How Publishers Can Become More Audience-focused: Key Learnings from WAN-IFRA and Google News Initiative Program

How Publishers Can Become More Audience-focused

Readers and subscribers are the foundation of the publisher’s revenue. An interesting example that proves this well is one of the participating publishers of World Media Leaders eSummit, ARA Balears– a Spain-based news publisher, which observed a hike in the revenue by focusing more on their readers and audiences during the COVID-19. According to Ferri Tordera, Chief Revenue & Innovation Officer at ARA, during the pandemic, the reader’s revenue accounted for a whopping 63% of their overall publishing revenue. 

However, the question is, how can you make the reader revenue work for your publishing business? And, What are the necessary measures the publishers should adopt to become more Audience-focused? 

WAN-IFRA and Google News Initiative Program conducted a study called the Table Stakes European(TSE) Program, to address this problem and came up with a definitive guideline to help the publishers with the same. 14 European publishers participated in the program with the agenda to achieve the following milestones-

  • Accelerate the print to the digital transition of the publishing and journalism
  • Establishing some effective publishing practices that the newsroom can adopt
  • Reaching out to new audiences and readers  
  • Better user engagement

To achieve the objectives, the participating publishers made a few changes to their business processes as well as opted for various new skills focusing on the audience first approach over 12 months. The firms counted the reader revenue as a fundamental path to the sustainability of the publishing business. 

Here are the Companies that participated in the TSE program:

Source: WNIP

3 Essential Findings from WAN-IFRA and Google News Initiative Program

The participating publishers brought some of the most effective insights as well as tried and tested approaches that can help you boost your publishing profit, into the focus. Here are the key findings of the survey.
  1. 1.Gap Analysis to make an Audience-focused Newsroom

    Gap analysis gives you an idea about the gap between the expectation of your audience and the way you are serving them. The gap can exist in numerous forms- 
    • Production Gap

      This gap depicts the difference in the type of content expected and the one that is delivered to them. For instance, ARA found that only 26% of the published news actually reached the audience. The gap found was that the majority of the user expected the digital content over the print content, which they were not serving. 
    • Subscription Gap 

      This is a gap that prevents the users/ readers from purchasing the subscription of the product and services. As per the TSE study, ARA put no effort in the direction that could encourage the readers to subscribe to their services. 

    How can You Fill these Gaps?

    • Focus on the data and audience behavior along with the content you create. For this, you can set up a dashboard that displays data depicting the reading habits of the readers.
    • Include a registration wall to get a clear insight into the numbers of subscribers and non-subscribers.
    • Produce the content that is more specific and audience-focussed, serving their interest, instead of producing in a bulk. ARA reduced the number of articles, producing more targeted content. The goal here was to increase the amount of content read.
    • Find out the top-performing content of your publication, which you can make accessible only to the subscribers. The performance of the content can be analyzed through the factors like page views, and visits. 
    • Find out the most productive hours of the day and change the timing of the publication accordingly. ARA opted to publish its content, both short news, and detailed articles, throughout the day. 

    How did the Publishers Benefit from it?

    • This number of newly registered users increased by 169%
    • The number of sessions logged in by registered users increased by 20%
  2. 2. Analyze and Develop the RVF Metric to Maintain Your Value

    Analyze the RFV metric of your publication to measure its performance. RFV refers to Recency, Frequency, and Volume.  
    • Recency – When did the users recently visit your website?
    • Frequency – What is the frequency of their visit?
    • Volume – How many articles do they consume or read per visit?

    How to Leverage the RVF Metric in your Publishing Business?

    • Create an RFV metric customized to your needs just like ARA did. RFV metric works great in predicting the cancellation rate as well as new acquisitions.  
    • Set up an appropriate paywall. Believe in the value you deliver to your readers and keep up the paywall accordingly. Always remember the readers are always ready to pay for valuable and meaningful content.

    How did the Publishers Benefit from it?

    • It empowered ARA to make some important prediction concerning the user base-
      • Expected number of new acquisitions with a reliability of 85% 
      • Expected user churn with a reliability of  65%
    • Identifying its value helped it gain over 2K new subscribers.
  3. 3. Mini-Publisher Perspective to Serve your Audience Better

    Create a team of mini publishers, who are the journalists, that are experts in their specific field. The goal of these publishers is to super-serve their readers with their splendid content, serving their needs to the highest precision. 

    How to Leverage the Mini-Publisher Concept in your Publishing Business?

    • Analyze your audience data to get a deeper understanding of the audience behavior, such as-
      • Who is reading what? 
      • What is the time the audience prefers to read the content?
      • How long does the reader stay on the content?
    • With this, you can know what is working well that you can increase and what are the weak points you should work upon.
    • Based on the findings, form a team of mini-publisher to focus on the content that interests the audience just like one of the participants of the TSE program, DC Thompson Media(DCT) did. DCT formed 5 mini publisher teams during the program, for its newspaper ‘The Courier’, each focusing on a separate vertical of the newspaper-
      • Investigation Team
      • Political Team
      • Food & Drink Team
      • Schools Team
      • Nostalgia Team 

    How did the Publishers Benefit from it?

    • The Courier acquired 15,022 newsletter subscribers by the end of the program. Their sister paper of The Courier- The Press and Journal also adopted the approach of mini-publisher, now having more than 26,000 newsletter subscribers.
    • Considering the success achieved through the approach, DCT announced its “north star” goal of achieving 75K digital subscribers in the coming 5 years.

6 Quick Tips for the Publishers from the TSE Program- The Table Stakes 

According to Vincent Peyrègne, CEO, WAN-IFRA, Subscription revenue growth is not restricted to producing content, you should be committed to the processes like editorial realignment, marketing, and technical operations focussed on trust, loyalty, data, and understanding the core audiences. 

Here are 6 Essential Tips from the program worth considering- 

  1. Serve your targeted audiences with targeted content as well as experiences
  2. Publish on the platforms used by your targeted audiences.
  3. Do not use the funnel occasionally, instead include it into the habit.
  4. Grow and diversify the ways you earn revenue from your audiences
  5. Collaborate to expand your capacity and capabilities at a lower and more flexible cost.
  6. Adopt the mini publisher perspective to drive audience growth and boost profit.

Are you Ready to Move Towards an Audience-First Approach?

To sustain longer in the publishing business, go Audience-focused!

As a publisher, your aim shouldn’t be restricted to just increasing the visitors, instead, you should put efforts into moving the audiences through the funnel, turning them into regular readers, then asking them to become paying customers. To adopt an audience-first culture, the foremost thing you need to do is to develop those audiences, know them better, and earn their confidence, for which the article guides you well.

So, now if you have made up your mind and want to transform your publishing business, it’s time to revise your approach. To make the process more productive and efficient, reach out to the experts. Through a robust audience development program in place and expert guidance on the top, you can achieve your objectives at your convenience.

Vipul Shah

Vipul Shah

Vipul focuses on leading & nurturing partnerships that makes difference to businesses & internal customers. He totally understands and Speaks ‘Customer First’ language and believes in getting smarter, stronger, goal-oriented, for a bright future.

Vipul Shah