One of USA Today’s sports franchises is Golfweek. Golfweek started as a weekly printed magazine. Over the years, the publication has shifted, like most things, to a more digital approach.
In 2022, only four print magazines will be published. However, this is not a story of doing less. The digital audience growth in the last few years has been astonishing.
In 2020, pageviews were 154% higher than in 2019. As any digital leader can tell you, when you have growth like that, it can be a double-edged sword. The next year, you will be expected to grow as much, while competing with your previous numbers. However, the 2021 numbers are in, and Golfweek grew 200% over 2020.
I wanted to hear from managing editor Tim Schmitt on what his content strategy has been to achieve that kind of consistent growth. Here are four tips from Schmitt about Golfweek:
1. Break down the silos and use the network (or partnerships)
Although not every publication has the network that Gannett provides, a lot of media companies have arms that can be utilised. Golfweek’s approach was to create a strong partnership by tapping into something all journalists can appreciate, leveraging resources.
Schmitt’s team set up a Teams channel on Microsoft Teams (similar to Slack or Google chat rooms) that included his team and the sports reporters in major golf markets around the world. (Gannett has newspapers in Palm Beach, Phoenix, Palm Springs, Scotland, and other places with major golf tournaments.) If a reporter gets a tip, they’re encouraged to drop it in the chat and someone on the Golfweek team will write up a story that both Golfweek and the local publication can use, saving time for the local reporter and helping Golfweek gain traffic. They also team up with local reporters at major tournaments.
The result is a lot more coverage for the Golfweek team, which means they can provide a weekly golf centerpiece for print that any of the publications can use in their sports sections.
2. Turn an eye toward the ever-present print-to-digital transformation
Turning into a digital powerhouse when you were a print one not that long ago can be a tough transition. Schmitt said Golfweek has used the opportunity to break a lot more news. When your writers aren’t spending a week perfecting one story for print, there is more time to break news. This also helps establish credibility. For Golfweek, this means leaning into their excellent columnists.
Eamon Lynch has been a powerhouse at breaking news about a new Super Golf League backed by the Saudi government. LPGA reporter Beth Ann Nichols wrote a story about how course setups are holding back women’s golf, which led to numerous changes by top golf courses. Equipment columnist David Dusek got a tip that one of the top golfers, Bryson DeChambeau, was badmouthing his clubs and was able to get a quick statement from the manufacturer himself.
The result has been an increase in audience, as well as brand awareness. Golfweek has been credited with breaking news on the ESPN or CBS Sports scroll more than ever and has been sourced in numerous industry blogs.
3. Focus on evergreen content
Evergreen content is something I’ve referenced multiple times. There’s a reason for this.
Golfweek’s evergreen content is something Schmitt said has directly helped with growth. Golf runs on a yearly schedule when it comes to most tournaments. The editorial team knows where the golfers will be and when. This is a prime evergreen opportunity. Why write the “10 places to eat while in Palm Beach” story every year? Grab your last story, update it with new places, and send it out to readers.
According to Schmitt, another key has been creating evergreen galleries of some of the famous people and places throughout the years. This way, if any story is published referring to that person or place, the reporter can easily embed the gallery for extra engagement.
4. Embrace newsletters
Last is the nearest and dearest to my heart: newsletters. These offer a huge opportunity for the best content.
Golfweek’s open rate, according to Schmitt, is 30% to 35%. That is excellent. The referrals from newsletters are instrumental for Golfweek.
Schmitt’s reporters each own a newsletter that belongs to their beat. They are responsible for making sure the best stories are up top to encourage opens and click-throughs. At the very bottom is a news capsule each day, with all the strongest news from other beats.