When the stories of the coronavirus pandemic are told, the record-breaking digital subscriptions in Europe will be legendary. Among those stories will be the week Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) got 10,000 new digital subscribers.
Carsten Knop, editor-in-chief /digital products at FAZ, based in Frankfurt, shared with INMA how the news media company created content around the pandemic and how readers responded.
INMA: Tell us about the milestone of reaching 10,000 new subscriptions within a week. What timeframe was this in the COVID-19 crisis?
Knop: We’ve reached this milestone early in the COVID-19 crisis, basically in the very moment it finally got full attention by all Germans in mid-March. We were quick to establish the programme. The idea, implementation, and launch only took a handful days. We went live around March 19, and the thing really took of amazingly fast. It continued to be very successful in the days after the very first week, too.
INMA: What did you do to gain these subscribers? Was it simply the interest in the coronavirus or did efforts in content/marketing play a role?
Knop: The interest in our coverage of the pandemic is the most important reason, I guess. Traffic almost doubled on our Web site and other digital products these days, and some of our most valuable reporting was behind this very low paywall. People had no bad feelings jumping over it [the paywall] in huge numbers. Marketing efforts helped too, of course. But there was not even a need for a big marketing push to get this convincing product going.
INMA: How did your digital team reorganise for the crisis?
Knop: The entire team moved into a remote-working-modus, which was a first for us. Colleagues who prefer to work out of the newsroom are still allowed to do it, as long as distancing rules are observed. That, of course, is no problem at all right now. Usually there are no more than one or two people in our newsroom right now. Communication was switched to Teams and Skype for Business. Both are working pretty well for us, at least after the moment when everybody learned how to switch their mic to silent mode.
INMA: When did the newsletter debut and how did you launch it in 24 hours from idea to execution? Is it bringing you digital subscriptions?
Knop: The newsletter debuted in late February. The first edition took off with 1,200 subscribers, and by now we have reached 27,000. We used an automated newsletter system we already had implemented within our CMS. We committed on an editorial concept overnight and we were ready to go right after that.
INMA: Tell us about the special offer for F+ access to your Web site.
Knop: F+ is a way to unlock all our digital content on our Web site and within our apps with the exception of our E-Paper. It’s a flat rate, an attractive offer for people on the move who are happy with streamed content and not eager to download single editions onto their devices.
INMA: This was mostly all done in March, correct? Can you update us about the numbers and initiatives since then?
Knop: F+ exists in its current form for more than a year by now already, but the €1 offer was implemented in March. With its help, we’ve now reached a number well above 150,000 digital subscriptions overall. This includes the special offer, the normal price, and our full digital subscription for the entire paper as well.
INMA: What other pandemic wins can you share?
Knop: User engagement is at an all-time high. People are eager for high-quality journalism. It’s an obligation for us, but a good opportunity especially for our FAZ brand as well.
Banner image courtesy of Burst at pexel.com.