In theory, social media and subscription news content shouldn’t mix.

It’s widely thought few are likely to subscribe to a news site for a piece of content they’ve stumbled upon on Facebook. But at the Herald Sun, our stats appear to be telling us something else.

The Herald Sun is out to prove that social media and subscription news can find common ground.
The Herald Sun is out to prove that social media and subscription news can find common ground.

We run a subscription digital news service with a very healthy, fast-growing paying readership.

Most of the content we produce for subscribers is original journalism about Melbourne and Victoria, Australian football, and digital specials on topics ranging from crime to local history. We also publish some content for free, particularly local breaking news or major public order incidents affecting our community and a steady amount of lifestyle and entertainment content.

And we create fun and engaging stuff we know people are likely to share and engage with as part of the mix. Much like a newspaper, it’s about light and shade.

We are often asked how we face the dilemma of subscriber-only content on social media. Our response is we don’t discriminate. If anything, we default to posting more of our subscriber content because it showcases the best of our journalism. It is what people want to follow us for.

Our interrogation of the analytics tells us something quite interesting. Our premium journalism performs better on social channels than our free content.

Our traffic from social is up 25% year on year. Subscriptions from social are up 300% since we started tracking it nine months ago. Our Facebook followers are up 59% year on year, with engagement up 25%.

And negative feedback on Facebook is down 6%.

This probably demonstrates a couple of things:

  • A lot of the people who follow us on social are our subscribers, and they want to follow us on all platforms.
  • People on social have a hunger for high-quality, original digital journalism.

It has been a long-held premise in newsrooms that social channels are not a suitable distribution channel for premium content. We are doing our best to prove otherwise.