The Winnipeg Free Press Insiders Program
2017 Finalist

The Winnipeg Free Press Insiders Program

Winnipeg Free Press

Winnipeg, Canada

Category Digital Audience Usage and Engagement

Overview of this campaign

For the first time at the Winnipeg Free Press, subscriber revenue is projected to surpass in-paper advertising revenue. That puts our subscribers in the driver’s seat, now more than ever before. This development is a gift for us, lending new value to the readers we answer to, why that matters – and why we need more of them. And, through research, we have learned that multi-platform customers are retained at much higher rates. So the path forward was clear: we needed to make a big push for digital activations on subscriptions, and new digital subscribers. So we created a one-of-a-kind online portal, with exclusive perks and new opportunities for reader engagement. Our objective was for our subscribers to have a better experience online, and we did that in several ways: we allowed them to create a customizable homepage; we gave them fewer and less intrusive ads; we offered them early beta access to our technology as it was developed; and we gave them real-time feedback on their reading activity.  That was all made available on and through the Insiders program – but we didn’t stop there. We wanted to take it beyond our website and into the real world. We started with an Insiders newsletter written by our Editor, Paul Samyn, which gave subscribers unprecedented insight into the workings of the Free Press. Further, we gave subscribers the chance to shape the news themselves through our CuriousCity initiative – where they could provide us with direct feedback on what they want to read. Finally, we offered exclusive access to Insider events, including a conversation with former Canadian ambassador to the U.S., Gary Doer, and local Olympic soccer medalist Desiree Scott. And our Insiders tours of the Free Press were a continued success – we invited a group of subscribers to visit the presses and join our morning news meeting. The Insiders Program acknowledged that our readers are in the driver’s seat, and our goal was to drive them to digital.

Results for this campaign

The Free Press has found great success in the initiative to activate digital subscriptions through the Insiders Program. A few thousand people visit our custom portal every day. We sold out every Insider Event we’ve held – the one-on-one conversations with local newsmakers, our spectacular food and music series Sunday Brunch Collective, and the interactive tours of the Free Press that we held in 2016. We’ve also given away thousands of tickets to events in local arts, sports, and beyond to our Insiders. We will be holding many more events in 2017 based on this success, and we are looking forward to the fresh and exclusive content we will be creating based on reader feedback from CuriousCity. The reaction to our editor’s Insider newsletters also gave us great insight – the open rates were 53% and click rates were 23%, both of which are significantly above average. It’s worth noting too, that many of the components of the Insiders Program were rolled out during a significant price increase for subscribers – but in the end we attributed a mere 0.5% decline in subscriptions to that increase, a clear message that readers wanted to stay with us. And over the course of the year, we gained nearly 200% in digital activations. Our Insiders feedback also helped us guide development in 2016 – we learned through panels and surveys that our brand is important to our subscribers and that they feel our city would be worse off without us. We determined from these discussions that one way to keep subscriber support healthy would be to create a brand new paid app, NewsBreak, due in 2017. The app will be entirely dependent on and responsive to data we gather on reader habits. It was clear to us that the Insiders Program offered more opportunities for an individual, customizable experience with the Winnipeg Free Press. We have been more than encouraged by the response; it will be a driving force behind our decision-making in 2017.


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