When it comes to providing value at a news media company, it’s about offering people what they really want. Kicking off the Brainsnacks session at INMA World Congress 2017, executives from two companies shared their journeys to put value at the forefront of their offerings.

After Australia’s Fairfax Media launched its paywall in 2013, the company noticed its maturing subscription strategy was falling flat.

Michael Laxton, chief marketing officer for Fairfax Media, speaks during the Brainsnacks session of INMA World Congress on Sunday.
Michael Laxton, chief marketing officer for Fairfax Media, speaks during the Brainsnacks session of INMA World Congress on Sunday.

 

Michael Laxton, chief marketing officer for Fairfax Media, said growth had been primarily driven by promotional offers: “We sold the sizzle and not the steak.” 

To address this, Fairfax used three key points driven by audience needs to re-evaluate the strategy:

  • Finding the right audience with the propensity to pay.
  • Using content as the key differentiator in the market.
  • Demonstrating value in paying by moving away focus on cost.

Using these points, Fairfax moved into a digital-first, data-led model. The data uncovered an interesting fact: Some visitors to the Web site portrayed habits similar to that of subscribers. One aspect became a key driver for Fairfax.

“Bringing in personalisation was a big piece for us,” Laxton said.

Fairfax did this in each content pillar, using personalisation to build new audience groups.

Driven by the news strategy, Fairfax saw a 7% increase in total subscriber revenue, and a 21% increase in paywall conversion.

The key is focusing on these content pillars, Laxton said: “We made sure we narrowed down the focus of people that are going to pay for those subscriptions.”

Like Fairfax, Cox Media Group recognised the need to revamp an aspect of their offering to build stronger value for the community: the company’s brand.

Rob Yarin, vice president of content strategy and research, speaking during Brainsnacks at the INMA World Congress.
Rob Yarin, vice president of content strategy and research, speaking during Brainsnacks at the INMA World Congress.

Rob Yarin, vice president of content strategy and research, said the journey to rebrand began when people would point out audience-driven brand campaigns at other organisation: “And we say, wait a minute, we’ve done research with our consumer.”

Cox Media group identified four categories of value to drive a marketing campaign:

  • Personal ritual: Readers want content days a week.
  • Community pride: Cox Media connects readers to their community.
  • Real journalism: Readers want Cox Media to expose things they do not know about.
  • Civic responsibility: The company and its readers have a responsibility to the community.

Using its audience base, Cox tested slogans. Phrases that portrayed any negative connotation, such as “No fake news. Get real. Get the truth” did not take off, but tapping into the local aspect such as “Know what’s really going on in your city” grabbed attention.

Cox built a campaign on trust and honesty without using those words. This was heavily debated internally, Yarin said, but ultimately decided that was not the message that would reach their audience: “We don’t believe given our constituents, our customers, we can win an argument with, ‘We tell the truth.’”