The 70th World News Media Congress saw heads of newspapers and others in the media industry from across the globe come together to share best practices and learn from each other. We’ve distilled those best practices in to the key lessons you need to know.
Experiment with new formats
As one of our most recent concerns is new formats, here is what we’ve learned:
1. Newsletters simply work
We’re written before about how newspapers everywhere are learning that newsletter subscribers are the most loyal readers (Les Echos) and are twice as likely to become paid subscribers (The New York Times). We heard as well that The Washington Post has more than tripled their traffic from newsletters–they call these subscribers “enrollees”. From a presentation from Axios, we learned why people like newsletters so much:
- It is pushed to them
- It gives them a sense of completion
- It gives rhythm to the day
- It builds a more personal relationships between reporters and readers
2. Try digital-only editions
If the research report “Reinventing Digital Editions” didn’t pique your interest in digital-only editions, Lisa MacLeod’s story will. The Tiso Blackstar Group in South Africa has experimented with publishing a digital-only edition called ‘Times Select‘. This new edition was created in a short period of time, using the modular capabilities of their CMS. Since the launch, the edition has attracted several thousands of readers who have showed a high willingness to pay for this finished product experience.
3. Old brands can become sexy to young audiences via Snapchat
Louis Dreyfus revealed that by being present on Snapchat, Le Monde now reaches 900,000 young people. The French newspaper started experimenting with Snapchat in September 2016, with the creation of a Snapchat Discover team. Every day 12 stories, generally ‘hard news’ stories such as politics and terrorism, are adapted for the younger audience and published at 17h on Snapchat. Topics that are interesting for millennials but not covered as in-depth in the print paper are also published. By allowing the newspaper to reach a younger audience, while experimenting with new formats, it is considered a strategically important investment.
First signs of less dependency on social
While there has been a drop in Facebook-referral traffic due to newsfeed algorithm changes, this hasn’t negatively affected publishers as much as previously feared for two main reasons.
1. Loyal users don’t come from social
In a study of over 500 news websites, the websites with the most loyal users had more direct visits and less visits from social media.
“It is now more likely that when someone reads a news site on a phone, that they went there directly versus via their Facebook feed.” – Josh Schwartz, Head of Product, Engineering, Data at Chartbeat
2. Google picking up the slack
Additionally, the decrease in visits from Facebook has been made up by the increase in referral traffic from Google. In WAN IFRA’s World Press Trends study, we learned that Google search has been growing tremendously on mobile devices, which is partly explained by the growing success of AMP.
We can learn something from Spotify and Netflix
While there’s been a lot written about creating a ‘Spotify for news’ or a ‘Netflix for news’, there is something else we can learn from these leaders: the more people watch Netflix or listen to Spotify, the more people in that country pay for online news. We can see that people in countries with high adoption rates for Netflix and Spotify become accustomed to paying for content online—helping to develop the reflex to pay for digital news.
For publishers, this means there is a lot of room for improvement in growing digital reader revenues. A benchmark study from by the World Press Trends shows that other digital media services, including Spotify and Netflix, have shown growth rates which are 4-5 times larger than the ones for digital news.
Use data to understand your reader journeys
We’ve seen several publishers speak about the efforts that they’ve made to further understand the reader journeys, conversion models, and churn.
1. Quantifying the importance of engagement
Many publishers have struggled in the past with the concept of engagement, but The Financial Times has been able to clearly identify that there is a correlation between higher engagement and the likelihood of subscribing. We also saw from Amedia that there is a clear correlation between visit frequency and subscription purchase, as well as later on a clear correlation between visit frequency of subscribers and retention.
2. Understand your customer journey
For Amedia being data-driven also means they’ve developed a clear customer journeys are in order to identify the critical transitions in customer relationships. Ranging from non-engaged non-subscribers to subscribers for more than 100 days, this journey shows what Amedia needs to focus on in order to move the reader further along in the process as well as predicts the probability of churning.
3. Use data to keep the subscribers you already have
We’ve focused on reducing churn in the past–next-generation publishers see their next stage of growth coming from smarter retention and engagement efforts. Aftenposten believe sales skill alone will not get them their next 100k digital subscribers; instead there is a need for a mindset shift to “lasting relationships.”
The Washington Post’s Miki Toliver King introduced us to the idea of ‘involuntary churners’–subscribers who would continue to subscribe but involuntarily churn instead. She had a feeling that some subscribers when churning when their credit cards expired, so instead of simply sending an email reminder she also had a pop up warning subscribers to update their information while reading on the website as well. Since 2016 this small action has increased 19% the amount of ‘suspended users’ from churning.
Interestingly, we also heard from Amedia’s Pål Nedregotten that women subscribers churn less on average than male subscribers do.