It doesn’t matter if you’re a CEO or a waiter: Everybody is interested in news and local offers of their neighbourhood and community. This is also the case for the readers of Het Laatste Nieuws.
This daily newspaper is market leader in the Flanders region (the Dutch speaking part of Belgium) with a daily record readership of 1.22 million readers (print and tablet). Every day, the “national” newspaper has 21 different regional sections, one for every specific demographic region where Het Laatste Nieuws is distributed.
Survey shows that more than 90% of our readers actually are reading almost every day the news and “fait divers” of their town or community.
So local news is a big thing for print, but what about online?
Let’s start with some online figures: www.hln.be is also the online news market leader in Belgium. Together with the mobile app, the site reaches more than 1.6 million daily unique browsers — a staggering number considering Flanders counts about 6.3 million inhabitants (age 0 to 99). Until February 2014, www.hln.be had no regional online news section.
We filled this gap in March of 2014. Why? Again, we did a survey amongst readers and surfers of several newspapers and Web sites.
- Online regional news consumption was growing like a weed (34% went already online for local news consumption).
- A major number of HLN.be-surfers went to our competitor to satisfy their regional news hunger.
- 40% of the loyal surfers would even visit more often our news site when it would also contain regional pages.
So we took off with the following principles.
- The surfer always sees the latest regional news of his own village or town and neighbouring villages. Also the news of the main town in the region will be displayed at the bottom of the homepage.
- We integrate lot’s of local items that are relevant for the surfer: There’s a live box with local tweets, an agenda with events and cultural manifestations and, last but not least, the local family notices.
The news itself is transferred from the newspaper and completed with extra local crime and safety news. And yes, this news cocktail instantly was a hit from a surfers point of view: In January 2015, we became market leader in the Flanders region.
It soon became clear that local shops and companies (lots of them were already advertising partners in print) were interested in our online regional marketing solutions. Their need was simple, but challenging: give us ROI, keep it simple and stupid, big (banners) is beautiful, and help us with digital advice.
So we trained our existing sales team intensively and supported them with a huge B2B kick-off campaign in our own media.
The result was above expectation. With a team of only 10 full-time employees, we sold about 830 regional campaigns in nine months time (from April through December 2014). Conclusion: a promising start which has to be confirmed and expanded this year.
So what are the next steps for 2015?
Last month we took off with a regional targeted newsbox on the homepage of the national HLN Web site. This feature will boost local reach and gives new commercial opportunities. We also will experiment with instant and extra regional news during the day.
Our mission is to continue to expand our reach. Commercially, we will explore new hyperlocal solutions and keep an eye on the mobile platform and much more.