Digital initiatives are mainstays of revenue at San Francisco Chronicle

By Eleni Gastis & Sarah Morse Cooney

San Francisco Chronicle

San Francisco, California, USA


To keep up with an evolving industry, the San Francisco Chronicle is pioneering game-changing digital strategies for not only those who read the news, but also for advertisers.

Although the Chronicle works hard to remain competitive in an industry where traditional readership can be fickle, the publication’s newest strategies are about serving the faithful readers who depend on the world-class stories, videos, and digital content offered.

As the most-read newspaper in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Chronicle is read by more than 565,000 adults weekdays and 788,000 on Sundays, according to Scarborough Research. More than 750,000 Bay Area adults also visit the Chronicle’s various digital products each week.

The Chronicle’s digital reach, however, goes far beyond the Bay Area. Each week, millions of visitors from throughout the United States and around the world read or In January 2016, averaged 10.4 million visits and 42 million page views a week, with adding another 865,000 visits and 1.9 million page views each week.

The Chronicle's digital reach is large: averaged 10.4 million visits and 42 million page views a week; adds another 865,000 visits and 1.9 million page views each week.
The Chronicle's digital reach is large: averaged 10.4 million visits and 42 million page views a week; adds another 865,000 visits and 1.9 million page views each week.

When it comes to delivering stories, the Chronicle is still making breaking news and investigative journalism a priority, but now that news is complemented with a digital push that can reach even more readers.

For readers eager to tap into the happenings of the San Francisco Bay Area community, social media also keeps the conversation going much farther than print could. The Chronicle utilises Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter as key components of the digital outreach strategy.

SFGATE and meet different audience needs. SFGATE relies on shorthand stories about local, national, and international happenings, and delivers them with a visual punch. channels more traditional, long-form reporting and intricate investigative pieces for a monthly subscription fee.

The SFChronicle app, which many subscribers use to conveniently access their news, is constantly optimised with the help of consumer feedback. Most recently, interactive features and content, such as area guides and podcasts, have proven popular with Chronicle readers.

Newsroom content is also exceeding industry standards with the help of the Chronicle’s Editor-in-Chief Audrey Cooper. As the publication’s first female editor-in-chief, Cooper brings fresh ideas to an industry often bogged down by traditional notions of journalism and outdated standards.

For example, Cooper has switched the game up by releasing the publication’s famed Sunday content ahead of time, so it doesn’t get lost online during the weekend.

Cooper has also pushed for more investigative journalism stories, with a set goal of publishing one major investigative piece per week. The Chronicle releases many of those stories on Mondays, reinventing a day which is traditionally a less exciting day in print.

One of the company’s newest strategies is The Incubator, a strategic, weeks-long editorial staff retreat that takes place off-site.

During the retreat, editorial staff work to improve workflows, foster team accountability and conceptualize new ways of digital storytelling. When they return to the newsroom, team building continues through activities like the Lishy Awards, where newsroom staff compete to make the most compelling video story shot entirely with an iPhone.

The Chronicle’s advertising team is also embracing new digital strategies, leaving behind the buttons and banners of yesteryear for new tactics that are packing powerful results.

One example is the Story Studio, an advertising approach that combines marketing services, native advertising, and other digital offerings. Story Studio creates tailored stories for advertising clients who want to provide a holistic picture of their business or organization. This adds a personal feel rooted in the storytelling the Chronicle prides itself on.

Changing times have warranted changing ideas — and the Chronicle’s fresh, multi-tiered approach is liberating the publication, which remains loyal to the community it serves.

About Eleni Gastis & Sarah Morse Cooney

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