Funke Mediengruppe shares its journey to a user-first strategy

By Shelley Seale

INMA

Austin, Texas, USA

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Funke Mediengruppe started a user-first initiative in late 2017 with an understanding that when it comes to sales, the media publisher needed to give customers reasons to buy its product and make that process as easy as possible.

Speaking at INMA’s Media Innovation Week in Hamburg, Germany, Ruth Betz explained this transition. When Funke starting changing internally, the focus was to make it as easy as possible for people to become subscribers.

“That was the first part of the project. It was really a good technical product approach,” Betz said. “When I joined the company a year ago, we took it to the next level.”

This entailed getting a deeper understanding of the company’s audience, she said: “We really needed to understand what we are really offering here and who we are offering it to.”

The question for the Funke team became: How does the editorial department deal with the reader of the future?

“Do they keep doing what they are doing, having a print-first approach, or should it be a purely digital-first approach? There were a lot of discussions going on.”

When Betz joined the discussion, she said it didn’t really matter whether it was print or digital — that was just the device by which their content was delivered.

“What we should talk about is the user. What does the user want?” she offered. “What are the needs of the user? And the moment we understand what does the user need, we can offer him the perfect story. And actually, I don’t care if that’s in print, or on mobile, or in an app, or the newspaper. We will deliver the perfect story, and then we will put it on the device that is needed.”

That is the approach that Betz called user-first, and the chief editors agreed. From that point, the entire team held conferences and workshops across the various Funke brands to forward this user-first project and look at their audience data.

“If you know they are converting into a subscription at nine o’clock in the evening, why do we publish most of the stuff at 12 o’clock?” she asked. “It does not match. So the moment we realised they are users and they have different times when they need our stories, and we really want to focus on the user first, then we need to change our workflows.”

This meant taking a close look at how the team planned weekend coverage and what stories would be published at what times. They also looked at staff roles and structure, bringing editorial and sales together.

“After that we developed new strategies for every editorial office,” Betz said. “One by one, they all joined the user-first strategy.”

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