This past month in Berlin, 14 German-language publishers got together at the Reader Revenue Accelerator to dive into their digital subscriptions strategies. One lesson over the two-day session focused on the importance of making data-informed decisions to drive subscriptions.
In selling digital subscriptions, your content strategy is your business strategy, said Eirik Winsnes, Development Editor at Aftenposten, Norway’s largest circulation print newspaper, during his presentation at the Accelerator. But “to harmonize your content strategy with your business strategy, you need to make it data driven.”
For example, Winsnes said, use data to show the newsroom what the readers appreciate, how they use the site and consume the content, and how different content resonates with different types of readers and subscribers. If the newsroom is armed with this knowledge, they can create more impactful content that will convert readers into subscribers.
Winsnes walked through four ways to build a newsroom culture that is informed by data and creates user-oriented content.
1. Establish an editorial development department.
Each member of this team has journalistic experience as well as product, marketing, or business experience. Together, the team has three primary objectives:
- Act as a driving force in creating new content and products that give users high value
- Spread knowledge and insights in an inspiring and understandable way
- Raise digital competence and empower innovation in the newsroom
The team does so by analyzing available data, uncovering patterns in user behavior, and sharing insights with the newsroom. Then, Winsnes said, it’s time to “test, nail, scale” via short experiments to find initiatives that deliver more value to users.
2. Create regular dialogue with the newsroom.
For the editorial development department’s insights to have true impact, Winsnes said, there needs to be an open dialogue within the newsroom.
For instance, Aftenposten’s team noticed that political moments increased traffic and conversion rates. The newsroom and editorial development department then worked together on how to capitalize on that jump in traffic the day after such an event. Now, the Aftenposten newsroom makes relevant pieces more evergreen in scope the day after. They promote those pieces on the homepage and through other channels like their daily podcast.
In another example, the editorial department learned they could convert more readers into subscribers by publishing digital content that explains how to use their subscriptions.
Get more ideas on practical ways to engage the newsroom around subscribers here.
3. Provide value to all your users.
Understanding the differences among your users is important, Winsnes said. Where do they come from? Who are they? What do they want from your content?
After the Aftenposten team analyzed their content’s performance, for instance, they learned that their content appeals quite differently to men and women. The newsroom now makes sure it delivers value to both men’s demonstrated interests and women’s, and monitors the performance of such topics over time.
Learn more about understanding your target users here.
4. Learn why readers aren’t converting.
Understanding what’s not working is just as important as understanding what is. Educate your newsroom on what content or features don’t seem to be resonating with readers, and why.
Winsnes said that users generally had three reasons they were disinclined to pay for content:
- Poor user experience on the site
- Perceived quality of content
- A lack of exclusive content
By understanding what’s not resonating with your users, your newsroom can change their approach accordingly.
The Accelerator Program
The Facebook Journalism Project’s Accelerator Program helps news publishers build sustainable businesses. Funded and organized by the Facebook Journalism Project (FJP), each Accelerator includes a three-month period of hands-on workshops led by news industry veterans, grants administered by non-profit journalism organizations, and regular reports on best business practices. The Accelerator’s executive director is Tim Griggs, an independent consultant/advisor and former New York Times and Texas Tribune executive.
For monthly updates on the Accelerator Program, sign up for the FJP newsletter.