Think Tank

What we learned from our “Best of Local” study tour in May 2022

After two years of pandemic, we were thrilled to kick off our study tour through regional media houses in Germany, entitled “Best of Local”. We talked mainly about digital subscriptions, data and products, but we learned so much more.

Our trip went from Frankfurt to Cologne and Düsseldorf. We are grateful to have had hosts like FAZ, DuMont – Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger, Rheinische Post, Funke, Google, Radio FFH, etc. On the first day we met with Benjamin Shaw, André Kittelberger, Georg Schmidt, #FAZ publisher Carsten Knop. From Stuttgarter Zeitung’s Head of Paid Content André Kittelberger we had a crash course on retention and reducing churn. The second day of the tour we met with colleagues from Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger, and we were impressed by the warm welcome of Mirco Striewski and his team. We met with Daniel Daum and his team at Rheinische Post and Christian Siebert at Funke One.

Injecting new ideas and innovation in the news ecosystem

We learned from Google that to stay ahead, publishers need to constantly start new strategic initiatives, building and exploiting many transient competitive advantages at once. The business world has been obsessed with the notion of building a sustainable competitive advantage, but it’s now rare for a company to maintain a truly lasting advantage. Competitors and customers have become too unpredictable, and industries too amorphous. In a world where a competitive advantage often evaporates in less than a year, companies can’t afford to spend months at a time crafting a single long-term strategy.

We had an exclusive preview on the GNI Publisher Sustainability Study about key success factors for subscriptions, product, audience engagement that is based on a research conducted on 450+ publishers globally.

Key Success Factors for Subscriptions are:

● Develop and continually improve your subscriber value proposition.

● Reach and more deeply engage potential subscribers.

● Convert more of your audience to subscribers.

● Reduce your subscriber churn.

● Grow subscriber lifetime value.

● Explore offering group subscriptions to organizations.

● Develop your tech stack to support and grow subscriptions.

Key Success Factors for Product:

● Identify and deeply understand your audience – information needs, behaviors and format preferences.

● Develop a content strategy that meet your audience information needs.

● Develop editorial formats & products that reach and engage new & existing audiences.

● Design and optimize your digital assets (e.g. website and app) to ensure that they are user friendly.

● Serving underrepresented audiences.

Key Success Factors: Audience Engagement:

● Optimize content distribution channels (including social media).

● Develop product features that increase customer engagement.

● Provide audience data and insights in the newsroom.

● Continually improve the journeys that customers Experience, to deepen their engagement (CX).

All of the above key success factors were confirmed by our other speakers with their best practice. The trends that we observed in all publishing houses are below, growth strategies come from:

  • Paid Content and Subscriptions are core to all media leading to an audience focused journalistic planning and product development.
  • Local media is branching out to new media: social media, video, podcasts, also important to generate traffic.
  • Newsletters became essential for audience development and reader engagement.
  • Audience focused-reporting – this leads to growth in all media houses we visited, be it restaurants, schools, green, real estate, parenting, sports, etc.
  • Marketing is a key driver.
  • Bundling of offers and added value as events, academy, online shops round up the offer.

What was not in the programme, but we loved to learn about are Smart Organizations. How are they structured and how do they work?

The new media organizations emerging operate as digital publisher. These organisations operate inside a targeted allocation of budget, resources and time – ensuring efficiency in decision-making processes. Requirements for such operations are:
– the autonomy of the interdisciplinary teams and
– the transparency about success of the implementation initiatives

They are bundling digital competencies, budgets and resources steering of long-term digital product and technology development, like in the example below:

Publishing Technology: Strategic management of technical infrastructure.
Subscription: Dynamic control of the intelligent paywall.
Product: Organizational link in the digital product landscape.
Revenue Streams: Strategic AdTech Management.
Data: Cross-functional control of “user insight”.
Audience Development: Cross-functional development of reach drivers

Our participants were more than happy at the end of the tour. Not only because of the many ideas they took home and the new colleagues met but also because of the new experiences, the stimulating environments of the tour.

Last but not least, they had a lot of fun 😊

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