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La Voz de Galicia transitions paywall model through pandemic

By Mauricio Romero

Bogota, Colombia

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The process of modernising the business model related to the content of La Voz de Galicia, founded in 1882, proves that no matter how established a media outlet might be, it must adapt to new market dynamics — with all the risks that this entails.

In a recent INMA members-only Webinar, Tomás García Morán, chief data officer and head of digital subscriptions at La Voz de Galicia, shared the company’s paywall journey before and through the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Founded in 1882, La Voz de Galicia has quite a history.
Founded in 1882, La Voz de Galicia has quite a history.

Until recently, the world's leading news media companies embarked on an uncontrolled race to catch audiences without taking into account the cost and lack of a sustainable business model and what is known as the audience model, which La Voz de Galicia adopted at the right time.

The Spanish media company, which is about to turn 140 years old, chose to focus on the reader by reorganising its editorial team and building a community of digital subscribers to complement the print newspaper’s reader base.

According Morán, and based on a study by Centro Español de Investigaciones Sociológicas, La Voz de Galicia is “the second most trustworthy source of information and the fourth most widely read paper in the country.”

Morán explained the company’s model is unique and consists of 16 newsrooms, out of which 14 are located in Galicia, another in Madrid, and the last one in the Principality of Asturias: “We like to say that no Galician lives more than 25 kilometres away from a journalist of La Voz,” he said, adding that La Voz prints more than 300 pages a day and tells more than 16,000 local and hyperlocal stories per month thanks to a team of 240 journalists and graphic reporters.

In 2019, the media outlet launched a hybrid paywall based on Varnish technology, consisting of a consumption meter with the option to offer premium content through the strategy of a first month for free (the monthly subscription cost €4.95 at that time).

Later that year, the company introduced a metered wall and began creating exclusive content for subscribers, between five and six articles on the front page and one or two in local editions.

The challenge for the model came when the pandemic began in 2020, as it forced the company to adjust the meter so COVID-19-related content would be available free of charge, although big stories about the pandemic would still be kept within the subscriber-only package.

Newsy content about the pandemic earned the company an Honourable Mention at the INMA 2020 Global Media Awards as Best Campaign in Response to COVID-19.

The company's digital subscription evolution has changed a lot in the past two years.
The company's digital subscription evolution has changed a lot in the past two years.

In December 2020, La Voz de Galicia made a bold move: It launched the annual subscription model, which did not previously exist, for €59, and increased the price of the monthly subscription by 40% (from €4.95 to €6.95) without a loss of subscribers.

“In April 2021, they adjusted the meter, from 10 to 15 news [articles], and again included COVID-19 news in the subscription model while maintaining growth in the number of subscribers over the past 25 months,” explained Ana Lorenzo Riveiro, digital marketing manager at La Voz de Galicia.

To bring create a closer relationship with audiences and increase retention, new subscribers entered an onboarding model. They received a welcome letter by e-mail on the first day in which they were told about the advantages and benefits of being subscribers. On day two, they received a letter from the director of the newspaper written in Galician, thanking them for subscribing.

These welcome communications have an opening rate between 50% and 60%, a high rate that confirms the success of the transactional and emotional approach of the model adopted by La Voz de Galicia.

During the pandemic months, the outlet launched an initiative to send e-mails to readers and subscribers giving them support, through messages such as, “Thank you,” “You’re not alone,” “We'll hug again,” and “How much we’ve learned together,” which were highly valued and responded to.

Outreach initiatives with subscribers also included guided tours to the newsroom and digital meetings between subscribers and politicians, moderated by the media outlet.

To implement its business model, La Voz de Galicia made visits to the United Kingdom and the United States, in which teams saw large economic, metropolitan, and national newspapers, as well as trips to Norway and Sweden, where the industry is focused on national, regional, local, and hyperlocal newspapers, which put the reader and the team of editors at the centre of the business.

In addition to the news, La Voz de Galicia focused on what it calls “content of little scope,” such as obituaries, very local news, real estate market, education, and the labour market.

Through internal communication tools such as Slack, the newsroom aligned through 35 channels within the goal to propose topics, review them so that they were well underway, and monitor good practices and examples that could be replicated, as well as data and reporting.

In addition to the generation of quality content, the company took into account good CMS management, appropriate SEO practices, new reports, news on video and streaming video, recirculation (through internal links) and worked on how to tackle social networks through good generation of posts, stories on Instagram, etc., for which training sessions were organised.

Finally, “the KPIs for the newsroom were reviewed, moving from the most viewed content to reports of audience and subscription objectives,” Morán said.

Progress and day-to-day work were made through dashboards in the newsroom.

Themed sections on cooking, education and study guides, agriculture, maritime, economics, and history have also engaged paying readers.
Themed sections on cooking, education and study guides, agriculture, maritime, economics, and history have also engaged paying readers.

Ana Moreiras Lorenzo, product manager, explained that in terms of content, the teams focused on “useful information, which would solve problems, as happened with the news about COVID-19.”

They also focused on what lies beyond the news, such as who the protagonists are, and a similar approach was adopted for obituaries, labour market, and topics that suited their needs, based on analytics.

They also launched specialised sections on cooking, education and study guides, agriculture, maritime, economics and history. The contents that were previously meant for registered users are now accessed only by subscribers, complemented by special newsletters, push notifications, and RRSS with social cards.

INMA Webinars are free to members. Check here  for future Webinars and recordings of past Webinars.

About Mauricio Romero

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