Newspapers love core readers — our loyal, longtime fans of the print edition. But as this group dwindles, a new group of digital readers is craving new ways of accessing the news.

To offer something better for everyone, The Spokesman-Review flipped its current subscription model on its head with its “Connected” packages.

For decades, delivery options boiled down to how often customers wanted the printed newspaper. Online/mobile options were considered extra up-sells. But with “Connected,” you choose when and how to receive the newspaper — on the porch, on the computer, or by swiping your smartphone or picking up your tablet:

  • Basic “Connected” package includes a seven-day digital subscription, access to spokesman.com and spokesman.mobile, and a 30-day electronic archive.

  • “Connected Plus” users receive the “Connected” digital suite, plus print home delivery on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

  • “Connected Complete” users receive all the “Connected” features plus daily home delivery.

We also tied the “Connected” packages into another new offering: daily e-newsletters.

Anyone who registers for a free Spokesman-Review media account can sign up for free newsletters e-mailed automatically each morning, offering fresh headlines, sports scores, and more. “Connected” paid subscribers receive more options for customising their e-newsletters, including additional writers and topics.

We’ve also linked the “Connected” initiative with a new consumer database that tracks reader usage and interests. 

We anticipate that “Connected” will lead to additional newspaper subscriptions, plus growth of digital advertising revenue and greater online engagement. As people become more familiar with our online offerings, they’re likely to become regular visitors and be receptive to future digital endeavors, such as a metered Web site.

Promotional efforts included inviting former print subscribers who had switched to online readership to try “Connected” free for a month. If they called us or signed up online, they received two more months for half price. The promotion included prime-time TV commercials, a dozen billboards, and a series of print and digital ads. 

Our goal with the “Connected” campaign was to generate 3,000 trial offers by the end of 2012, and to retain at least half for a year. We sold close to 6,000 initial offers as of December 31, which tells us that users like the convenience and flexibility of online news delivery plus the traditional feel of the printed page — or possibly having both options easily available and affordable.

While it is early to gauge long-term retention, early indicators show that interest is high. Customers have been especially interested in an eight-week promotion available for half price if they call to request service or order online.

This initial success leads us to anticipate approximately US$250,000 from this programme in 2013. Other early accomplishments include a 30% increase in the number of registered users sharing their profiles with us, which are added to our e-mail/consumer database.

The e-newsletter component is another success. More than 300 subscribers have signed up for at least one topic. 

Online circulation took a small hit due to Alliance for Audited Media (AAM, formerly ABC) rules on how digital subscriptions must be tracked as part of a bundle, but this number is quickly growing as more users become familiar with our digital version.

Since the launch of the “Connected” campaign, we have seen a significant jump in pageviews and unique visitors to our news page and our subscriber page, which is where registered visitors can customise profiles.

Users can create an avatar, a photo, or a graphic they feel best represents their online persona. This avatar will show up in any story page or blog post they comment on, which adds extra interaction that wasn’t possible in the traditional print world.

The “Connected” campaign is proving to be an effective means to deliver news and advertising to current and future readers. It gives customers what they want and lets us be even more responsive.