Guardian Australia drives traffic with engaging headlines

By Jocelin Abbey

The Guardian

Sydney, Australia


Ahead of the Guardian’s 10th year of business in Australia, we embarked on a strategy for growth that centred on engaging new audiences with our independent, factual journalism.

According to the 2022 Reuters Digital News Report, the Australian media market is one of the most concentrated media markets in the world, with just two companies accounting for around 80% of the metropolitan and national newsprint media. Guardian Australia, as a digital-only brand, needed to find a way to reach new audiences without the benefit of having a local legacy masthead or newspaper to build a brand or regular readership.

The opportunity for growth

To better understand the perceived impact of media ownership and diversity on the news-consuming audience, we commissioned bespoke research through YouGov.

The findings were surprising: More than 80% of the Australian population agreed that media ownership influenced the content produced, and one-third wanted a more diverse range of options. This spoke to an unmet need in the market, indicating the potential for The Guardian’s independent, progressive, and trusted journalism to reach a broader audience.

Guardian Australia used strategically placed headlines to reach audiences who would not typically engage with the brand.
Guardian Australia used strategically placed headlines to reach audiences who would not typically engage with the brand.

With about one in every two Australians aware of The Guardian, and one in every three Australians visiting us every month, we identified our opportunity for growth was to build awareness and regular engagement with The Guardian’s journalism, reaching audiences who wouldn’t normally come into contact with the brand through their day-to-day routines.

This “engagement” needed to be established as people went about their daily routines rather than expecting them to come to our platforms. We needed to create a daily habit that wasn’t just about passive consumption; rather, it needed to be active and intentional engagement with our top headlines.

This would then help build a connection with our journalism and motivate audiences to consider The Guardian as one of their top news sources when seeking out news or information.

Audience engagement theory in practice

Tunstall’s theory of audience engagement was helpful in framing up the execution of this idea, which was to use secondary and tertiary modes of consumption (outdoor billboards and video screens at metro train stations) to drive primary engagement with our top news headlines.

The daily nature of these live headlines were designed to encourage audiences to use our news services on a more regular basis, stimulating brand loyalty and attentiveness.

The placement of headlines in new spaces helped increase reader interest in The Guardian and drove news searches as well.
The placement of headlines in new spaces helped increase reader interest in The Guardian and drove news searches as well.

The partnership we embarked on with outdoor media provider JCDecaux targeting the commuter experience in capital cities across the country meant we could offer high-quality, independent journalism as a public service: exposing a projected 5.2 million people a month to live, factual, independent news headlines on the biggest news stories in Australia.

The headlines were generated directly by the newsroom, with news editors and production teams managing rolling news updates throughout the day.

This initiative required new processes and technology to be developed within the editorial teams, which took time and resources to establish. It required buy-in throughout the newsroom, which was important as we encountered different obstacles that needed to be worked through as we set up the new ways of working.

We used high-impact, public OOH (out-of-home) screens to amplify the on-site experience. This meant we could treat the OOH like an extension of the product by using The Guardian’s distinctive language, layouts, and brand codes. The addition of a direct call-to-action to visit The Guardian, served at a time when people had higher mental availability on their commute, acted as a prompt around “What did I miss in the news today?”

Driving audience growth

The campaign has delivered a strong impact since its launch in September 2022. The Guardian’s share of search has increased 11% through this period, with increases in awareness amongst the target demographic — up 12% versus the pre-brand platform monthly average.

Recurring on-site surveys of current Australian readers found that advertising prompted visitation for about 15%, and over one-third of readers reported the advertising reminded them to search The Guardian next time they wanted to be updated on the news. Additionally, 42% said the advertising makes it more likely they would choose The Guardian as a news source. 

These results have been important in demonstrating clear business outcomes for audience growth and engagement, driven by amplifying the journalism to create a new pipeline of readers and future supporters.

About Jocelin Abbey

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