Overview of this campaign
Last year, for the first time ever in our history, subscription revenue surpassed advertising revenue for the Winnipeg Free Press. This was a highly significant moment for us as a news product with a paywall, and we knew we had a great opportunity to reflect how important our subscribers are to us, and demonstrate their value. Through our market research, we learned that our readers felt very passionately about our role in the community, and felt it was the duty of responsible citizens to read the paper. We decided to use this passion and support to further our growth. And so, the Winnipeg Influencers campaign was born. It was a successful three-phase, year-long, print and digital campaign that involved testimonials from local influencers, insider access to our newsroom’s process, and a free trial gift for subscribers. For the testimonial ads, beautifully produced in-house, we developed a questionnaire to get creative but organized responses, conducted several interviews and shot the individuals professionally. The main goals of this campaign were threefold: To remind our readers of how involved we are in the community across several sectors, from arts to business to sports and beyond; to remind our readers of the value of our brand and the importance of what we do; and to grow our subscriber base through referrals. We used the campaign to see how endorsements from these local leaders and influencers from a wide range of sectors could increase interest and awareness, and we targeted specific people to do that. We simultaneously created a new 60-day trial option in time to roll out with this campaign to offer those not currently subscribed an extended opportunity to try the Free Press and learn the value of what we do.
Results for this campaign
This multichannel campaign (predominantly print, digital, and email) took place over the course of 2017 in three phases, each of which had excellent results. We started by looking at the local influencer network and narrowing down the best and most relatable candidates to offer these testimonials. Then we moved one layer closer to our individual readers, by using our own newsroom personalities to speak about what they do on a day-to-day basis and why that work matters to the community and deserves continued support. Finally, we allowed our subscribers to be our advocates, giving them the opportunity to offer the new 60-day free trial as a gift to friends, family and colleagues. We received very positive direct feedback and excellent uptake. We saw just shy of 500 people take advantage of the subscription gift, essentially showing the value to us of allowing our subscribers to become brand advocates themselves. Throughout the course of this year long campaign we added nearly 1,500 paid digital access subscribers, reflecting a 26% growth. We also added 1,000 Read Now, Pay Later users who are paying us 27 cents per article rather than a monthly subscription. This reflects 18% growth. And that 60-day trial has now become a long-term strategy for us, given its great success. Leveraging relationships with local personalities – including the head of the Winnipeg Art Gallery, the artistic director of the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, and former CFL athlete, now business owner Obby Khan – wasn’t new to the Free Press, but a campaign that reaches across all levels of the influencer relationship certainly was. The integration of the three phases of this campaign ultimately showed our participants and our readers how valuable our brand is to this community.