In 2019, weekly and Saturday newspaper subscriptions for Montreal’s Le Devoir were dropping at a rate of 3%-4% every month. At the same time, digital subscriptions were increasing by 12%, signaling an important shift for the company.
While Le Devoir recognised the value of digital, leaders also wanted to make sure that the value of print didn’t get lost in the noisy, busy digital space. And so they created the Pause Papier campaign, which highlighted how reading a paper publication can offer a much-needed restful pause in the busy lives of readers. As part of the campaign, the company offered a 15% discount on combination print and digital subscriptions.
Taking a moment
The two-month campaign launched in November with a digital campaign that included static images, GIFs, a Google ad campaign, and an email blast targeting digital subscribers. The centerpiece of the campaign was a video that, in less than two minutes, showed what goes into making a newspaper.
“Most people have no idea of what it takes to bring a newspaper into the world, so this video was a good tool to share that knowledge,” said Léonie Gagnon, director of communications at Le Devoir. “It was informative and beautifully designed. We wanted to show [readers] all the effort and time needed to make a quality journal.”
The hope was that giving readers an understanding of the step-by-step process of making a newspaper would help them realise “how amazing it is to produce a newspaper day after day.”
In addition to the digital campaign, they added inserts to Saturday editions on November 30 and December 7 featuring the same visuals and promotions. These inserts targeted papers sold by the copy in venues like grocery stores and corner markets in hopes of converting single sales into subscriptions.
That hope paid off. Subscriptions increased and, even one year later, print subscriptions remain higher than the projected budget. More than 350 newspaper subscriptions were generated directly from the campaign and, even after the campaign officially ended, the company saw an 8.4% increase in print and combination subscriptions.
The right message in the right place
One key component of the campaign was the Montreal Book Fair, which took place from November 20 to 25. Amidst this busy environment, Le Devoir created a lounge area complete with creature comforts including velour curtains, a couch, padded armchairs, and footstools. It was a welcoming place for fair attendees to relax, and they were invited to pick up that day’s edition and spend a few minutes sitting and reading.
The lounge also featured the video to drive home the amount of effort that went into making the product they were reading.
“Using actual newspaper, in a space designed to appeal for a much calmer, focused interaction with the news was central to our strategy,” Gagnon explained. “It was even the starting point of the whole thing, from where we got all the ideas.”
Although the company planned to make this an annual event, it lost its key element — the Montreal Book Fair — when the COVID-19 forced that event to go digital.
“If we had to do it this again this year, it would be like every other campaign we do, with mostly digital initiatives, ads and inserts in the paper,” Gagnon said. “We found selling the look and feel of paper on digital platforms a bit off.”
However, like many companies around the world, Le Devoir has seen a substantial increase in digital subscriptions, with more people staying at home during the pandemic and reaching out for news coverage. Print subscriptions have remained steady, with the only print drop-off seen in on-site sales for markets and grocery stores that were less frequented during quarantine.
“People need to stay informed in the simplest and most accessible way, and digital subscriptions seem to be the best way right now to respond to that.”