The Vancouver Sun and The Province, published by Pacific Newspaper Group in Vancouver, Canada, are the second and third largest English-language metro dailies in Canada.

In the fall of 2011, a digital product group was formed to create new products, integrate digital initiatives across departments, and maximise revenue opportunities.

The group has focused primarily on creating monetisable, sustainable products, and on passive revenue streams including Outbrain, Taboola, and even an online dating channel for our tabloid property, The Province.

Two of our largest projects to date have involved creating niche products to serve specific demographic communities.

As a Pacific Rim city, we had a unique opportunity: to engage our large and growing Chinese and South Asian communities by creating specialised products that are affiliated with our reputable, well-established brands for these audiences.

We focused first on the Chinese community, the largest visible minority group in Metro Vancouver, representing about 20% of the area’s population.

A cross-departmental working group – the digital product team, editorial, advertising, marketing, and creative – came together to create Taiyangbao.ca (which literally means Sun newspaper), a Chinese-language Web site that launched in December, 2011.

The site has a talented bilingual editor who was already employed in The Vancouver Sun newsroom. We needed minimal additional resources, since the business plan called only for the site to turn a modest profit in its first nine months – which it exceeded.

Currently, the editor selects 15 to 20 of The Sun’s best stories each day to be posted in both traditional and simplified Chinese. He also writes breaking news in real time and oversees a team of bloggers who are influential members of the Chinese community locally and abroad.

We also partnered with the largest immigrant services group in the area to publish its Chinese community newsletter. Chinese-language wire content comes from AFP and Bloomberg.

The site’s initial revenue model was three-month sponsorships, which sold out, and remains sold out now as well. Advertising opportunities include sponsored blogs, home page takeovers, directed content, video, and even a self-serve news release system where clients can post an announcement for C$60.

Traffic currently runs at about 600,000 page views and 26,000 unique visitors monthly, and we are rolling out an expanded content and marketing plan that we anticipate will boost those numbers. For example, a recent marketing initiative at a popular Chinese mall over lunar New Year week resulted in almost 1,000 new customers for a daily newsletter and e-mail alerts.

Following on Taiyangbao’s success, we launched Vancouverdesi.com last October. It’s produced in English by The Province newsroom for our Indo-Canadian community.

Again, we offer sponsorships as well as a number of small, tile ad placements. Inventory is currently sold out, and we are just embarking on a phase two growth plan. The site had about 250,000 page views and 100,000+ uniques in January.

These niche products are still in the building phase and require ongoing cross-departmental discussion and initiative. Our model requires that we stay on the positive side of the ledger. So far, so good.