Increase Circulation and Revenue at Your Community Newspaper
Newspapers have access to valuable consumer information about their readers. But many fail to put that information into use, which could be used to segment their readership to help target content and advertising. The ownership of information and news delivery has slipped from the hands of newspapers to digital publishing brands. But all is not lost. Two can play this game.
Make the Shift
One thing is certain, everything is going digital and constant access to information is paramount. Community papers have to decide between a digital only or print-first and mobile-second direction for news delivery. Many newspapers have decided to cut down on their print circulation from daily to 3 days a week or some have gone completely digital. There is still a large number of the population that prefer to get the print option but delivering short-form content and/or video in mobile is what will make the community newspaper stand out. This will also impact the increase of your circulation and reach.
As an illustration, Tronc, which by emphaszing digital innovation and changing its name from Tribune Publishing, reports a 8% decline in advertising revenue, a 4% decline in total revenue, but a circulation revenue increase of 5%. Compared to The New York Times, recording a year-over-year decline of 9% in advertising revenue, an overall revenue decline of 2%, but a 3% rise in circulation revenue. For the industy, digital circulation sales are projected to lead the way compared to print circulation sales, with a 5-year gain of 300%.
Many local papers utilize what technology is readily available to them. Some use Facebook Live to chat to locals and talk about a new spot that is opened for promotion. This helps your community connect in a more personable level with your brand. Twitter can be purposed for instant traffic, sports or even disaster update reporting. Utilize Instagram for weekly shots of community events and have locals tag their friends and family to the photos. Join in on finance and business conversations by featuring your articles in Linkedin groups. But to be on top of the social media game, there needs to be a centralized process for developing content and posting it online at the right time.
One main platform many businesses use to manage and preschedule many of their planned social media posts is Hootsuite. They offer up to 3 free accounts for scheduling posts and also offer automated posting for when each social media is most active. This helps automate the process and stops the worrying if the post was sent or not.
Offer “News2go” Memberships
It should come as no surprise that with the growth of news and information consumption online, many subscription models have changed. Recently, we talked about how the new generation of Millennials have brought forth the new way of having access to our needs. Platforms such as Spotify offer music sharing for a low monthly cost, Netflix displays commercial free tv shows and movies, or Zipcar hones in on car sharing, where the need for having access to a vehicle without owning it, solves a need.
The same is true with accessing news and content from newspapers. Smaller screens and limited time, require that information is short and grabs attention. This also includes reducing page load time by focusing on cleaner content and article pages with quality photo galleries. Each access to an article needs to be captured and studied, so that the reader behaviour dictates what the next article or topic of focus should be within that section.
While focusing on how readers interact with news and content, other important engagement points to be considered include, how to offer a continued interaction service and pricing it right. Nowadays, few plan for anything longer than 2 weeks. So when you have engaged readers, it is now or never to get their attention and also display the value you offer. As the saying goes, “The cost is long forgotten but the quality is remembered forever.”
One way newspapers have found that sweet spot was conducting a basic poll project with their readers on how much they would pay for a monthly subscription. The sweet spot for their digital subscriptions were $5 per month. Take time to see what your customers have to say about costs.
An additional step is actually focusing on when certain topics are popular and presenting a “news2go” program. If it is sports season, make sure you offer a sports reporting program for the whole week. If it is graduation season, focus on the finance or work content and send bi-weekly newsletters with catchy infographics.
Create a Local “Groupon” Space
With access to products and services online, readers take more care when selecting what to buy and where to go eat or go on holiday. Online recommendations are key when completing any transaction online. This trend has also given rise to building trusted brands and e-commerce sites where buyers and sellers are confident in their transactions.
Platforms like Groupon, offer value by negotiating a good deal locally or internationally for a certain period which provides urgency and desire. Amazon is another great example, where a brand can dictate how certain holidays and seasons affect user behaviour and cause buyers to plan their calendars around their special events.
In the same way, newspapers are a trusted brand for their communities, where there is an opportunity to plan activities and events in advance and know what services or products will cause excitement with their readers. This could include negotiating with a local restaurant a set meal and a set of tables reserved for Valentine’s day. Another option could be a package of 5 classes from a local gym or dance studio for New Year resolutions. Make it more exciting by offering the deal codes in print and announce the dates of publishing on social media for each month.
Partnerships are another way to go on certain topics that are important to your community. From plant care to animal care, partnerships with a local floral or pet store to deliver kits that provide weekly supplies would create additional value and linking them online with newsletters on how to use the kits from their local experts. As an example, The New York Times launched a meal delivery kit in partnership with a start-up called Chef’d. Subscribers got door deliveries of portioned ingredients to create a meal from one of the newspaper’s archive of recipes.
Take advantage of the Internet
In many ways, local brand names can reach the national news and at the same time national brands can reach the international news stage. Specifically for local communities, any story can instantly become viral and connect with millions of readers.
There are big and small ways to take advantage of the data internet provides. Segment your homepage by short and long reads or offer 5 minute articles versus 40 minute reports. Showcase which article is being read the most right now, depending on the newspaper section the reader is in. This will allow first time visitors to easily choose how long they can spend on your website or what topic is hot right now. Connect one article that has a similar content with another article through defined categories. Offer a newsletter on your blogs that contain certain topics from your popular writers and reporters. Go a little further and link your staff social media accounts with their newspaper profiles and allow your readers to connect with your newspaper in a personable way.
Make use of your digital display ad space. Banner ads are one of the largest segment of this space with about 20% growth in the previous years. Although video and rich media ads have a higher revenue growth percentage year over year, making sure you target your ads according to the content being read, makes the difference from an engaged to a disengaged reader.
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