In today’s media market, newspaper publishers must evaluate marketing methods that both build and retain strong audiences. In the first of a 5-part summer webinar series entitled “Audience and Revenue,” experts in the industry discuss best practices in audience growth and engagement. During the webinar, “Revenue and Audience Builders – Ideas That Work,” presenters Rich Handloff, director of consumer marketing at The Washington Post, Craig Holley, senior director of national product sales at Gannett Co. and Heather Williams, regional vice president of audience development at McClatchy, shared marketing and promotion tactics for consumer relations.
Retaining current readers is crucial for publishers as they look to maintain a loyal audience base and further engage with their audience.
“It’s better to keep someone than to spend the money to acquire someone,” Handloff explained. The Washington Post emphasizes maintaining strong relationships with its current audience base, which is often done through contests and loyalty programs.
“We do contests for our home delivery subscribers and we give them the opportunity to win things,” he said. “The idea is that they win something…and then they tell their friends and they become more loyal to our organization. And when they’re thinking of cancelling, hopefully they will remember that they won a prize.”
Methods such as prize giveaways appeal to the consumer, advertiser and publisher because of the benefits they provide for all parties at essentially no cost.
Community engagement is another effective way to build a consumer base. “Tell them what you want them to do and they’ll do it,” said Williams, regarding the success of a fundraising campaign by The Sacramento Bee. In two months, the publication raised $20,000 for the News in Education Program by selling tickets to a seminar event and launching a customer loyalty website. “Sometimes, thinking out of the box and outside our traditional channels can really help us to reinvest and add resources to a big program,” she said.
Exploring opportunities to promote and effectively market appealing product upgrades should also remain top of mind for publishers. For example, some publishers found success in creating engaging campaigns on their digital platforms to encourage current subscribers to upgrade to print delivery for just a small fee – as long as it is convenient.
“What you need to think of is quick, easy email communication. But as easy it is to open up the email, it needs to be just as easy to respond and fulfill the request since people are busy,” said Handloff.
Acquisition of new audience members requires strategy as well, and Holley outlined the most important aspects on which to focus:
- Merchandising: improving display and the ability to create impulse purchases
- Value: creating additional value to the product through methods such as coupons, content or additions to the package
- Partnership: leveraging retail partners, vendors to work with or consumer packaging that can be used to further develop the product
Examples could include inserting Halloween candy bags in an October weekend paper or offering free coupon inserts to push single copy sales at newsstands. Single copy inserts also continue to work for increasing home delivery frequency and winning back consumers that may still be buying single issues, but chose to drop a subscription.
Overall, branding is crucial to gaining and maintaining an audience base, Williams explained. “You cannot market and brand yourself enough. Constantly putting out the message of who you are, the value of what you get and reminding customers that you’re more than just ink, that you have this plethora of products, and when you subscribe you get access to all of them,” she said. “The more that we remind consumers of who we are, the better we are on all of our fronts going forward.”
With a variety of proven marketing methods available, publishers have numerous opportunities to grow their revenue and audience. Perhaps most important, however, is that the strategy implemented is best suited for not only for the publication’s design and end goals, but for their specific audience. Publishers must make it a priority to truly engage with and listen to their audience to see what works best in order to retain committed readers while attracting new ones in the process.