Happy first birthday, GazetteXtra.com.

The Gazette’s new paid content strategy became a year old on July 30, 2014. To celebrate, I’m using this space as an update on where we’ve been and what we hope to yet accomplish.

In 2012, we started to execute our roadmap to the future. The DNA of the plan was, and is, to greater monetise our two core assets — content and audience.

Specifically, our objectives were to grow revenue, build a great content management system, integrate with existing publishing systems, drive efficiency, develop a platform to personalise the user experience, and keep a keen eye on emerging digital trends, both inside and outside our industry.

We are doing very well, thank you. Just in the first year, we delivered on nearly all objectives.

GazetteXtra.com will continue to evolve and get better.

Financially, the payday has exceeded forecast and expectations — not just digital growth, but an amazing uptick in print single-copy sales.

After launch, the supply of free news and information dried up. GazetteXtra.com provides zero premium free stories per month. As a result, consumers flung themselves at single-copy locations.

As we work hard to replace lost legacy dollars, we are reminded of a new future unfolding. Having a plan is great, but reaching beyond the opportunities of yesterday takes tenacity.

We’re far from finished. So here’s what we’re working on.

  1. We’ve saturated the hardcore news segment.

    It’s safe to say the industry’s approach to bundling print and online revealed more of the past than the future. Customers sitting on a seven-day frequency mean big money.

    However, relying solely on age-old subscription marketing methods will not serve the occasional reader or infrequent reader well. They want choices, not a subscription bill. Gen X and Gen Y will grow up into the Boomers of today. As an industry, we need to reach out with options that make digital a truly unique experience.

    We are developing pricing packages to put the consumer and the advertiser in the driver’s seat. Simply put, consumer segments that perceive a lower value will pay, but only if the price and product is fit to match.

    The premium we charge long-term, seven-day customers is not suited to reach the younger, more mobile audience. Using data, we will match user movements to create a market position and pricing that leads to demand. It will not be the full-tilt, seven-day print plus online variety.

    Rather, it will be a careful, almost surgical connection between content types and audience segments. Once the industry understands the science behind “give me just what I want at just the price I will pay,” it will expose newspaper publishers to powerful segments that can help move their business — in both consumer and business realms.

    Consumers crave content. Advertisers reach segments with platforms that are more precise than ever before. Google, Facebook, and other platforms offer their advertisers audience targeting.

    What do you offer your advertising customers?

  2. Make it easy.

    We’ve frequently heard from some customers that they struggle at some point with our user experience. Removing confusion in this area should be a high priority on everyone’s list. It is, too, for us.

    We’ve scrutinised our sign-in, sign-up, and shopping experiences. Making things easier for our customers makes things easier for us.

    All aspects must be responsive or mobile friendly. Not just news or content pages, either. Your customers won’t know that your authentication software is a different “system” than your content management system.

    They don’t care either. Deliver your customers a seamless experience.

    That includes styles, too. Logos, fonts, colours, and layouts should look similar from page to page. Your site can be one site, but driven by different platforms. Your customers shouldn’t know the difference.

  3. Your Web site isn’t your newspaper.

    We fulfill our journalistic mission everyday with the pages of our printed daily newspaper. We even have a replica e-edition.

    Sure, like others, we flow tons of content every day online that also appears in print. Our great local content actually appears online first and then later it moves to print.

    The fact is our audiences care about other content types, too.

    If your goal is to grow engagement, move quickly to provide content that won’t appear in your printed newspaper. The challenge is to make your Web site so much more. Develop your team and resources to thrill your audiences with all your content.

  4. Optimise for search engines.

    Humans find online content one way. Machines, like Google, find it quite a different way. The task it to make it efficient for both.

    If search engine optimisation sounds like a marketing function rather than a newsroom function, think again. Your news team is closest to your content.

    Provide the support they need to get really good at optimisation techniques. Examining headline writing, tagging articles with proper taxonomy, auditing your URL structure, using photo alt tags, and utilising article links will get you started.

    Always keep video part of your plans. Google loves video so much that YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine. If you need help from outside your organisation, go get it. Fast!

    Don’t let your customers fall into your competitors’ hands. Get aggressive with your search engine optimisation.

At GazetteXtra.com, our efforts are successful, but we have much more to do. A Web site is really a living and breathing animal. It can have emotional ups and downs, it takes work, and the preparation you do today will pay off in the future.

In the first 12 months, we’ve enjoyed a steady rise in page views and visitors, significant growth among mobile users, and extremely healthy engagement indicators: time on site, return visit, and authentication growth.

We hope print will be around for a long, long time. But that’s for our customers to decide, not us.

In the meantime, we will continue to work to deliver the news, information, and content that matters most to our customers. We’ll deliver it across all platforms.

Over time, platforms change. The Gazette’s commitment to local never will. Happy birthday, GazetteXtra.com.