In an age where the value of high-quality journalism has become clearer to readers and retention is at the center of publishing strategies, are edition-based formats the answer?
The recent Coronavirus crisis has highlighted the immense value that high-quality journalism delivers to society. At a time when ad spending and print revenues are plummeting, reader revenue is becoming even more important to sustain this essential service.
This is why many publishers are accelerating their existing plans for digital edition formats such as the ePaper, placing them at the center of their digital strategy. In a recent report at Twipe, we have investigated this phenomenon, highlighting how the ePaper with its unique characteristics can replicate the success of the printed newspaper, while helping publishers build subscription revenue and a loyal digital audience.
The digital edition
When publishers first started putting their content online, they did so by simply uploading everything online in an endless stream of news. Although this increased the overall reach of journalism, some of the defining features that made the newspaper such a popular product, like editorial curation, was almost lost. This paved the way to a business model based on advertising revenue and increasing clicks.
Twipe has always been a proponent of the edition concept as a format capable of translating 400 years of innovation in the printed newspaper into a successful digital product.
“We believe in the power of editions. Our readers love the curated order, finite experience and editorial choice. In times of limitless information and limited time, editions provide the valuable service of selection and judgement.”
Alan Hunter, Head of Digital at The Times & The Sunday Times
In the words of Alan Hunter, we can see two of the main features that make edition-based products valuable for readers: editorial curation and finishability.
Editorial curation is a big part of the value delivered by a newspaper product. Having just the top stories selected for you helps provide clarity of what is important, enabling that feeling of being caught up with the important news of the day. As a matter of fact, the quality of news selection used to be the greatest driver of competition between brands, and as we have recently seen within the Coronavirus crisis this is still something people are looking for.
Finishability is the second aspect of editions that is often undervalued. While today readers have thousands of potential news sources, with the ability to be updated in real-time, there is still a desire to be able to step away from the news. That is why the ePaper, having a clear beginning and ending, strikes a chord with readers and a feeling of satisfaction upon completion.
‘The edition is a success because it has a clear beginning and ending. If you’ve finished it then you know what is necessary, people are done at some time and then can go on and do other stuff.’ — Grischa Rodust, Former Director of Editorial Product at Welt Edition
Another important feature that makes editions unique is frequency. The newspaper was such a powerful product because readers knew that they were going to receive it at a specific time and read it at their own ease, making it a ritual. This element of expectation is key to habit development in news products, generating what in research is called “craving”.
In our latest research report, we deep dived into the subject of habit-forming news products and found that this aspect is very important for subscriber retention and engagement. This is also what we see in the data from our platform, which shows an average engagement time of 25 minutes on edition products, much more than average on news website. Some publishers, including The Guardian, have started focusing on habit formation to increase engagement levels, putting the daily edition on top of their customer journeys.
Successful experiments in growing ePapers
While there is no secret recipe to creating a successful digital edition, there is one thing that industry leaders have identified as beneficial: experimentation.
Since we started in 2011, Twipe has been helping some of the most important news media brands to grow their digital subscribers and we have identified 5 key strategies adopted by publishers that can help you activate and grow your ePaper audience.
1. Improved discovery: Opening Editions on Social Media
Social sharing is a great way to reach new audiences, but without a paywall, publishers can lose revenue. Having a strict paywall can discourage potential new readers from subscribing before even testing out the product, ultimately hampering discoverability. This is why German publisher DuMont has decided to enforce a metered paywall for readers coming from social channels or from referral links of existing subscribers. In this way non-subscribers can now read three stories in the WebApp before seeing a paywall, allowing readers to understand the value of edition content and drive them towards subscription.
2. Leverage new Moments of Consumption
When Ouest-France sensed a new trend in their audience’s reading habits, they partnered with us to create a whole new edition to meet their readers’ changing needs. To target readers who were looking for something to do during their commute from work or while relaxing at home, Ouest-France created L’Edition du Soir, published each weeknight at 6 PM. This edition product presents the news of the day with a lighter tone and includes more engaging features such as games and puzzles to help readers relax, in addition to reading the news.
This digital-only news product was launched in November 2013. The initial target of 10,000 recurring users coming to the platform at least three times a week was met within the edition’s first year, with numbers growing rapidly ever since, recently reaching over 5 million readers.
3. Pre-Publish your Edition on Digital Channels
Being first in news is the industry’s mantra, so some publishers like Le Parisien have incorporated this into their edition strategy by launching early access editions. Now on their website and app, readers can already read tomorrow’s news at 11:30 pm the night before. This strategy allows you to exploit the peculiar flexibility of digital to capture that segment of readers, like businesspeople, that want to be informed ahead of time.
4. Integrate your ePaper into your Website
Discoverability is a main concern for publishers in order to grow their audience. One simple action to grow ePaper readers is to add a thumbnail fetched from the front page of the day linking to the ePaper version directly from your main website. French publisher Le Télégramme does this and it has helped activating ePaper readers.
5. Send a Daily Push Notification
Push notifications truly are the highway to readers’ attention, with the lock screen being called ‘the new inbox’. Our own research has found that engaging readers in the morning with a push notification resulted in a 15% higher reader activation throughout the day. That is one of the reasons why many publishers send a daily push notification with top headlines from the day’s edition. At Twipe we use our analytical tool, EngageReaders, to identify the top 3 performing articles of your publication and send them as a push notification to subscribers that have not downloaded the edition yet. In the case of Ouest-France, which sends notifications in this way every Tuesday and Sunday, that the number of downloads can increase up to 30% compared to the other days.
At Twipe, we have long been believers of edition formats as a way for newspapers to monetise their premium content so we are proud to see in recent times the release of new products with this set of characteristics. In our report on ePapers and edition-based formats, we analyse in greater detail what makes this kind of product unique and the strategies you can adopt to grow your subscriber base.
Publishers are beginning to see that their ePaper readers are more loyal than other digital subscribers and that they are key to a sustainable business model. As publishers are focusing even more on reader revenue strategies after the recent boom in news consumption, we know that it will be those who can build strong product experiences that will best retain their subscribers. Twipe has built great expertise in this field by helping publishers like Le Monde, The Telegraph, Ouest France and DuMont building up their subscribers’ revenue. If you are interested in knowing more about our services please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org