Segmented WhatsApp groups
Overview of this campaign
There were five clear goals: 1) innovate on a chat platform incredibly popular in Brazil; 2) test a totally new product; 3) build a community; 4) create engagement; 5) increase perception of value of our brand.
We wanted to experiment our hypothesis that the capability of gathering people around similar interests is a great value that media outlets have and should explore. In a WhatsApp group, we wanted to experiment putting ourselves as moderators of the debate and curators of content everybody could bring to the group, rather than being only the old content “pushers” we have always been.
We believe that, in this new ecosystem, where networks are much more valuable than isolated companies, our value might be strength the flow of information through our network. Not only by producing our own content, but also by indicating, among every information produced in our community, which one is correct, which is not, which we are unable to confirm, who is trustable, who is not, etc.
A reduced group in WhatsApp would be a great way to test that.
Even though monetization was not a prior goal for the specific experiment, we do see chat groups as a way of monetizing – the outstanding positive feedback we had from the readers showed us that this might be a super-premium product that users may pay for. We firstly may think that paying for groups wouldn’t be worthwhile because it is impossible to scale. Ok, one group is not scalable, but how about if we run hundreds of groups? Some of them permanent (for example, with people from a neighborhood, or for economy issues, or cultural issues, etc) and some of them temporary (that could be for a specific event, like a game, or the Oscar, or a political debate, etc).
Results for this campaign
We had outstanding feedbacks from the readers that participated and the initiative also caught the attention of organizations focused in innovation in journalism around the globe, such as GEN (Global Editors Network), journalism.co.uk (UK) (https://www.journalism.co.uk/news/inside-a-brazilian-news-outlet-s-experiment-with-whatsapp-groups-for-live-football-coverage/s2/a618256/) and Jornalistas&cia (Brazil). GEN detailed the experience in a global study (https://medium.com/global-editors-network/publishing-news-on-messaging-apps-is-now-critical-heres-why-2a3cc77c0d88#.vnkluf4zt) and highlighted it during GEN Summit 2016 as one of the most innovative initiatives in the globe (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NSw7Zmy3994).
We got more than 250 applications from readers to participate, but decided to invite only 59 people (a reference to the year when Bahia won the National Cup), otherwise the group could get too messy.
The group was launched half hour before the game and quickly became very fun. People talked about team, tactics, players, etc. Some of them were in the stadium and shared pictures. We confirmed our hypothesis of having great value just gathering people around their interests and curating. For example, someone asked if a certain player would play and we confirmed that, yes, he would be in the field. But the team formation someone copied it from the club’s website and shared in the group before us.
After the game, we left the group, but the users used our rules as their “statute”, invited new friends, and kept it active. They get together to beers, make bets on the games, etc.
We also invited them to a cocktail in the newsroom and shared the experience with the club. They became very interested in being partners. So, we already made a second test, now drawing some gifts they offered – books, squeezes, hats and also discount coupons at stores. So, it was clearly a successful initiative and the product is already approved to be a “premium product” in a new monetization strategy that we should launch in the following months.