3 newsroom insights gleaned from the INMA Media Subscriptions Summit

By Amalie Nash


Denver, Colorado, United States


INMA’s Media Subscriptions Summit was a whirlwind week filled with deep insights, revelatory case studies, and bright spots for the media industry.

I took it all in: the study tours around New York City with stops at innovative media companies, two days packed with expert speakers from around the world, and a day filled with deep-dive seminars and a gathering of subscriptions benchmark participants.

Throughout the week, I absorbed the learnings through the lens of newsroom transformation and the role of content in driving the business. Although most people who attended did not work directly in newsrooms, almost all work closely with their newsrooms. Breaking down silos, understanding audiences, and aligning your journalism with your intended business outcomes were just a few of the topics that took center stage at the conference.

I wanted to offer up three interesting takeaways from the presentations that relate specifically to newsrooms. And there’s plenty more if you dig into INMA’s coverage of the summit.

If you were there or followed any of the coverage, I’d love your thoughts: amalie.nash@inma.org.


User needs show huge misalignment in story mix 

User needs have come up repeatedly in my conversations with publishers from all over the world. User needs identify the different reasons people consume news and are often bucketed into eight categories:

  • Update me: What’s happened? What do I need to know?

  • Educate me: Learn more about a certain topic or event.

  • Give me perspective: These include analysis and opinion pieces.

  • Divert me: This is meant to take your mind off things and is often light and entertaining.

  • Inspire me: Designed to leave the reader with a good feeling.

  • Help me: Action-driven, often service journalism.

  • Connect me: Often around ideas and experiences.

  • Keep me engaged: Be part of a conversation about a topic.

Renzo Veenstra, editor-in-chief at Dutch regional broadcaster Omroep Brabant, spoke during the seminar about Omroep Brabant’s use of Smartocto’s user needs model 2.0. 

The insight that stuck with me: 70% of Omroep Brabant’s content fell into the “update me” category yet generated just 22% of their pageviews.

“We were neglecting the other user needs,” Veenstra said. “It was a real eye opener for us.”

The analysis showed readers were interested in more “educate me,” “inspire me,” and “give me perspective” stories. Omroep Brabant measures the success of its stories using a Content Performance Indicator, which has a scale of 1-1,000, calculated based on a variety of metrics. 

Prior to implementing the user needs model, almost all stories scored below 500, Veenstra said. But after, the average was consistently above 500, as seen in the slide below:

I asked Veenstra after the session how quickly the newsroom embraced the model. He said: “It took less than a year to get from skepticism to enthusiasm.”

The presentation also offered four considerations for applying user needs to coverage decisions:

  1. Hard news isn’t enough to attract people regularly or engage them.

  2. Commoditised news is everywhere — relevancy and engagement become the differentiator.

  3. There is misalignment between what your audience wants and what it currently gets. Readers desire information but also understanding, inspiration, utility, and fun.

  4. Growth comes when different user needs are addressed consistently, creatively, and strategically.

Have you adopted the user needs model? I’d love to hear what you’re seeing and how it’s changed the way your newsroom works. E-mail me amalie.nash@inma.org.

Optimise subscription targeting on premium journalism 

Fortune Media in Germany is on a transformation journey, calling itself a 94-year-old startup. Its chief customer officer, Selma Stern, walked the summit audience through the success it has seen in growing digital subscriptions through such tactics as pricing optimisation and paywall targeting.

The stat that jumped out to me: 1% of pageviews yielded 25% of subscriptions. 


From a consumer marketing perspective, the lesson is to optimise subscription targeting to protect ad revenue. In other words, if you can identify the content likely to drive subscriptions and dynamically serve that to potential subscribers while keeping other content free, you’ll grow subscriptions and audience at the same time.

But there’s also a lot to learn from the newsroom side. What is the 1% of content playing such an outsized role in subscription conversions? How can we do more of that content and cut back on other content not yielding those results?

It’s so important for subscription-led news organisations to pay close attention to the topics resonating with potential and existing subscribers — and to tailor their content strategies to match.  

Do you have a similar situation or insight? E-mail me: amalie.nash@inma.org.

Bringing the newsroom on the journey is critical for growth 

New Zealand Media and Entertainment is fairly new to digital subscriptions, growing from fewer than 50K in Q2 2019 to 179K by Q3 2023. And although it may seem obvious that all functions of the business need to be aligned when making such a strategy change, it doesn’t always happen.

Carolyn Adams, general manager of subscriber revenue, said NZME focused heavily on bringing newsrooms on the journey as the business changed.

“The newsroom was all about clicks and did not understand why we were doing digital subscriptions,” she said. “For a couple years, there was a real disconnect between the newsroom and everyone else.”

By creating cross-functional squads, NZME was able to achieve better alignment — and better results. Adams said the past six months have been particularly transformative, due in part to access to and focus on data.

NZME has a freemium paywall and now locks about 30% of its content overall. It uses data to guide those decisions. For instance, the majority of business content is locked, but the majority of sports is not.

“Journalism is the key — it needs to resonate with readers,” Adams told summit attendees. “We need to have expert journalism that engages and converts.”

Would love to hear about your transformation journey. E-mail me: amalie.nash@inma.org.

Have you checked out the INMA Global Media Awards finalists?

If you want to learn more from the freshest ideas in newsroom transformation and innovation, spend some time with the newsroom-related entries in the 2024 Global Media Awards competition, recently released for INMA members. 

This year’s awards has two categories related to newsrooms: Best Innovation in Newsroom Transformation and Best Use of Visual Journalism and Storytelling Tools. The finalists include regional and national brands.

I’m going to spend the coming days digging in to learn from these companies. And for you: a custom link just for newsroom entries.

Mark your calendars

Upcoming INMA events that shouldn’t be missed:

About this newsletter

Today’s newsletter is written by Amalie Nash, based in Denver, Colorado, United States, and lead for the INMA Newsroom Transformation Initiative. Amalie will share research, case studies, and thought leadership on the topic of bringing newsrooms into the business of news.

This newsletter is a public face of the Newsroom Transformation Initiative by INMA, outlined here. E-mail Amalie at amalie.nash@inma.org or connect with her on INMA’s Slack channel with thoughts, suggestions, and questions.

About Amalie Nash

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