La Voz de Galicia grows print subscriber base by ignoring circulation numbers

By Rafael Sanguino Martínez

Corporación Voz de Galicia

A Coruña, Galicia, Spain


To achieve growth within a declining news media consumption environment, La Voz de Galicia made a firm commitment to develop subscriptions — in a market where single-copy sales had always been king. This fundamental shift meant forgetting about circulation numbers, and instead focusing all attention and efforts on customers.

The Spanish newspaper market has been characterised by an intensive use of promotional marketing to push single-copy sales over the past two decades. The original intent of this strategy was to attract new segments of the population to the daily consumption of the press.

Eventually, it became the only way to keep customers. Marketers in the industry hastily launched more and more collectibles to boost single-copy sales, which had a lower effect year after year. In short, for years marketers from Spanish newspapers have worked to gain low-value, weekly, frequent buyers, and even non-readers, forgetting those who are really valuable customers.

Beginning more than a decade ago, La Voz de Galicia decided to break the mold and buck the established customs. Our organisation made deep changes to give center stage to the real customers: those with the highest weekly buying habit.

Thus our marketing focus shifted to developing strategies that work to sell our product and gain subscribers, rather than focusing on generic strategies that increase individual sales of any product.                          

When most business sectors think about focusing their marketing efforts on the highest-value, most profitable customers, they often define and label them: frequent travelers, gold members, premium or preferred customers, etc.

But the press has always defined its value by quantity, by the total number of customers. This way of measuring value is perhaps as old as the existence of the newspaper itself.

For our industry to make a shift, retailers also have to make a shift to embrace this new emphasis on quality subscribers instead of circulation. We had to resist pressure from a retail sector formed by specialised outlets that remain anchored to a past when newspapers sold without effort.

To begin this fundamental change, La Voz de Galicia transformed various departments to be more customer oriented. We started to give higher priority to our most loyal, high-value customers. We created new systems for customer feedback and we worked to be more responsive.

This allowed the fulfillment of one of our company guidelines: promise made, promise kept. We worked to track and respond to all reader requests, either providing what they asked for or responding within one day to explain why we could not meet such a demand.

New strategies focusing on high-value, subscription customers allowed La Voz de Galicia to keep growing, even while overall Spanish newspaper circulation declined.
New strategies focusing on high-value, subscription customers allowed La Voz de Galicia to keep growing, even while overall Spanish newspaper circulation declined.

We hired external resources that allowed us to reach out to thousands of contacts. We hired a new back-office team that improved and maintained the quality of customer care. We changed distribution services, incorporating new management methods and indicators of quality of service delivery.

To attract new subscribers and generate leads, we began to employ direct marketing strategies that were more intense, measured, and continuous. We learned to more effectively manage databases for our telemarketing activities, closely monitoring and analysing results of each call center, the various sales strategies, and effectiveness of different styles of conversation with the prospective client.

The results have been tremendous.

We have continued to grow our customer base with subscriptions, even as overall circulation has fallen sharply in Spain and steadily declined throughout most of Europe:

In 2009, La Voz de Galicia had a market share of 6.6% among the eight largest newspapers in Spain, reaching 8.4% in 2015. In the last decade, the total circulation in Spain fell by 42% with a 48.9% drop in single-copy sales and a 1.25% drop in subscribers. Meanwhile, La Voz de Galicia has grown its customer base nearly 100%, from 17,000 to 29,980 subscribers, as certified by the Oficina de Justificación de la Difusión, the Spanish circulation auditing bureau.

About Rafael Sanguino Martínez

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