Through its Google News Initiative’s Digital Growth Program, which was created to help small and medium-sized news organisations establish and grow their businesses, Google identified five topics that are relevant and essential to the growth of organisations:
- Audience development: Growing your readership and deepening audience engagement.
- Reader revenue: Building and strengthening subscriptions business.
- Advertising revenue.
- Data: Learning to use data to advance your digital maturity.
- Product: Using design thinking to build products that address real audience needs.
Focusing on reader revenue during the INMA Media Subscriptions Summit 4.0 on Tuesday, Ben Monnie, director for global partnerships for GNI, said one of the biggest lessons is that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.
“Every single organisation and virtually every consumer has a different approach to paid content,” he said. “But what we do know is that there are some core principles.”
Attendees learned about how two news media organisations are doing just that, thinking outside the box to create unique user experiences.
Tortoise Media, UK
In an era of fast-breaking news, Tortoise Media has taken the counter-approach: it has slowed down the messaging and, instead of trying to be heard above the rest of the digital noise, invites subscribers to do the talking.
The publication, which celebrated its two-year anniversary in April, was funded by a Kickstarter campaign and earned the distinction of being the biggest journalism project ever launched on the platform, gaining 2,000 members right off the bat.
“The promise that we made is that we would create an open system, an experience based around a ‘ThinkIn,’ and we would be slow and purposeful,” said Katie Vanneck-Smith, founder and publisher at Tortoise and former global managing director at Dow Jones London.
A ThinkIn is a “system of organised listening” that is essentially an editorial conference open to the public and including expert guests. When Tortoise launched, about 40 people attended each ThinkIn; 2020 saw that number shoot to an average attendance of 115 people. So far in 2021, the average number of attendees has exceeded 200 people per meeting.
“These open meetings are at the heart of our journalism,” Vanneck-Smith said. “We invited our members into our editorial conferences every day.”
The member-centric approach has been effective not only because Tortoise listens, but because it is designed to reach out to new readers differently. It has been able to reach students by employing a student ambassador program, and now boasts 7,800 student activations. It now has 85,000 total active members, and half of those members have been to a ThinkIn.
Singapore Press Holdings, Singapore
After noticing some readers were showing signs of “message fatigue” from experiencing all their news products in the same way, SPH brought in a B2B solutions provider that was accustomed to providing tablets to businesses for their employees, Eric Ng, vice president circulation for SPH, explained.
In a business environment, this meant being able to control the devices if an employee left the company; SPH wanted to explore how to adapt that model to the B2C environment.
Called the SPH News Tablet, it presents the same content found in the traditional print newspaper but has been completely repackaged for digital.
“We used this solution to take away the pain points for digital immigrants: You don’t have to worry about passwords, you don’t have to worry about updating your apps, we basically do it all behind the scenes,” he said. “We removed the inconvenience that comes with using your digital device.”
That solution also gave SPH the ability to remotely push updates, applications, and other app modifications to an SPH-distributed tablet. It proved to be an ideal product for older users, who appreciated the one-time setup that didn’t require a login every time and automatically downloaded the day’s news via WiFi. When the device is opened, the SPH News tab launches automatically.
Readers tend to use their tablets daily and spend 25-35 minutes with them, Ng said.
In all, SPH has picked up about 40,000 new subscriptions with the tablet, Ng said: “We are pretty amazed by the growth.”
The Summit wraps up on Thursday. You can register here to watch live or at your leisure.