ANZ dips toe into digital publishing with BlueNotes

To some degree banks have always been publishers, producing voluminous pamphlets and documents relating to their accounts, interest rates and credit card deals. And while this has served the utilitarian purpose of providing information to both current and potential clients, it has always been a bit vapid in the story-telling department.

So, in an effort to fill the narrative-shaped hole in its offering, ANZ has launched BlueNotes, a digital publishing site updated daily with news stories directly relevant to the bank and the financial industry.

Shortly after launching BlueNotes on 15 April, publisher Amanda Gome told AdNews that the project is in some ways a response to the exodus of business journalists, who have been forced out of the traditional publishing industry due to diminishing advertising revenue. She said that BlueNotes is effectively an effort by the bank to tell the stories that consumers want to hear.

“It’s designed to offer thought-provoking content, drawing from ANZ’s role in the economy and society and our unique business strategy focussed on Australia, New Zealand and the Asia-Pacific,” says ANZ’s head of corporate affairs Peter Parussini.

And while much of the content is geared at the much bigger audience across the ditch, Parussini says that Kiwis are definitely also on the editors’ radar.

“New Zealand is already very much an important part of BlueNotes, with a number of contributors and content from this country on a range of subjects,” he says. “Well-known New Zealand business journalist and commentator Bernard Hickey features prominently with the site edited by award-winning former AFR senior journalist Andrew Cornell, who is based in Melbourne but will travel around to gather some of his stories. For example, he’s in New Zealand [this]week for Fieldays.”

By incorporating this publishing aspect into its comms strategy, ANZ is following in the footsteps of other major brands, such as Red Bull and Coca-Cola, which are using their websites as platforms to release content to consumers.   

“Increasingly, business communication needs to be a conversation based on great ideas, insights and top quality content rather than a broadcast by media release, advertisement or brochure,” says Parussini. “BlueNotes is designed to meet this need. It won’t replace the traditional forms of communication, but is designed to extend and complement them. We also want to use this content to stimulate a new conversation through social media.”

Since its launch, the website has tallied 30,000 unique views, 14.5 percent of which came from New Zealand.

And while this seems impressive for a brand new publisher, it’s worth noting that ANZ’s publishing project started with a strong base made up of its 56,687 (16.4 percent in New Zealand) staff members, which all receive the publication’s newsletters. In addition to this, the bank has also added 937 external subscribers, with 5.2 percent located in New Zealand.

“It’s early days but we’re really pleased with the following after less than two months. Anecdotally, we’re hearing that many of the New Zealand followers are media, commentators, politicians and other opinion leaders,” says Parussini.

The content does seem be attracting interest from the New Zealand-based audience when articles with a Kiwi angle are released. At the time of writing, articles written by Hickey and those with a Kiwi focus all showed strong readership numbers among those located in New Zealand.      

Articles by Bernard Hickey

Top three articles with a New Zealand focus

When it came to the overall most-read articles, Kiwi interest was substantially lower.

Article readership – BlueNotes top five

Even if the website does develop an even bigger audience, Parussini concedes that it still be difficult to quantify the exact value of the engagement in monetary terms, but he says that this isn’t necessarily the underlying goal of the project.

“We haven’t heard about anyone getting a home loan from us because of something they read on BlueNotes,” he says. “But having a high and strong profile, one that is talked about in a positive light, is an important part of the strength of a brand and, therefore, being part of a customer’s consideration set when they come to buy.”

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