Nine reconsiders measurements of success by focusing on hyper-local content

By Sophia Phan

The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


How many of these off-platform consumers are coming back to our Web site. More importantly, are they subscribing?” These are questions social media teams at news organisations are often asked.

The role of social has evolved beyond referrals, as it serves as a shop window to would-be subscribers and new audiences. It is a reflection of what the brand and publication have to offer: exclusive stories, independent investigations, insight into the newsroom.

TikTok and Instagram content about air quality at Central Station reached a large local audience and sparked a lot of engagement in the comments.
TikTok and Instagram content about air quality at Central Station reached a large local audience and sparked a lot of engagement in the comments.

Measuring success in this instance is a little harder to quantify.

What are the measures of success then?

Shareability and saveability are some of the metrics worth taking a look at as they signal more intent than a double tap.

These functions also tend to further your content’s reach to non-followers, too.

And of course, in terms of vertical video, the view count is important, but what is also significant is the completion rate and average watch time.

There are “links in bio” and Instagram Stories to help with referral traffic. But, outside of UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) tagging and tracking referrals on dashboards, for the more visual social platforms like Instagram and TikTok, it’s much harder to quantify if a viewer of a vertical video or videos is going beyond the platform they’re currently scrolling on.

Importance of hyper-local content

A few months ago, the social team at Nine’s Metro Mastheads did an audit of all the vertical videos we were publishing. We asked questions like how many views were there, what was the completion rate, and where were people watching the content?

It’s important to reach new and younger audiences on platforms like Instagram and TikTok. However, it’s even more crucial to target those more likely to subscribe, namely those who live in the same city as the publications: Melbournians for The Age, Sydneysiders for The Sydney Morning Herald, and Brisbanites for Brisbane Times.

While it is great to see millions of views on a piece of content, it’s becoming more important to our teams that they reach the right audiences.

A high number of views doesn’t always result in more followers, so will that lead to an eventual subscription? Whereas a well-packaged video on a local or national issue will resonate more deeply with followers, who knows who else will return for similar coverage in the future.

The hypothesis is that, if our hyper-local content constantly performs well and reaches these audiences in our respective cities, it will automatically reach them again on their “For You” page whenever we publish a story by means of the Sydney/Melbourne/Brisbane algorithm.

Audience demographics on social media

More than 70% of the Herald’s Instagram followers are Australian — about 200,000 followers — with more than 40% from Sydney.

Similarly on Instagram, almost 80% of The Age’s followers are from Australia and more than 50% are from Melbourne.

While Instagram is a combination of static posts and videos, some recent Reels have had success with reaching the intended local audiences.

Our Reel on Sydney’s special investigation on testing the air quality at Central Station in the CBD had almost 111,000 views and 1,500 shares, resulting in it reaching 21,000 non-followers. It found similar success on TikTok: 104,000 views (100,000 of them non-followers, and 97.1% Australian), generating a lot of engagement in the comments.

The Age has seen high growth over the past few months which has coincided with the success of local Melbourne-focused Reels, such as the Flinders Street photobooth video. This reached almost 265,000 non-followers and garnered 403,000 views, resulting in almost 1,000 followers. On TikTok it reached a 92% Australian audience and garnered more than 100 new followers, with the boost of 1,000 shares.

About Sophia Phan

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