A decline in trust in media and the need to access unbiased information, are two of the many reasons why a wave of local, reader-supported newspapers is emerging.
Local news publishers build a closer tie with the readers by talking about the community, city development, and the local government they are familiar with. But, with a volatile advertisement revenue, Big tech’s domination of publisher revenue, and individual writers moving to platforms like Substack, local publishers are struggling for both resources and supporters to continue their work. Audience-inclined approaches are seen as a promising, sustainable solution to the continuing financial difficulties affecting local legacy news.
Newsletters and emails in particular have shown to play a key role in driving subscriptions as a direct tool to reach the audience inbox and build engagement. With newsletters, readers can get their daily dose of information about the local community without news overload from the internet.
Significance of news aggregators for small and local publishers
Based on our research, we have found ways for local news media to diversify their revenue and attract more readers by building a community of their regular audience.
I am going to break this process into 4 stages
- Collaborative journalism: Creating a common platform like Ghost for managing subscriptions and payments will enable a smooth onboarding experience for readers. Aggregate local news publishers/independent writers who can contribute articles about the local community or in their areas of expertise along with their archival content which can be rediscovered. The more publishers we have onboard, the better content we can surface to readers. This collaborative journalism can provide a venue for news publishers to develop a common customer acquisition strategy and reporting. This way, publishers can tackle resource constraints, and publishers like Direkt36 and CORRECTIV are already successful in implementing this strategy.
“There’s no doubt the combined-forces fast-paced structure of the Accelerator will produce a positive outcome benefitting all publishers.” - Christian Hendricks, President of the Local Media Consortium
2. Smart segmentation: AI lifts the limitations of generic emailing by analyzing customer data and segmenting them in groups. With artificial intelligence, it is possible to hyper-segment readers into cohorts for the purpose of personalizing content and also understand user interactions on the platform. When personalized content is presented, not only does it increase subscriptions but also builds brand loyalty towards the publisher. The segmentation process involves leading the content into the machine learning pipeline that identifies the taste vectors and presents different segments automatically using cutting edge technologies like FLoC and differential privacy.
3. Building the right onboarding experience for readers: Building a frictionless onboarding process is key to driving subscriptions. There are different ways of building the right process
- Connect with the readers:
Understanding and building a positive user flow by developing every element of the UX from the landing page to the payment with least friction.
- Simple is ideal
For newsletter sign-ups, publishers usually need only email addresses and for paying subscribers, an additional payment page. Adding more steps can lead to fall-out by users, so deciding on the optimal steps while keeping the users engaged is ideal.
- Re-engage with readers:
After sign-up, there are different ways to engage with your subscribers. Link to the past issues can give the readers a taste of the newsletter. Also, a follow-up email with a simple personalized thank you note can lead to better connect with the audience.
4. Using analytics to make informed decisions:
Using data science tools to analyze user behavior and make strategic decisions to improve conversions. Basic metrics like open rates, click-through rates, and unsubscriptions give insights into what content is interesting to readers but, email performance can be tracked with other deeper analysis including user interactions with the content, and using techniques like FLoC to tailor content specific to audience segments. Also, classifying readers as paying, frequent, and casual reader segments can be used to strategically use different content to convert casual members into engaged readers, and eventually converting engaged readers into revenue-generating engaged readers. Experimentations like A/B tests can also yield data to understanding a range of characteristics about current readership and opportunities for growth.
In synthesis, managing and successfully running a newsletter though seems simple but involves connecting with the readers at every step. Managing a member supported newsletter where users pay is a different ball game altogether. We at recsyslabs, make this process easier by using the latest AI/ML technology to automatically segment readers based on their interests and curate personalized interesting newsletters for them.
Thinking of taking the next step in the newsletter revolution, talk to us: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Photo by Maxim Ilyahov on Unsplash