Audience funnel changes organisational structure, strategic focus at Hamburger Abendblatt

By Ruth Betz

Funke Mediengruppe

Hamburg, Germany

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If you ask publishers what their main pain point is, most of the time the answer is pretty straightforward: We need more subscribers.

Sometimes the answer it is more elaborate: We need to keep our subscribers with us.

Of course, that is true. But is that the end to the story?

Think about your own behaviour. For example, this happened to me on a shopping tour Saturday afternoon on Mönckebergstraße in Hamburg, Germany. I had three boys with me, and they were not interested in any tech or coffee store, unfortunately. But then they saw “LEGO” and we stopped. On the left side were “LEGO friends” in the shopping window. This was not interesting. But on the right side was LEGO VIDIYO, a music video maker. Now we were talking.

The line in front of the store was long, and the shopping window shows only a small selection of VIDIYO products. We were about to leave when a shop employee came out and offered a free catalogue. We started leafing through the catalogue, and I remembered happy Thursday afternoons: Once a month, LEGO invites all kids to come to the store and build a small figure (there was a cute hedgehog last time!) for free to take home.

So, we waited in line, got in the shop, decided on one product, and went home. The product proved to be as much fun as it looked from the outside, but it takes more music tiles to keep being funny. So instead of returning the product, we decided to go back and get more tiles — regularly, as new tiles keep coming from week to week.

If we transfer this behaviour to the publishing world, we quickly recognise parallels.

The audience funnel is not only about conversions and how to keep them paying. We need to offer a customer journey that gradually brings readers closer to the brand, convinces them, and enables a long-term relationship. The journey starts at the first contact (the shop window with the right product), continues with engagement (the catalogue leafing) and habituation (come back regularly for a reason), and results in conversion (buy the product) and retention (buy tiles again and again).

Publishers often employ dedicated team members to take care of reach and conversion, but the mid-funnel needs the same attention for a joyful and successful customer journey. Therefore, at Funke Mediengruppe, we decided to strengthen our organisational structure with squad teams consisting of dedicated team members for each level of the audience funnel. The first squad team started a year ago in North Rhine Westphalia (WAZ). At Hamburger Abendblatt, the squad team was launched in April and has since accelerated developments for every level.

The content analysis agenda for all editorial teams includes dashboard insights and topics that should be continued, strengthened, discussed, not forgotten, and repeated.
The content analysis agenda for all editorial teams includes dashboard insights and topics that should be continued, strengthened, discussed, not forgotten, and repeated.

For the top of the funnel (reach) we adjusted our Facebook pixel, thus enabling optimised Facebook pushes with a significantly growing number of Facebook referrals that convert into subscriptions.

To put the right product in the shop window that attracts a wider target group, we carried out an intensive content analysis and identified the “unmet audience needs.” The content analysis identified topics to follow up on that we categorised the following way: dashboard insights, topics that should be continued, strengthened, discussed, not forgotten, and repeated.

As a result, our editorial team worked in a more data-inspired way and carried out tests on the paywall to find the optimal balance between free and paid.

For the mid-funnel with more engagement, we replaced our “question of the day” widget with an opener widget that combines the question with a thank you campaign.

For more habituation, we launched more newsletter formats. To show our appreciation for our paying customers, we even started a premium newsletter with background stories from our editorial team.

In regard to the bottom of the funnel with conversion and retention optimisation, we decided not to focus on daily new subscribers but only on yearly subscriptions. Therefore, we launched a very successful campaign (“100% my city. 50% saving.”) with an A/B test on visuals that was especially attractive for 12-month subscriptions.

At the same time, we are working on an onboarding route that will increase the touchpoints from three (in 30 days) to 12 (in 50 days) and make our digital product worlds transparent with high-quality articles, podcasts, newsletters, magazines, E-paper, events, and more.

Subscription and reach development data from one of the editorial teams after content analysis, strong topics, and paywall tests at the end of April 2021.
Subscription and reach development data from one of the editorial teams after content analysis, strong topics, and paywall tests at the end of April 2021.

We also started a survey for new subscribers after three weeks to ensure we understand their needs, notice dissatisfaction, and take countermeasures.

The moment the squad team started its work with dedicated team members for each level, individual actions became strategic, related projects that together led to a customer journey that optimally accompanies the reader at every evolutionary stage. But that is not automatic.

At the daily stand-up meeting, we discuss each project in early stage from multiple perspectives. We let data inspire us and coordinate our approach.

Above all is the knowledge that our product is valuable and that we would like to take this product to existing and future readers as closely as possible and improve it based on their feedback. The audience funnel approach enables us to design the entire customer journey and benefit from all perspectives.

About Ruth Betz

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