NTM prioritises 7 topics to retain, gain subscribers aged 30-50

By Jens Pettersson


Stockholm, Sweden


Value, relationship, and habits: These are at the core of NTM’s subscription strategy, which we call “Let’s get ready to double.”

To succeed in doubling the number of digital subscribers in three years, we need to understand what the true value is for our subscribers and deliver it to them, strengthen our relationship with them, and make sure we create habits using our journalism.

To better understand what our readers really value, we recently decided to dig deep into our large pile of published journalism. We analysed 95,000 articles published during the first half of 2021. We took a look at how different topics performed among our paying subscribers. We were particularly interested in the number of published articles within each topic and what share of subscribers had actually read them. We measured that by noting “quality reads,” or articles read to at least 80% scroll depth.

The deep analysis of published content revealed the kinds of articles that most resonated with audiences as well as guidance for future journalism.
The deep analysis of published content revealed the kinds of articles that most resonated with audiences as well as guidance for future journalism.

This kind of analysis, inspired by Norwegian company Amedia, is an excellent way for us to paint a broader picture of the production in our 20 different newsrooms and how they manage to actually get their journalism read by the subscribers.

This allows us to determine the kinds of articles that outperform others and what kind of journalism fails to engage. It gives us a data-driven answer of what to focus on — a “calibration of content” of sorts. (I actually prefer the word journalism over content, but the double C alliteration is hard to resist.)

From the analysis, we identified several topics showing great potential. Matching this with our goal of reaching people 30-50 years old, we ended up with the following list. These are seven prioritised topics selected to help us hold onto existing subscribers and win new ones in the right age group:

  • Breaking news.
  • Crime.
  • “What’s going on in the city?”
  • Housing/living.
  • Business.
  • Healthcare.
  • Family.

Of course, all of these topics are solely focused on what’s going on in the local area.

In addition to these seven areas, sports and culture/entertainment are also two important topics for us. However, they both need to be given a thorough review. Our findings tell us that our digital audiences don’t read much of the existing coverage on music, arts, and literature, so we know we need to transform our journalism on culture and entertainment. We launched a dedicated task force to work on this issue and will try to redefine what the mission shall be, what we choose to cover, and how we present it to the audience.

When it comes to sports, we know we have very dedicated readers when it comes to the elite coverage of teams in the highest series. But it seems we produce too much sports content compared to what we get out of it.

To ensure a breakthrough in our prioritised age range of 30-50 years, it’s very important for us to make sure they are the ones we interview, portray in pictures, and have in mind when we decide how to cover these stories.

Equality is also important for us. It’s something we put focus on via our NTM 50/50 project. Equality in journalism is, of course, very important for society as a whole, but also for our subscriber business. We want women to engage with our journalism and become subscribers. That will not happen if we hold on to old habits of describing a man’s world.

To make sure our new journalistic strategy is effective in newsrooms, our editors developed checklists to make sure they don’t skip the important selection questions before getting started. This is to make sure they don’t end up doing the same thing today as they did yesterday.

This is an example of a checklist from one of our company’s newsrooms:

  • Is the topic relevant to many people in my area, or does it evoke a strong feeling (surprise, sadness, joy, anger, worry, curiosity) in many? Assess the potential for impact. If the above is not met, should the article really be written?
  • How do I make the job interesting for people aged 30-50 years old? Adjust the angle and think through how emotions, benefits, and recognition can be created.
  • Who should be seen and heard? Can I find people aged 30-50 years old? Do I consider the gender equality perspective?
  • How do I capture readers in one second (and keep their interest)? Think through headlines, storytelling, and the possibility of using graphics or videos.
  • How do I contribute to digitally distributing the content? Make a plan for publishing time, push notifications, reader interaction, Storykit movies, Facebook posts, sharing in local Facebook groups, or doing sponsored posts in social media.

To track progress, we are setting up a regular analysis for each topic. We will be able to closely follow if the chosen topics prove to be right or not. If not, we will not hesitate to change direction again to find the best reader-oriented way forward.

About Jens Pettersson

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