Chronicle Herald grows audience, revenue with feel-good local journalism, awards

By Jill Foley

The Chronicle Herald

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

In 2014, the government of Nova Scotia released a report that painted a grim picture of an economy in decline. An aging population, out-migration of youth, and rising unemployment threatened the viability of our province.

The Chronicle Herald saw an opportunity to be a rallying voice, championing a province-wide attitudinal shift to help drive the change our province needs to succeed — and in 2016, the Now! Nova Scotia programme and the Now! Nova Scotia Good News Awards were born.

Aligning content, business partnerships, journalistic capacity, influence, and the awards initiative, the Now! programme has become the Herald’s flagship offering, providing a new revenue stream and positioning us as a key thought leader driving attitudinal change in our province.

Now! Nova Scotia is a fully integrated programme with each component playing a role to accomplish a singular goal: help change attitudes in Nova Scotia.

To achieve this, the structure and content of Now! Nova Scotia consistently includes three main components: attitudinal shift, community partnerships, and content themes.

  1. Attitudinal Shift: Whether it’s thought-provoking commentary or a story about a growing business, the pervasive goal for every story written, every partnership secured, and every award given is to shift attitudes to help Nova Scotians choose curiosity over cynicism, look for opportunities instead of obstacles, engage in action instead of apathy, and believe that better is always possible.
  2. Partnerships: Changing attitudes cannot be accomplished alone. To have the impact we need, we had to be selective in choosing like-minded partners who will help to be leaders and drive change in our province. The partners we brought on board span across government, educational institutions, industry organisations, and province-wide companies. Each partner helps to inform and direct the content, specifically topics and story opportunities, pays for the additional distribution of the publication, sponsors content, purchases advertising, and participates in the Now! Nova Scotia Good News awards programme as a judge.
  3. Content Themes: With the overarching tone set, we then layer on specific topics to create consistency and a year-long focus that allows us to build the conversation and critical mass around particular topics and themes. These themes remain consistent throughout our content, partnerships, award nominations, and winner selection. Our six themes for were:
  • Curiosity.
  • Creativity.
  • Courage.
  • Conversations.
  • Continuous improvement.
  • Collaborations.

Now! Nova Scotia content appears on dedicated pages in our news section every Tuesday in print. The first Tuesday of every month we feature an extended edition with a tabloid-sized, magazine-style insert with content based around our six themes. All content is also available on a dedicated section of our Web site.

The Now! Nova Scotia Good News Awards are the hallmark of the Now! programme, recognising Nova Scotians who are taking bold steps toward making good news. While the purpose of the awards is to celebrate good news makers, equally important to The Chronicle Herald is to use this initiative to demonstrate that a different approach is possible.

The Now! Nova Scotia Good News Awards presentation included a competition among the winners. The one who could best demonstrate that their work will lead to even more good news received a C$20,000 grand prize to fund further work.
The Now! Nova Scotia Good News Awards presentation included a competition among the winners. The one who could best demonstrate that their work will lead to even more good news received a C$20,000 grand prize to fund further work.

We challenge the conventions around traditional, conservative, rigid award programmes to show that things can be done differently, even in places where the rules seem to be set. Rather than us deciding what constitutes good news, we allow nominators to tell us what they believe success looks like. This ensures that Nova Scotians retain ownership over whom they want to celebrate and on what basis.

Six awards are given to organisations or individuals who demonstrated the traits of an entrepreneurial mindset or had been a guiding driver for change in their industry or community.

For the awards celebration itself, we care more about the impact of the event than the optics of it. With that in mind, we opted to take the money that would have otherwise been used for a more opulent gathering and instead directed it to make more good news.

One of our six award winners left the event with C$20,000 to grow their idea, because putting money into the hands of people who are already making good news just makes good sense!

The last awards event was held on Giving Tuesday, November 28, 2017 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The format was an evening pitch-style event, where our six award winners were able to profile their good work through a four-minute, Dragon’s Den-style pitch to compete for the C$20,000 grand prize. They had to prove how they would make more good news if they won the cash. Our panel of judges voted to determine the grand prize winner.

Now! Nova Scotia met or exceeded most targets we set out to achieve in 2017. We obtained a 120% increase in revenue over 2016, 28.75% higher than our 2017 target. We also exceeded our target for secured community sponsors by 30%.

Not only are we attracting new readers, the readers we’re attracting are spending more time with the content. Of the audience consuming our Now! content, 39% were new users, and we saw them spending an average of 2:17 on the site, up from our site average of 1:27.

Now! is a strong brand builder and marketing initiative for The Chronicle Herald. We constantly receive feedback from average citisens and community leaders alike lauding the initiative.

“To say I enjoyed reading today's Now section would be an understatement,” said the executive director of Engage Nova Scotia. “All pieces were insightful and fresh. You effectively traversed everything from personal attitudes to inspiring NS stories to international trends. Thanks for the important contribution to the NS narrative.”

And the enthusiasm doesn’t end with our provincial borders. Visitors from all over the world consumed our Now! content: Canada, United Kingdom, United States, Ireland, Brazil, Vietnam, South Africa, Australia, Bangladesh, Switzerland, Egypt, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Lithuania, Morocco, Mexico, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Taiwan, Tanzania, Greece, Italy, South Korea, Malaysia, and Samoa.

About Jill Foley

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