Over the last few years, we have witnessed the progressive expansion of the media market. The rise of new players has resulted in a spectacular increase of information.
So the quandary for every newspaper is how to rise above the competition. Those at il Giornale.it — the Web version of the fourth-ranking national newspaper in Italy, il Giornale — believe the answer is to give readers news that no other media outlet can offer.
Live war reporting offers compelling content, but production costs are extremely expensive. This explains why this type of reporting has been one of the major casualties of the editorial crisis.
“To provide unique content, we decided to revive war reporting. To do this, we bet on what we consider our main resource: our readers. We started to crowdfund,” says Andrea Pontini, CEO of il Giornale.it.
The news media company established a new brand, Gli Occhi della Guerra (“The Eyes of War”). The brand’s dedicated Web site hosted the first crowdfunded platform built by a national newspaper. Initially, readers were invited to choose between two different report locations, Libya or Afghanistan, and to financially support the one they liked best.
The response was immediate.
“In less than three weeks we had covered the costs of both reports with donations from our readers,” Pontini says. “We were amazed by our readers’ involvement, and immediately understood that engaging our readers was key.”
To ensure complete transparency and integrity, il Giornale.it created a nonprofit association, Associazione per la Promozione del Giornalismo (The Association to Promote Journalism).
Readers can keep track of all the project’s expenses. In fact, every single receipt produced by the reporters is published and featured in a special section of the site.
“The readers trust us,” Pontini says. “They trust the information we offer them, and they feel part of a club to which they want to belong.”
Thus, il Giornale.it created a community through strong direct marketing, social media campaigns, public events, and published content.
The direct marketing and social media campaigns were performed by mail and phone. Contributors received thanks in two specific manners: standard contributors were thanked on social media and higher-level contributors became involved in face-to-face meetings with newsroom reporters.
The campaign also created the following events and collateral:
- Public exhibitions and conferences, using the photographs, videos, and articles originating from the reporters in war zones.
- A war photobook and an investigative journalistic book on the threat of ISIS in Europe. Income from sales financed new war reports.
- A monthly supplement of Gli Occhi della Guerra’s war reports published in il Giornale on the first Thursday of every month — an effective integration between print and online.
Two years after its launch, Gli Occhi della Guerra’s young and skilled reporters from countries plagued by conflicts completed more than 30 live reports.
This flow of exclusive news led to the a 67% increase in unique visitors and a 31% increase in page views, compared to previous years.
With the launch of its new brand, il Giornale.it created a new audience segment interested in war reporting and eager to support the costs to realise the project.
“We created a new, sustainable, and profitable business model to increase live reporting while we strengthened the relationship with our readers, fueling their involvement,” Pontini says. “I think this is the key for the success of an editorial company; indeed, the main asset of every newspaper are the readers.”