Polish daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza reported nearly 133,000 paid digital subscriptions at the end of 2017. The organisation had already reached its target back in September, so the figures it reported in December represented an additional 23,000 digital subscriptions beyond its goals.
Subscribers are at the centre of the media organisation's editorial, publishing and development activities, and the newspaper reaches 6.5 million people online and 2.5 million in print every month.
"The commitment of our editorial staff in important social matters translates into great results. On the one hand, many new subscribers came to Gazeta Wyborcza during the summer protests against the reform of the judiciary, and on the other, there is a growing number of subscribers convinced to buy the subscriptions because of the local content," explained Danuta Breguła, online strategy director of Gazeta Wyborcza, in a press release.
"Longer texts, especially reportages by the Duzy Format or features by Wysokie Obcasy – both well-known magazine supplements of Gazeta Wyborcza – are also invariably important to our paying readers."
Gazeta Wyborcza subscribers read several dozen texts more than readers who don't subscribe, and are more likely to share articles with their friends.
Placing subscribers at the centre of the newsroom's strategy has meant several changes in the way the organisation approaches digital journalism and social media, including getting editorial input into ways to keep and attract subscribers, and refreshing the title's presence on Facebook, making the most of the paid tools available on the platform.
"Our strategy regarding activities on Facebook is very simple: right audiences, great content and high ROI," said Michał Kaczmarski, deputy director of online strategy at Gazeta Wyborcza, in an email to Journalism.co.uk.
"We carefully select target groups based on our customer base and all options that Facebook ad manager gives us. But the most important on this customer journey is the article itself. When it drives conversions, we keep promoting the text. The golden rule is always to earn more – attract more clients – than spend on Facebook ads."
The digital reach of the newspaper has also been boosted through partnerships with The Wall Street Journal, T-Mobile, subscription offers for institutions and companies, and offering free digital access to readers using the Wi-Fi inside Green Caffe Nero coffee shops.
The online strategy team focuses on understanding their readers' behaviours at every stage of the journey, from the first interactions with the brand's journalism to becoming subscribers.
Having a multi-disciplinary team with skills in search engine optimisation, social media, digital subscriptions and online marketing working closely together with the editors and the publishers of the title has been key to unlocking a successful subscriber strategy.
"It was one of the editors who noticed that 'a user' is ultimately 'a reader who wants to pay for the possibility of reading articles written by our journalists'.
"So the role of the editorial office in this subscriber's journey is crucial, even before the subscriber's very first visit on the website," Kaczmarski added.
The publisher now plans to focus on monetising Wyborcza.pl websites, and increasing revenue from advertising as well as digital subscriptions – where the focus has shifted slightly towards growing the average revenue per user, he explained.