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A trade journal of a still-emerging field, written by Adam Tinworth.

Another set of liveblogged notes from Digital Media Europe 2017. Typos, inaccuracy and howling crimes against grammar and syntax probable.

Stefan Plöchinger, Digital Editor, Süddeutsche Zeitung and Editor in-Chief, SZ.de

Stefan Plöchinger

Who are Süddeutsche Zeitung? They are the paper that got the Panama Papers.

Their subscription model has now surpassed the ad model – he’s happy, because he doesn’t think that the ad model is sustainable.

Paid content is a politicised discussion in Germany. However, their adoption of a paywall is not a political statement – it’s just what they need to do. They have a great growth curve – which he shared with us (including figures), but which he didn’t want shared.

Their paid content model is an agile paywall for SZ Plus. Basic news is free. It’s a commodity. You get 10 bylined articles from staff per week for free. Beyond that, there’s a premium paywall – subscriber-only content – and once you’re subscriber you get the epaper edition, too. It’s complicated, but they don’t need to explain it to the readers – because it just works.

All in subscription for €34.99.

Content strategy in the floorplan

They’re in a tower block with (relatively) small floors, so they have to be really creative with setting.

For example, the social media, homepage and managing editors sit adjacent to each other. They have a Textmarketing expert – but what does she do? She identifies the probably bestsellers in the articles they publish – and then she promotes them big time, on every channel that is possible and reasonable.

An agile editorial model:

an agile editorial model

They’re constantly surprised by what stories create subscriptions – this model allows them to continue doing that. They’ve torn down the wall between editorial and publishing (but not ads), to make sure everyone is working together to generate subscriptions.

They drive conversions with premium, evergreen content, with social sharing and with rebundling content around key dates or events.

Premium

Facebook

Rebundling

Chartbeat have been diving deep on the data and the answer is…

Facebook shares and reading time

While there is a small positive correlation between shares and total engagement, the relationship between the two is quite weak. For stories that attracted 1000 shares on Facebook, the Total Engaged Time they earned ranges from around 14 hours to over 1000 days. This tells us that social media interaction and actual reader engagement are not as closely aligned as many tend to think.

…sometimes.

It’s clear that just tracking Likes and Shares is not enough to understand the impact of social on your site. You need to related them to reading time, too.

Another set of liveblogged notes from Digital Media Europe 2017. Typos, inaccuracy and howling crimes against grammar and syntax probable.

Pål Nedregotten, Executive Vice President, Amedia AS, Norway

Pål Nedregotten

Ameida is a local business – although there’s a concentration around Olso, they don’t have titles in major Norwegian cities. And they had fine reach – but reach was never enough. Digital ad income would not fund local journalism as they’d known it. In April 2014, they launched single sign-on across all their newspapers, as part of a two step plan:

  1. Start with their paying print subscribers, 480,000 of them, who were paying significant amount of money for access. They wanted to convert them into digital subscribers. Then they needed to help them build a digital habit, in preparation for a print frequency decline. The hope? This would reduce churn.
  2. Turn that into growth – bringing in new subscribers.

Interestingly, each subscription comes with 5 user accounts – it’s a household subscription. Once you have logged-in users, you can capture richer data. And thus, you want to give anonymous users a reason to register and sign in. Move people up the value chain.

How to do that? A subscription layer – a paywall by any other name. Between 40 to 60% of articles are in the subscription layer. Getting the level right required some experimentation: hey needed to get above 30% before it really took off.

From reader to subscriber

They now have 527, 729 subscribed. They’ve put on about 3000 in the last week. That’s 12.9% of all Norwegians over the age of 15. In total they have 800,684 registered users.

But: are they using the sites?

  • The highest logged in 249,000 daily, and around 360,000 weekly.
  • They’re selling around 300 digital subscriptions every day.
  • That shoots up during campaigns. A Black Friday sale led to 4,600 subscriptions. There’s no signs of growth slacking off yet.
  • They have 130,664 digital only subscribers – and that growth curve is accelerating.
  • They’re not seeing print cannibalisation.

Will it pay enough?

Editors and journalists are trained in arguing and gut feelings. And that made it hard to persuade them that they can charge more than Netflix. And they could. And then they said they couldn’t charge more than Spotify – they could. 149kr to 229kr per month seems to be the right spot. The circulation income is trailing the sales – but it is clearly growing.

87% of digital sales are done on the online edition. They don’t have local sales guys – it’s the journalism that creates the sales. 64% are new customers, and the digital customer average age is below 50 – and crawling downwards

Retention is all about the right content

If people read you, they stay (at about 80% relation rates). If they don’t read you – they’re gone after 20 weeks.

So, they started classifying and analysing stories – and found that they had high readership and low volume content types, and high volume and low readership content. They were producing the wrong sorts of content – and that news was unwelcome in the newsrooms. This was the result of producing for print. If you’re assigned four pages of culture, you fill four pages. So, they changed the workflow: do content for digital first, and then build the print product out of that.

The paywall balance is really important. They’d never have this growth without the free content. The more people read the freedom content, the more they’re likely to subscribe.

They’ve stopped distributing analytics that hasn’t been worked on. They remove “fly by” traffic, that will and can never convert.

Last year they were Norway’s largest producer of live football. 347 matches streamed live, with one camera and one voice. That will be 364 in the 2nd division this year – they have exclusive rights. They’re broadcasting 1st division bowling – 12 subscriptions. 88 subscriptions on a youth football tournament, Local lifestreams convert really well.

Back in January the first newspaper crossed the “more digital than print subscribers” milestones. The same month one newspaper became profitable from subscriptions only.

Key Lessons:

  1. Put the reader first
  2. To deliver this value must be important enough to get it done.
  3. That means letting go of other stuff. Prioritise.
  4. Give clear goals and use progress monitoring
  5. Communicate values
  6. Don’t be afraid to charge
  7. The value is good journalism: the tech just enables it.

Analysis

Probably the most important things in this model are:

  • Experimenting with the balance of free and paid content
  • Using analytics to reshape the content balance

This level of proactive content management work to understand the audience needs and obsessively reshape their business to support it is vital to building a vibrant local news ecosystem. However, Amedia moved before the financials became too constraining – too many local publishers didn’t. But the message is clear: be ruthless on focusing on the right amounts of the right content for people – and they will pay. But the free content is critical in getting them in.

Another set of liveblogged notes from Digital Media Europe 2017. Typos, inaccuracy and howling crimes against grammar and syntax probable.

Lisbeth Langwadt, Head of Paid Content, Ekstra Bladet – EKSTRA & Print

Lisbeth Langwadt

Secrets to digital innovation…

1. You have to reorganise

They used to have two silos at Ekstra Bladet: editorial and commercial. They worked side by side, but on serrate floors. That led to both teams seeing the site as owned by the other side, with resultant weak ownership. They moved to everyone having KPIs on the platform – and are physically sitting together, too. If something isn’t working, they can move much more quickly to revise their approach, with all the team in physical proximity.

They need to think and plan smarter, have better meetings.

2. New content areas

What worked for print probably won’t work for digital – but digital success may help reinforce print. Online successes can be used to provide better print products, once it’s proven itself online.

3. You need data

You need sales system data. You need content analytics.

4. Think bigger

Most digital content is very old school: text and pictures. You need to be much more ambitious in your storytelling to make people pay. You need to disrupt yourself before others do.

5. DNA is essential

They started with the wrong product name. The content was wrong. Digital is the future – so build it on your existing strengths and qualities.

What Ekstra Bladet’s Freemium 2.0 looks like

  1. New name: Ekstra Bladet+. Two levels of subscription: 5€ and 9€.

  2. Make it easier to pay. MobilePay is a pervasive mobile payment mechanism locally – and it has added subscriptions. They’re adopting that.

  3. Better UX design. So, their UX is not great. Paid content must be more Netflix-like: the archive is valuable, so make it accessible.

  4. More quality & DNA. To get people to pay, you have to have something different and which you can explain the value of to the reader.

  5. Explain the product better. If people don’t understand it, they won’t pay. So a cross-media campaign is coming to explain what is behind the paywall, what makes it different from free content, and why you should pay.

Another set of liveblogged notes from Digital Media Europe 2017. Typos, inaccuracy and howling crimes against grammar and syntax probable.

Nic Newman, Research Associate, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism

Nic Newman

Common myths

Nic kicks of by debunking some of the most common video myths…

Is video eating the internet? No. It’s not true that audiences can’t get enough. The growth is coming from supply side and technology changes, not demand side. There’s precious little evidence that young people want more video than older people – but they’re getting so much more of it.

And short form? Well, yes, it’s working now. But is it the best way for the future?

Video consumption varies wildly by country. High in the US and Canada, but quite low in Denmark. The majority of people are not consuming news video. People still have an over-whelming preference for text . The figures are shifting a little towards video – but not hugely. And there’s little difference in the preference between the young and old.

Why?

Text provides control – it lets them get information quickly. Video is often supplementary: adding drama, context or reality. It’s adding trust – the footage is seen as credible.

Video road blocks

Pre-rolls are a real turn off for people. They are really viriolic about it – and their resistance is growing. The contrast between Facebook – where video just plays – and news websites where they have to endure a 30 second ad is marked.

61% of videos on Facebook are entertainment rather than news. Only 11% of BBC news users access video in their app, and 7% of Guardian users – but that goes up to 19% and 22% during breaking news. The growth is mainly offsite.

A brief history of social video

2015 was the auto-play year, with vertical, square, and Immersive/360 taking off. This was the year when internet video started rivalry TV for breaking news.

2016 had the consolidation of live formats. Twitter did good work in bringing together the social and video environments – but ethical issues are rising with battles, suicides and assaults.

In 2017? Short social video is a major priority, as is live – with their own sites, long form and VR lagging behind. But things have changed since January. Short form is commoditising rapidly. It’s really hard to monetise it. Facebook is now pushing towards longer view with midrolls ay 90s. Live is retreating – Facebook is no longer paying for it. Live is not efficient in an attention poor world.

Long form is increasingly being shot with extras for social in mind. Long might be trends towards immersive: look at Economist films. And VR? An empathy machine.

VR: key points

  • Moving away from documentary focus towards real time content – 360 is the major consumption route
  • There are significant barriers around headset ttake-up and productions costs
  • No real business models yet
  • The content is still technology-driven rather than audience-driven

Things to consider

  1. Understand what your audience’s video needs actually are – and how they differ onsite and off site
  2. What might future users want?
  3. Is it a good investment against other content types?
  4. What are the realistic opportunities for revenue – especially as more pile into the market.
  5. What’s the role of offsite? Revenue? Priming the funnel?
  6. What formats and tools can make the process easier?
  7. What new skills do we need?
  8. Is this something we do ourselves – or do we partner with others.

Another set of liveblogged notes from Digital Media Europe 2017. Typos, inaccuracy and howling crimes against grammar and syntax probable.

James Waddell, social media writer at The Economist.

James Waddell, social media writer at The Economist

In print, The Economist skews older and male. Online is ¾ under 45, and 22% are women. Why do these demographics matter? Print advertising revenue is in pretty drastic declines as slice of revenue. That means that revenue from subscribers has become much more important – and thus that the newspaper can no longer rely on a small, rich demographic.

Their focus is on subscriber growth – and that means that they use social platforms to recruit new subscribers. They are a means to an end, rather than an end in of themselves.

Waddell is very clear that it’s not his job to convert – it’s his job to create the funnel end. And then it’s the (completely separate) marketing team’s job to take the audience he builds and turn them into subscribers.

The strategy seems to be pretty simple: who do we want to reach? Where can we reach them? For example, Line has been a major factor in reaching new audiences in Asia.

How about their presence on Snapchat? What 16 year old on Snapchat is going to read the Economist? Well, they’re better aligned than you might think, suggests Waddell – forwards-looking with a bias towards major international issues. The presence there is a long game – get them into the ecosystem and show them what we can do. And somewhere down the line they might become subscribers.

Economist, Medium rare

Why is The Economist on Medium?

They’re not expecting it to drive hordes of new subscribers – but it’s a great place to run experiments. They have to prove the ideas before you get them on economist.com. It’s a sandbox for innovation.

Three driving ideas:

Authenticity: on Medium they run bylined pieces where correspondents can get something off their chests. For example, this piece on Mike Pence’s dining habits. They’ve also got a Spotlight stand – picking up on issues important to Millennials, while showcasing other writing they have.

Transparency: The ecosystem behind The Economist is unique – show they show it off via Medium, exploring how the magazine is made.

Interactivity: They’re asking readers to participate in the creation of stories. It’s a win:win – cogent research and readers becoming part of the conversation. They’re struggled with comments on the website – but on Medium, they’ve had a really, really positive response.

They’re not trying to drive huge subs from Medium – but they are the second most followed publication on the platform already.

Analysis

Again, as seems to be a theme at this conference, there’s nothing revolutionary here – just great execution of well-known ideas. We’ve been talking about using blogging to expose the inner workings of our titles since the early 2000s, for example. It’s great to see The Economist going back to that idea in a really sensible way. And I couldn’t help but admire Waddell’s push back against members of the audience who really wanted to hear that content was being repurposed across channels. Creating for the channel is simple more effective.

My one concern: the strict division between the social editorial team and the marketing team. If the purpose behind the content is (eventually) converting readers, that aim is likely to be better met by a more involved dialogue between the two parts, and that will make the editorial choices more sustainable. Amedia’s example later in the day was a great example of that.

Another set of liveblogged notes from Digital Media Europe 2017. Typos, inaccuracy and howling crimes against grammar and syntax probable.

Lea Korsgaard, Editor-in-Chief, Zetland, Denmark

Lea Korsgaard

Do you create a community to monetise it? No. You create a community to serve it. If you are to build community, you need to be very precise about the answer to the key question of:

Why are we here?

Their answer?

We are here to make sense. Not news.
To give insight. Not mere information.

The world does not need more information. We’re on top of the biggest mountain of information in history. What they lack is insight – how to make sense of all this information. Fake news is less of a problem than an industry that favours conflict over understanding. That favours sensationalism over a long-term view. Why did no-be see Trump coming? Why did no-one see the financial crash coming?

Journalists are too interested in what is happening now, not long term developments.

Zetland publishes at 5am, with four or five stories a day. It’s finishable. There’s no stream. It’s not endless. That’s a key part of the strategy. It’s ad-free. We try to sort through the noise and focus on what really matters. In its current form it launched in March 2016, and has 7000 members. It reaches 1000,000 to 300,000 people per month. Grows 10 to 50 people a day, and are aiming to hit 11500 by the end of the year. They have a staff of 24.

They have a “generous” paywall. The journalist wants readers. The user wants to share good stories. Paying users can share content – so they are the ones who find new readers for the journalists.

What makes people pay for news?

Journalism is a service. What can we do for the community?

Why do people pay for news? Loyalty? Why do they become loyal? A relationship. An intimate relationship (without sex…) Personality and character matter. You don’t gain authority by talking from a pedestal. You gain it from being part of the audience – talking to the audience. Have a tone of voice. Have a personality. Entering Zetland is like entering a clever, interesting, witty dinner party.. Journalists need to be more than names or bylines – they need to be real people. You need to feel that someone made this. You need to feel that someone is eager to give you the best service.

Ask you readers for help. Ask them for sources or contacts.

You need to be transparent. We invite the members behind the scenes, and tell them what’s happening in the business. Here’s how we spend you money. Here’s the 10 biggest mistakes we made this year. Here’s why it’s awkward that my mother has just become the minister of culture.

I don’t think the classic news voice is something people want to pay for.

A conversational tone of voice matters – it’s much closer to the oral tradition.

Getting up close and personal with your readers

Meeting the community is key. They have Zetland Live – a magazine on stage. A 90 minute show made up of stories from reality. It works. The event doesn’t finish with the show – it continues into the bar, where the staff can learn from the members. This isn’t scalable – but there’s a hunger for this community events, where you focus together on something at the same time. They end the event with a song, everyone singing together.

You shouldn’t just remember that you serve a community once a year, but every day. And you should ask yourself of every article idea “would I pay for that?” If you won’t, why would anyone else?

They do everything they can to prevent silos developing internally. Everyone has lunch together at 12pm. No excuses. If you want to be a dinner party for the readers, they have to create that for themselves.

I’m at WAN-IFRA’s Digital Media Europe conference in Copenhagen for the next few days. This is the first of my liveblogged session notes from the event.

Christian Röpke, CEO, ZEIT ONLINE

Christian Röpke

Die Zeit has a 500,000 paid circulation as a weekly newspaper – and their weekly nature means that they lack many of the problems dailies have in balancing print and digital operations. Their circulation is 10% digital, and is growing 30% year on year. Online they reach 11.4m uniques per month.

35% of their audience in under 29 – higher than their competitors. It’s a stable figure – they’re young, but they want to get even younger. Why? Because you can’t just focus on today’s customers – you need to put effort into creating your future customers.

Four strategic aims

  1. Quality advertising of premium reach – display advertising isn’t dead – and as publisher we need to tell that story. Their business grew by 10% last year.
  2. Digital circulation/paid content – they’ve sold through apps, but now they’re adding paid content on the websites.
  3. Classified offerings – in niches (academic positions, top positions at NGOs)
  4. Focus on millennials – you can’t look at the future without looking at your future readers.

They’ve focused on mobile to reach millennials – and with mobile “cards” in particular – a design language that works for “flipping” behaviour for millennials. “We are not afraid of mobile”. Mobile display advertising is growing strongly for them.


Up until now Die Zeit has been sold as a single product, and Zeit Online was a separate thing – the print articles only hit the websites three or four weeks longer. They’ve now mixed the two in the Z+ product.

Digital-only and digital-and -print bundles are growing strongly – app store revenue is pretty much flat.

Targeting young readers

Zeit Campus – is a new editorial platform for students. It has a distinct design feel from the main part of Zeit Online, but it is still part of the wider product. Their first article – about ghostwriting of articles – went strongly viral. The key idea is orientation – helping students figure out what they want to do at university. They built an online tool to help people make those decisions.

They’re also reaching out to the younger demographic with events. event: Z2X – the Festival of New Visionaries in Berlin for 600 people. It’s not a one-off – they’re doing series of them.

And their launching niche sites. For example, ze.tt – launched in July 2015 and run by a small, separate team, based in a loft in Berlin. It targets the 18 to 30 year old demographic. They run recruiting events called “work & play”. These are at least partially gamified, so rather than “speed dating” potential employers or employees, you play escape room games with them.

Key lessons

  • Find your own fundamental laws on display, mobile and homepage traffic.
  • The homepage is not dead.
  • Keep adding and expanding business models,
  • Understand young readers
  • Understand your market position. They choose to be premium.

Analysis

A couple of core points here:

Community development

The strategy for developing young, mobile readers is a classic community play:

  • Identify a target audience
  • Identify content that they will find useful
  • Develop that content
  • Give them a sense of involvement through distinct branding
  • Grow that out into events.

That creates an emotional/intellectual double whammy that builds loyalty to your brand – and that loyalty is more likely to convert into paid subscriptions, if you can prove value.

Income diversity

Like many larger businesses, Dei Zeit is realising that there won’t be a single saviour business model that will enable transition to digital. A diverse range of business models targeting different sections of your audience is much more viable – and provides a greater safety net.

Nothing especially innovative in the ideas underlying the approaches shown here – but some good, thoughtful and sustainable execution.