worked together before. Despite all this, any collaboration has gone surprisingly smoothly. This may be because I was able to recruit some pretty cool, talented and easy-going individuals.’ However, the reason behind this collaborative success may not be unique. Compared to the office working environment, several studies have found working at home to be more productive. A Stanford University study confirmed that this increased productivity was due to the quieter and more comfortable home working environment, resulting in fewer breaks and reduced sick leave.
When it comes to content creation, the founder is very clear as to what requires particular attention. ‘At akut, we are committed to slow journalism, prioritising quality over quantity. For me, it is important to create content that is well thought out, solid, carries a real message and is true to our DNA. Our goal is not to generate large volumes of clicks with articles designed for search engine optimisation, rather to cultivate our own “akut language”. At the end of the day, I prefer having fewer, but valuable, clicks’, says Alder. She also underlines the importance of article design, because, at akut, content and aesthetics must go hand in hand.
‘All too often, especially in the digital sphere, readers are forced to choose between aesthetically pleasing content and in-depth articles. We aim to combine the two.’ With a strong presence on Instagram, the journalist is able to showcase her magazine’s qualities. ‘Our target audience is most active and best represented on Instagram. This platform also provides space for written content, which is extremely important to us. I also find TikTok to be an exciting platform, however we are still working on a suitable concept. In my opinion, Facebook is dead, whereas Snapchat, at least for me, is too lowbrow.’
Alder favours topics that transcend generations and are calibrated to their target audience: men and women between the ages of 20 and 40 interested in culture, society and lifestyle. ‘Naturally, you always have to test the waters a little, try things out, make mistakes… You can never be 100% certain how the content will be received. We are still young, still learning, still figuring out the tastes and preferences of our community. That being said, I often rely on my instincts. I closely monitor our readership statistics, feedback and information garnered from social networks. You have to know your audience to be able to provide them with attractive content.’ That said, for the founder, organic comments and feedback prove more valuable than statistics. ‘Our readership is highly engaged, which is really great! The feedback we receive on social media is especially helpful in producing content. This lets us know what people like and what direction we ought to go in.’
Text by Evgenia Kostoglacis