Post and Courier shares 3 lessons from its newsletter growth strategy

By Samuel Hunter

The Post and Courier

Charleston, South Carolina, United States


In July of 2021, The Post and Courier began work on a project in conjunction with Google News Initiative (GNI). The purpose of the collaboration was to explore the efficacy of paid newsletters as a viable growth strategy for the news organisation.

Could the newspaper create alternative revenue streams and increase its digital audience effectively with this new type of subscription model? And what would that entail?

Understanding the vision

It is worth noting that the Post and Courier has made a conscious effort to think forward. Where other traditional news organisations have shrunk, the newspaper has done quite the opposite.

In 2021, The Post and Courier announced that it had grown its digital subscriber base to over 20,000. It’s also rapidly expanding, giving the paper a truly statewide reach with locations now in Charleston, Columbia, Myrtle Beach, Greenville, Spartanburg, North Augusta, and Hilton Head.

The news media company also recently doubled down on its commitment to print, building an all-new state-of-the-art printing press. The opportunity with GNI presented a chance to even further expand the brand.

As any marketer worth their salt knows, our engagement with media is constantly evolving. Wherever you look you can see the effects — whether that’s in Tik Tok being the most visited Web site of 2022, the advent of the Metaverse, or our consumption of movies and the surprising decline of Netflix subscriptions.

To keep up with the times it is imperative to be flexible and willing to experiment.

What we learned

Last summer, The Post and Courier launched two newsletters built around collegiate athletics — The Tiger Take and Gamecocks Now. Both newsletters are subscription-based, meaning they require subscribers to pay. Gamecocks Now is written by David Cloninger, a 20-year veteran of the beat, and The Tiger Take is written by Clemson newcomer and veteran sports journalist Jon Blau.

An example of an ad for The Tiger Take.
An example of an ad for The Tiger Take.

After seeing the success of the two sports newsletters, the paper launched the food newsletter, CHS Menu, (Charleston’s Menu) in late February 2022. In partnership with GNI, The Post and Courier revealed a few of their findings. The main learnings were:

  • Lead growth is essential to subscriber growth. Before launching the sports newsletters there was a small number of leads. The Post and Courier had explored a free sports newsletter and used this niche audience to help grow its subscriber base. However, by placing more of an emphasis on growing the top of funnel, in eight months the team was able to grow previous leads by 268%. These leads led to both subscriptions for the paper as well as subscriptions to the two paid newsletters.
  • Make ARPU a key metric. At the initial launch of the Gamecocks Now and The Tiger Take, existing PC subscribers were offered a highly discounted price point as a bundle offer. While this drove subscription numbers, it ended up drastically tanking ARPU. It also, due to the nature of the sale, led to a high percentage of churn. By increasing the price of the newsletter bundle and killing the previous offer, the sports newsletters were able to increase ARPU by more than 8% while also combatting churn and increasing revenue.
  • Audience size. The most important learning from the partnership with GNI was helping approximate potential audience size. GNI had previously provided the target of subscription numbers to be 1.5% of the monthly audience on the paper’s Web site. By using these numbers the sports newsletters are already 63% to goal in only eight months! Using this data also helped assess a proper estimate for subscribers to the food newsletter as well as the paper itself.

If you’re interested in learning more, read the case study here.

About Samuel Hunter

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