2020 Finalist
Beating the Algorithms: How Newsday Makes Social Media Work for Our Subscriber Model

Beating the Algorithms: How Newsday Makes Social Media Work for Our Subscriber Model


Melville, United States

Category Data and Research

Overview of this campaign

The goal of these strategy changes were to drive more subscriptions from social, better understand our audience, make sure what our social media team spent their limited time on was getting results for the company, and further Newsday’s journalistic mission by creating content that’s engaging and shareable. Ideally, we’d wind up with a more loyal audience that engages with our content by clicking and sharing stories themselves on social media, which is especially important since Facebook’s algorithm now favors sharing from family and friends.


One of our goals was to determine what type of content performed best in terms of conversions, referrals, reach, comments, shares and reactions, and how framing impacts performance so that we could cut back on posting and focus on quality over quantity. We also wanted to better adhere to Newsday’s core topics in order to reinforce the brand. That meant sometimes not posting a story that would ordinarily perform well on social media because it wasn’t necessarily how we wanted Newsday to be seen.


When we surveyed our Facebook and site audiences on their social media habits we found that few web respondents follow a Newsday social media account, but among those who do, interest in Newsday’s social content is high. This is an area we plan to focus on in 2020, as a joint study from the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy and the Lenfest Institute found that social media followers are 4-6 times more likely to subscribe. 


We also wanted to create more authentic engagement through social experiences in an effort to connect with the audience in a tangible, two-directional way.


By surfacing journalism that’s closer to what the audience seeks and needs and putting a face to Newsday’s bylines on social media, we sought to extend our brand’s reach. We believe the more readers and followers know us, the more invested they’ll be in Newsday and they’ll be more likely to subscribe.


Results for this campaign

Our deep dive helped us go from 20 Facebook posts per day to 7-10 while increasing our KPIs. We grew subscriptions from Facebook 114%, grew direct subscriptions from Newsday’s Facebook page 384% and added 493 newsletter sign ups through an Instant Articles call-to-action. Page views from Newsday’s Facebook page doubled and we grew local unique visitors from our page 313% while growing overall interactions 43%. Our average weekly interactions increased 11%. Shares of Newsday content from public pages grew 3%. 


We grew paywall views to Instant Articles 26%, checkout initiation 21.5% and purchases 5%.


Our overall page views, unique visitors and local unique visitors from Facebook dropped due to launching a hard paywall and was outweighed by subscriptions.


After our Twitter deep dive we decreased posting 34% but grew subscriptions 116%, page views and unique visitors from our handle 263% and 247% respectively.


Overall page views, unique visitors and local unique visitors from Twitter decreased due to the hard paywall and were outweighed by subscriptions. 


Because we decreased Facebook and Twitter posting, we increased Instagram posting 17% and followers 35% and grew video views by 258%, to 1.09 million. We grew subscriptions, page views, local uniques, interactions and average weekly interactions by double or triple digits (although the baseline numbers were low, getting those numbers up is a focus for 2020).


Our analytics and data research led to a cross-departmental committee that helped people throughout the building better understand our social media strategy, develop improved workflows and refine content and marketing approaches. 


This was particularly effective with our editorial desks, as committee members worked directly with reporters and editors to create and optimize content. It involved a lot of training -- whether working photo to identify what we need on a story or teaching reporters to create Instagram Stories.


We also did presentations in weekly digital meetings to communicate the new strategy, and trained particular editors and producers in posting based on the changes.



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