Overview of this campaign
The Winnipeg Free Press underwent a major digital upgrade last year with the implementation of our innovative paywall, which offers both a monthly subscription option for our dedicated readers, and a pay-per-article service for our casual readers. It was a collective ‘unbundling’ of our news content. At the core of this effort was content recommendation - surfacing the right content at the right time, helping readers easily find what they want. Overall, this has been a great success – though some readers had qualms. Some wanted more curated content, others expressed a desire for a sense of ‘completion’ of their digital news-reading experience. So we got to work. Through direct, one-on-one communication with those readers, we found a way to address their concerns and use the opportunity to draw them in further. The result was our new morning briefing, the Head Start. Head Start is a free, curated daily news digest, posted and emailed, which gives readers that sense of ‘completion’ and offers them a clear sense of priorities for the day. It’s created each morning by editorial staff – who are assigning and overseeing these stories already, making best use of the resources and expertise we have on hand. Head Start not only tells digital readers what they need to know, it also gives them a sense of the quality they can expect from our now-paid content, timed at the beginning of the day when news is traditionally consumed. But that’s not all. With the introduction of the paywall, we had access to a wealth of new information as readers signed up to our site. We knew those readers were engaged, as they had a clear option to remove themselves from being contacted directly. To maximize that opportunity, we created a bi-weekly content-recommended email, a brand-new product that is 100% personalized. This email blast has far surpassed our expectations, surfacing more content than ever before through our digital channels.
Results for this campaign
Our Head Start daily briefing is among our top five most-read stories every morning online. It’s also our second-most popular news-related email. This innovative new content initiative has also opened the door to a new partnership with Canada’s top coffee chain: Tim Hortons. The perfect fit for Head Start. Tim Hortons agreed to an annual sponsorship of the piece based on the strength of its content. Our email engagement has grown significantly from these efforts. Open rates increased by 63 per cent, from 40% to 65%. Click rates went up from 1.8% to 7.7%. These positive signs encouraged us get even more creative – during a recent snowstorm in Winnipeg, we quickly pulled together a selection of Free Press long reads, packaged as “Great Reading for a Snowy Evening” and emailed out to readers who may have been stuck inside. This initiative was sponsored by a major local charity, too. The results were overwhelming: an open rate of 71%, and click rate of 13.4% - more than triple our average. These emails generated revenue for us in two ways that have never before been used by the Winnipeg Free Press: Traditional sponsorship at a high, flat-rate price (Tim Hortons signed on for $24,000 for the year), and direct links to digital articles – on any given day, 5-10% of all digital article sales come directly from those emails. Perhaps most importantly for us, within these emails we found that recommended content was clicked nearly twice as often as curated content – a sign that content recommendation, the very heart of our new digital paid-content initiative, is working even better than we’d imagined. We believe that’s because, with the Head Start and content-recommended email blasts, we’ve created more than revenue opportunities. We’ve created new content consumption habits among our readers, driven by digital news. That’s what keeps them coming back.