The Denver Post has achieved this growth in digital subscriptions through:
- Securing leadership buy-in and greater understanding from the newsroom
- Building a culture of growing subscriptions through data-driven insights
- Surfacing content that converts their audience to paying subscribers
- Supplementing the paywall with an email campaign digital strategy
We connected with Dan Petty of Digital First Media, The Denver Post’s parent company, on how their participation in the Subscriptions Accelerator impacted their subscription model.
Securing Internal Buy In
To build out its subscriptions program, Petty said, The Denver Post first needed buy-in from its leadership team and its newsroom.
“We attended the Accelerator when we were budgeting and setting goals,” Petty said. “Senior leadership asked for a plan.”
“We were able to pull in corporate resources because we could say ‘This plan is possible. Look at what these other publishers [that attended or presented at the Accelerator] are doing. Look at what our Accelerator coaches are saying. It was a big thing.’”
Getting buy-in from the newsroom was also critical, Petty said. The team did so by aligning the newsroom’s goals with the subscription model’s goals.
“It was clear our momentum had shifted to subscriptions. We worked with the newsroom to set goals focused on revenue [from subscriptions] rather than audience growth. Having access to experts at the Accelerator helped build our confidence in this new approach.”
The newsroom could then work towards goals that aligned with the subscription model (increasing revenue by increasing subscriptions) rather than clashed with it (increasing advertising revenue by increasing audience size).
Using Data-Driven Decisions to Grow Subscriptions
The Denver Post used part of the Accelerator grant to invest in a data-driven culture. They started by investing in the tools and measurements to help them get there. Mather’s listening tool provides The Denver Post with a hefty report, for instance, providing them with actionable, data-driven insights.
“Now, we better understand the content that converts and the path to conversion,” Petty said. “We have incredible insights into the behavior of our target audiences.”
Understanding this data helped them make decisions like deciding to focusing on two strategic initiatives to drive subscriptions:
- Surfacing the content that converts: hyper-local news
- Working to launch a dynamic paywall that’s based on user behavior
Surfacing the Content That Converts
The Denver Post’s insights also surfaced the content that converts. “Our stories that convert to digital subscriptions — they’re local news.” Petty said.
Petty dug into the content with the highest potential to convert. It included coverage of:
- Crimes and courts
- Local news
- State news
- High school sports
- Local businesses
- Local politics
- Real estate
“Take our high school sports content,” Petty cited as an example. “It has a smaller, passionate community. It’s intensely local coverage. While that content doesn’t drive a lot of eyes, it does drive a ton of subscriptions.”
By September, The Denver Post had data showing that their local readers converted to become subscribers at three times the rate than non-local readers did.
“Seeing that our hyper-local, unique content converts is really validating,” Petty said. “We know we can double down on high school sports content, for instance, because it has impact.”
Pro Tip: Petty said The Denver Post also uses these insights to boost content on Facebook with the highest potential to convert.