The Day gets creative, data-driven about its audience engagement

By Michael Moses

Emerging technology has allowed the value equation related to content generation — especially local, unique content — to rise for the first time in possibly decades. The various Web design and development projects that The Day and Shore Publishing have undertaken in 2014 will allow us to be part of that rising tide.

Coupled with our unique market opportunity, we should be able to mitigate the devaluation of the traditional publishing business.

This new trend is illustrated through this recent quote from Eric Hippeau, managing director of Lerer Ventures: “Our general view is that news is a growth business. There are many more people assessing and interested in and engaging with news today than every before thanks to technology. So we’re bullish on content and we’re bullish on news.”

The Day, a local news media company based in Connecticut, covers a 20-town region, reaching nearly 80% of all adults along the state’s coastline with our print and/or digital products. We have more than 70,000 registered users on our Web site, with more than 20,000 paying subscribers.

In considering our audience engagement strategy, we had four strategic goals in mind:

  1. Become a technology leader with fully responsive online platform and a new, single source, content management system.

  2. Increase paid membership by targeting communities in our market based on key opportunity indexing. 

  3. Enhance local news coverage in these target communities and improving hyper-local content.

  4. Create a content marketing niche by hiring marketing writers to produce paid content, develop sponsored content for advertisers, and utilize our database to deploy digital publications. 

The foundation for our 2014 strategy is built on our membership model; our membership model is driven by our database. User data is captured through various points of entry, however, it all flows through one funnel. 

In coordination with our database vendor, Leap Media, this allows for: 

  • Database-driven customer prospecting, featuring a customised approach based on lifestyles and specialised offers for specific groups.

  • Customised approach based on retention metrics, factoring in geographic, lifestyle, and behavioural data.

  • Greatly expanded registered user database, marketing to registered users for deeper engagement and ultimately membership.

  • Our “Day Passport,” a membership rewards programme that offers added value (contests, giveaways, and discount deals) beyond content. Launched in 2011, Passport is one of our strongest member acquisition tools.  

This approach has allowed us to scientifically apply sales pressure to specific markets and groups within those markets.  Utilising the data captured in the scenarios outlined above we:

  • Analysed active, former, and prospective groups, according to age, income, education, length of residents, and occupation.
  • Scored each demographic characteristic based on the subscriber index and assigned an “opportunity score,” based on demographic scores and historical retention data.
  • Organised high scoring segments into demographic life stage groups, which were targeted for acquisition marketing and product development.
  • Assigned specific membership offers to those opportunity groups based on historical behaviors and success in selling and retaining those groups.
  • Customised offers to specific growth model clusters to maximise response and retention, utilising e-mail, direct mail, and telemarketing.
  • In collaboration with news, identified coverage resources in emerging markets.

Our numbers show we are moving in the right direction:

May year-to-date, all hybrid member categories have yielded effective volume growth. Four-day subscriptions continued to deliver solid returns at 7% over prior, Sunday at 3% ahead of prior, and digital at 25% over prior.

Sales pressure includes a monthly average of 1.8 million e-mails and three direct mail campaigns, utilising behavioural profile data and our enhanced e-mail, mail, and call lists. 

This model has also allowed us the flexibility to build out our marketing division with the content generation capabilities to support sponsored content and various managed service platforms. We have published regional magazines, both in print and digitally, that have contributed significant new revenues. 

We have also re-invented our weekly real estate and auto sections, now entirely written and produced in marketing. Home Source, our weekly real estate publication, had its best month in years at 20% over prior. 

Our ability to publish these sections outside of the newsroom has allowed us the opportunity to reallocate news resources for deeper coverage in our key markets.

Emerging technology has allowed us to manage and deploy our content, both legacy and sponsored, in an effective and strategic manner. This strategy, connecting readers with advertisers, advertisers with readers, across multiple platforms, has allowed for deeper engagement and ultimately a stronger relationship across the communities we serve.

About Michael Moses

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