This year, we revamped our annual list of 10 Newspapers That Do It Right to 10 News Publishers That Do It Right. Our nomination form stated: “As our news industry grows and expands beyond paper, we want to profile not just newspapers, but all news publishers that are doing exciting things at their companies.”
So, for the first time, we invited news publishers—across all platforms—to send in a nomination. We heard back from 70 news outlets around the world, and we’re proud to introduce the 10 “super” news publishers (along with our honorable mentions) that made the list this year. As you read about each of them, we hope you’re inspired and encouraged about the bright and creative ideas taking place around our industry.
Reporter Richard Ruelas (right), who led the reporting on the Don Bolles project, confers with former reporter Chuck Kelly about a file in a stash of Bolles’ records. (Photo by David Wallace/Arizona Republic)
As more newspapers incorporate new media into their storytelling, the Arizona Republic took a slightly different approach.
“Think about new media first rather than as an addition,” said Josh Susong, director of investigations and enterprise.
Although the mentality isn’t new in the Republic newsroom (it won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for “The Wall,” a multimedia report about President Trump’s proposed border wall told through a collection of stories, documentary videos, a podcast series, and even virtual reality), the same strategy was used for two recent projects.
In November 2019, the Republic released a six-part podcast called “Rediscovering Don Bolles: A Murdered Journalist.” Bolles was an investigative reporter for the Republic in the 1960s and 1970s, who was killed in a car bomb in 1976 because of his reporting on the Mafia and corruption in Arizona.
What made this podcast unique was that listeners could actually hear Bolles’ own voice tell his story (43 years after his death), thanks to a discovery of old filing cabinets that contained audiocassettes belonging to Bolles and filled with many hours of his notes and reporting. Narrated by Republic reporter Richard Ruelas, the series follows the investigative work of Bolles, what led up to his murder, and the aftermath.
“When we found the tapes, we knew it was imperative we gave Don Bolles a chance to tell his story,” executive editor Greg Burton said. “Podcasts didn’t exist when he was a reporter…and even 10 years ago, (podcasts) were not there, so this was a way to present this story in a new, interactive way.”
In addition to podcasting, the Republic continued to produce documentary films. Their third longform film took two years to make. Titled “They Have Names,” the film followed five families though the child welfare system. According to Susong, the first showing last November sold out at a 250-seat venue and continued to draw in 200-300 people at future viewings.
“It was rewarding to be in the room and see hundreds of people reacting to it,” Susong said. “When you get to watch people’s reaction—the laughs, the claps, the gasps—it’s unlike anything else in journalism.”
Burton said the Republic is always experimenting, but underneath all the visuals and technology, “the story is the core.”
“Whether it’s in print or digital, if you put the great work out there, you will find the audience,” he said.—NY
Walter E. Hussman Jr., publisher of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, speaks to the Mountain Home Rotary Club about the digital replica. (Photo provided)
Little Rock, Ark.
In 2018, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette was faced with the reality that the newspaper was going to have its first unprofitable year in two decades. But instead of cutting content, resources or staff, publisher Walter E. Hussman Jr. sought to do something big and bold to keep the newspaper afloat.
Hussman realized that out of their 100,000 home delivery subscribers, about 4,000 of them were using the digital replica. By utilizing this feature, Hussman hoped the Democrat-Gazette could remain a statewide newspaper.
However, it took some work to find the right formula to make this idea work. The Democrat-Gazette had tried a couple of approaches that didn’t pan out, such as knocking on doors and asking subscribers to read the digital edition on their own devices. Just when they were ready to move on from the idea, Hussman decided to try one more time in the community of Blytheville, Ark., home to 200 Democrat-Gazette subscribers.
The Democrat-Gazette would give those subscribers an $800, 13-inch iPad if they kept subscribing (should a reader end their subscription the iPad would need to be returned). In addition, the Democrat-Gazette showered subscribers with customer service—going as far as to make house calls to show them how to set up their new iPad. Out of the 200 subscribers, 140 took them up on the offer.
Using a projected income statement, the Democrat-Gazette found a subscription price of $34/month would be successful throughout the state. With this information, the Democrat-Gazette moved from town to town, pitching the idea. However, at $800 an iPad, costs eventually began to soar, and a new plan was needed. Ultimately, the Democrat-Gazette switched to a $350 iPad, which cut the capital cost by 50 percent. In addition, a combined deal of the digital edition and Sunday print edition was also introduced.
The iPad experiment was distributed in 63 counties with 79 percent of subscribers converting to this plan. Other subscribers either opted in for only the Sunday print edition or opted out of the free iPad in favor of their own device. All subscribers still just pay $34/month.
But how does their iPad project differ from other media companies that have tried giving out tablets to readers?
“Some things have changed,” Hussman said. “Number one, a lot more people in America have high-speed internet today than they did nine years ago (and) the iPad is a much more accepted and familiar product. Here’s the other thing, nine years ago people didn’t think, ‘Oh, if I don’t go to this (digital) replica the newspaper is going to go out of business.’”
Following the Democrat-Gazette’s success with the iPad, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette will also be converting to the same digital with Sunday print model. Hussman hopes to have all 12 counties in that area converted by this summer.—EM
The Chicago Sun-Times staff (Photo by Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Chicago Sun-Times)
Although the story of the Chicago Sun-Times begins in 1948, a new chapter began at the newspaper in 2017 when Tribune Publishing (then known as Tronc) had plans to acquire the Sun-Times, but were outbid by a coalition of labor unions and philanthropists.
Since then, the Sun-Times has been working on revamping its newsroom through several initiatives and projects, specifically when it comes to digital. Recently, the newsroom rebranded both their print and digital offerings to make them feel more polished and cohesive as well as launched digital subscriptions.
The Sun-Times also wanted to find a new CMS. They chose Vox Media’s Chorus platform in May 2019 becoming the first newspaper to move its website to the platform. Sun-Times chief digital strategist Matt Watson explained it was an opportunity to regroup existing sections and add sub-navigation menus on specific sections. Additionally, years of content was restored online after being removed due to several CMS migrations in the previous decade. Watson said the overall website experience is significantly faster and more stable now.
Video and podcasting are also booming enterprises for the Sun-Times. In 2019, the company saw nearly 900,000 podcast downloads, and as of January this year, there is a 109 percent increase in video views, 167 percent increase in YouTube subscribers, and 137 percent increase in watch time.
As for podcasting, “The Ben Joravsky Show,” which launched in February 2019, is the product of a partnership between the Sun-Times and the alt-weekly Chicago Reader, and takes a deep dive into Chicago and Illinois news. The Sun-Times also launched several other popular podcasts including: “Halas Intrigue,” a Chicago Bears football podcast which has a companion newsletter; “The Fran Spielman Show,” where veteran city hall reporter Fran Spielman interviews Chicago’s movers and shakers; and “Motive,” a collaboration between the Sun-Times and WBEZ/Chicago Public Media about Thaddeus “T.J.” Jimenez, who was arrested for murder when he was 13 and spent 16 years behind bars until a judge ruled that he’d been wrongfully convicted.
Director of digital operations Brian Ernst explained that the goal is for video and podcasting to become their own entities so that they can produce more evergreen content.
On the print side, the Sun-Times launched Sports Saturday in April 2019, which wraps around the regular Saturday edition and includes in-depth cover stories and photography. Editor-in-chief Chris Fusco told E&P that a recent cover story featuring Javier Báez, shortstop and second baseman for the Chicago Cubs, generated more than 100,000 pageviews in two days. In addition, as of November 2019, print and direct-sell digital revenues on Saturdays were up 31 percent over the same period the previous year.
Fusco said these initiatives—and the others the newsroom have launched since new ownership took place—have allowed the Sun-Times to compete with the number one daily newspaper in the city, the Chicago Tribune, but he admits he loves the competition.
“How great is it to have a city where citizens can pick up two papers, and read and respect the Tribune’s editorial page, and they can read and respect ours and then make a decision,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about.”—EM
(From left) John Ridding, CEO; Tsuneo Kita, chairman and group CEO, Nikkei (FT owner); and Lionel Barber, editor, celebrate the FT reaching 1 million paying readers. (Photo by Tolga Akmen/Financial Times)
The Financial Times understands what it’s like to be a digital leader. It launched its first paywall in 2002 and over the last decade, the paper has focused on a “north star” metric based on reader engagement. In April 2019, the FT reached 1 million paying readers, one year ahead of schedule. According to the announcement, digital subscriptions now account for more than three-quarters of the FT’s circulation, with 70 percent of readers coming from outside the U.K.
“By pioneering a subscription model and investing in digital transformation, we have proved that quality journalism can be a quality, growth business,” FT CEO John Ridding said in a press release.
As advertising dollars decline around the industry, the FT made the decision to transition to a reader-revenue model two decades ago—and data has played a big part of their business model.
Chief data officer Tom Betts joined the FT in 2009 and was appointed to his current role (the first for the paper) in 2015. His team includes more than 30 people dedicated to customer and analytics. They include data scientists, product managers and digital experts that work alongside various departments (including circulation, sales, marketing and editorial) to understand metrics.
The result was the RFV formula. The formula is made up three components: recency (how recently the customer consumed the content); frequency (how often the customer consumes content); and volume (how much the content is consumed).
“Data is empowering, but it only tells part of the story,” Betts said.
With its deep experience in data transformation and reader revenue that goes back 20 years, the FT publicly launched a boutique consultancy firm called FT Strategies in October 2019.
“Being out there early meant we didn’t have anyone to learn from directly,” Betts said. “(FT Strategies) allows us to work proactively with other publishers as partners…and create a good healthy ecosystem.”
One thing they want to teach publishers is how to find their “north star.” Betts defined a company’s “north star” as its metric focal point. For the FT, their “north star” helps the commercial side predict subscriptions, while on the editorial side it helps them focus on how long and how much readers are engaging with their content. Currently, the firm is designed to help publishers, but Betts said he would like to see their services expanded into other sectors.
Since hitting 1 million paying readers and launching FT Strategies, Betts said the next chapter is growth.
“By using data, we can create a more tailored experience to our readers,” he said. “And we can diversity our business.”—NY
ELITE members and their guests had an action-packed evening at R.U.N, the first live action thriller by Cirque du Soleil. Prior to the show, attendees enjoyed cocktails while they got the chance to mingle with cast members. (Photo provided)
Greenspun Media Group
According to Brian Greenspun, owner, acting CEO, publisher and editor of Greenspun Media Group, there are 42 million people that come through Las Vegas every year.
Based on that fact, Greenspun Media Group launched ELITE (Exclusive League of Industry and Tourism Experts) a decade ago, and it’s unlike any other program in the city. The program provides members with exclusive offers and access to VIP events on the Vegas Strip. The members are all front of the house hospitality workers, who can enjoy unique experiences and share them with their guests when making recommendations on activities, shows, and food and beverage establishments.
Originally, ELITE was a distribution method. It was a way of getting the media group’s pocket guide, Vegas2Go, distributed to tourists via front of the house workers. Greenspun Media Group also publishes the Las Vegas Sun, Las Vegas Weekly and Las Vegas magazine.
“What we realized is that while we’re talking to the concierges, the concierges are talking to our readers,” Bob Cauthorn, chief operating officer, said. “Rather than just viewing the concierges as a mechanism for distributing (we found) the concierges are always hungry for experiences.”
From there, Greenspun handed the program over to the media events team who began to host small scale events, where they would introduce concierges to—for example—a brand-new restaurant in town. In turn, the restaurant or establishment would host a small number of these workers. As time went on, these events grew in number and size. Cauthorn explained that the media events team played an important role in developing this because they saw the value of the program in a different way. They’re even working on a new expansion of the program called microevents, which can be bundled with a print or digital package and sold to local establishments looking for a new way to bring in customers.
The free program currently has about 1,700 members. Currently, ELITE hosts 75 events a year, which attracts between 150 to 200 people.
Greenspun and Cauthorn explained that everything comes full circle with this program. Establishments benefit when tourists visit their restaurants or shows; the concierge benefits when they answer questions appropriately because tourists will come back to them for recommendations; and Greenspun Media Group benefits because concierges will end up handing tourists their publications, and then the establishments will want to do business with them because they have programs like ELITE.
“If we make money on any of this, it benefits the community at large because all of that goes to pay for a credible newsroom and credible editors,” Greenspun said. “At the end of the day, we can’t lose sight of why we are doing all this.”—EM
The Colony Theatre in downtown Keene welcomes Radically Rural. (Photo provided)
Since 2018, the Keene Sentinel, along with the Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship, has produced Radically Rural, a two-day summit that features expert speeches, a networking event, local food and beverages, and live music.
The summit takes place in downtown Keene, with the kick-off, keynote and closing speeches at The Colonial Theatre, a historical venue which seats 900. More than 600 people from 26 states attended all parts of Radically Rural in 2019, a significant increase from the first year.
Radically Rural was born out of CONNECT, originally a Hannah Grimes networking event.
“Because (the events) were so well attended, and because there was such a great conversation in and around the subjects, we (started) thinking about doing something that was bigger than that, where we could develop a variety of tracks,” Sentinel president and chief operating officer Terrence Williams told E&P.
According to Williams, all sponsorships, ticket sales and ad revenue are split evenly with Hannah Grimes. In 2019, the Sentinel sold tickets for CONNECT for $49, while the full summit experience was sold for $149. The newspaper also offered discounts for early bird signups and allowed journalism students, and faculty from Franklin Pierce, the University of New Hampshire and Keene State College could attend at no charge.
The summit includes three featured speakers and six program tracks focused on arts and culture, entrepreneurship, journalism, land and community, Main Street, and renewable energy (new to 2019). Each track has three sessions and lasts about two hours. In 2019, the six tracks brought in 52 expert speakers.
The first day includes a keynote speaker and two track sessions. At the end of the first day, attendees gather at CONNECT to mingle. It is also here that the Sentinel will hand out several awards including Entrepreneur of the Year and the winner of the entrepreneurship track’s live pitch event, which awards the winner $10,000 for their business or start-up. The second day of the summit includes the third session of tracks. At the closing speech, attendees meet for a lunch.
With the nearest airport located two hours away, Williams said if people want to attend the summit they have to be committed. However, if the job is done right and the summit provides unique programming and reasonable prices, people will come.
“We can’t be one of those things where we only marginally produce something, it has to be contemporary, it has to be seen as—if not cutting edge—then at least on the leading edge of the issues that are affecting each of the tracks,” he said.
The next Radically Rural will take place September 23 to 24, 2020.—EM
The Wyleex team inside the La Voz newsroom (Photo provided)
La Voz del Interior
When La Voz del Interior decided it was time to launch a subscription model at their publication two years ago, they started to assess vendors for a paywall platform. But when they couldn’t find a solution that could meet their financial need, the newspaper chose to create its subscription model with its own paywall solution.
“Wyleex was born from this unexpected situation, and our IT team was willing to develop the technology by collecting all the expertise we had gathered,” said Mauricio Rucci, Wyleex CEO. “All the departments in the company worked together to find solutions for subscribers.”
Rucci said they have five large media companies in Latin America as clients, and more than 50 prospects in 19 countries. They are also working on some proposals in Europe and the United States.
“Before the launch, we worked on understanding users’ needs and behavior,” Rucci said. “We ran digital and face to face surveys, we worked on usability tests with more than 30 users in order to simplify conversion processes. On the other hand, we launched an aggressive communication campaign focused on the value that our content has (and) the value of our brand. The most important point is to understand audiences, have insights of their behavior (and) help them have a pleasant consumption experience. That is the only way to get them to be willing to pay for quality content.”
According to multiplatform editor Juan Carlos Simo, when La Voz launched its paywall system in February 2018, it had a goal of reaching 5,000 digital subscriptions in the first year. They accomplished it in just three months. By the end of 2018, Lox Voz had 13,000 digital subscribers. Today, the number is almost 25,000. It is the first regional media outlet in Argentina to try a paywall, said Simo.
Wyleex’s model combines the metered paywall with the offer of premium content, available only to subscribers. According to Simo, this kind of content drives 20 percent of current conversions.
“It’s a flexible tool, which allows different types of subscriptions to be implanted depending on the adoption of a certain business model,” Simo said. “That includes access by registration, metered or freemium paywalls and memberships.”
The platform also has real-time metrics dashboards, and it allows news organizations to set recurring payment, promotion codes and uses secure channels for transactions.
When asked if they share the same subscription challenges as their U.S. counterparts, Rucci said they did.
“Revenue diversification is imperative for media business models,” he said. “Clearly, (Latin America’s) economic situation is different and our product aims at adapting to such situation…Our big added value, besides costs that are adapted to the Latin American reality, is that the tool was born inside a media outlet, and it has all of our editorial and business expertise.”—NY
Paul Huntsman met with the Salt Lake Tribune staff in May 2019 to announce and field questions regarding switching the newspaper to a nonprofit company. (Photo by Leah Hogsten/Salt Lake Tribune)
Salt Lake Tribune
Salt Lake City, Utah
After Paul Huntsman purchased the Salt Lake Tribune in 2016, he spent the next three years trying to understand the news industry in order to find a path toward sustainability.
What he found was that Salt Lake City residents were becoming more digitally advanced. He said a study revealed that 58 percent of readers were reading their online product with only a small portion reading print.
“The challenge we had now was print dollars turning into digital dimes,” Huntsman said. “And how do I make up that loss?”
After spending time with industry vets and looking at nonprofit models (Huntsman noted ProPublica’s model influenced him the most), he concluded that turning the daily newspaper into a nonprofit was the “right economic decision.”
“It was the only model that could work for our community,” Huntsman said. “I know the days of the printed paper are numbered…we can continue to downsize until we turn into a glorified blog, or see our pages become thinner and filled with news outside of our community, but that would not bode well.”
So, in May 2019, the Tribune applied for 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, and the application was approved in late October, making the Tribune the first legacy newspaper in the U.S. to transform from a for-profit company to a nonprofit business.
As a result, Huntsman also gave up sole ownership of the paper and now serves as chair of the board of directors for the Tribune. When E&P spoke with Huntsman, he was setting up his first board meeting as a nonprofit and filling it with “a unique make-up of the community” who would be responsible for moving the company forward as a nonprofit. Huntsman wants to keep the board size small with a total of nine members.
In addition, the Tribune also created the Utah Journalism Foundation that will support the newspaper, small journalism start-ups around the state, and create scholarships for journalism students, Huntsman said. It will also operate with its own board of directors.
Since turning into a nonprofit, Huntsman said the community has rallied behind them.
“They get to be a part of the solution,” he said. “It was critical for them to see the paper as an asset and to bring it back to the community.”
The new business model has also made Huntsman feel more comfortable and confident on the path they are now embarking on.
Tribune editor Jennifer Napier-Pearce said she hopes this encourages other publishers to adapt the model.
“Some nonprofit publishers may want to put up a digital paywall, others may want to retain traditional advertising…still others—like us—want to do all of the above,” she said. “Our IRS approval allows that kind of flexibility, great news especially for struggling local news publishers.”—NY
The cover of Seven Days featuring the final “Hooked” story. The photo shows Kate O’Neill and an infant Madelyn Linsenmeir. (Image provided)
In October 2018, Seven Days published an obituary for Madelyn Linsenmeir, a young, local mother who had died of causes related to opioid-use disorder. Shortly after it was published, her obit went viral with more than a thousand comments and about 4 million views online—most likely because the obit had been written by Linsenmeir’s own sister, Kate O’Neill.
Deputy publisher Cathy Resmer said O’Neill’s “compassionate and devastatingly honest obituary” struck a chord with readers.
“Many of them were moved to share stories in the comments of their own loved ones lost to opioids. Numerous commenters said that Kate’s account made them feel empathy for Madelyn and others like her,” she said.
Publisher Paula Routly was also affected by the obit and reached out to O’Neill—with a job offer. O’Neill had previously worked at Seven Days as a proofreader. Routly proposed that O’Neill spend a year writing about the epidemic that had killed her sister.
Although Seven Days was already covering the opioid epidemic, Routly and Resmer both knew this situation was different.
“Kate could write about this in a way that our journalists couldn’t,” Routly said. “She was able to portray her sister with sensitivity and enough specificity and empathy. You could really understand the predicament. That seemed like a unique perspective that none of our reporters had really managed to tap into and that seemed like a very important part of understanding the problem.”
Launched in January 2019, O’Neill’s series, “Hooked: Stories and Solutions from Vermont’s Opioid Crisis,” covered topics such as how Vermonters became addicted to opioids and how the epidemic drives sexual exploitation. There were six stories (at about 12,000 words each), which garnered about 100,000 pageviews with an average time spent of six to seven minutes per page.
In addition, Seven Days created a companion website called All Our Hearts, which launched last September, to find more stories of those lost to opioids. Through the website, families can submit a form describing their loved one, and someone from the paper will follow up to do an interview. When E&P spoke with Seven Days, All Our Hearts had 50 stories posted, but the website has received many more submissions that are in the process of being published.
Although Routly and Resmer couldn’t have predicted a viral obit to turn into a six-part story series, they were able to connect the dots and turn it into an opportunity to shed light on a serious problem.
“You have a limited amount of time and a limited amount of people’s attention, and if you have their attention, you have to deliver,” Resmer said.—EM
WKMG-TV news anchor Matt Austin (right) interviews Florida House Speaker Jose Oliva. (Photo provided)
In 2016, WKMG-TV news anchor Matt Austin was rear-ended while waiting at a stoplight by a driver who was texting and driving. He was knocked unconscious during the crash and had to get 10 staples in the back of his head.
After the incident, he found out the driver was not ticketed nor did the police report indicate the driver was texting, although the driver had admitted it to the officer. That’s because Florida has some of the weakest laws when it comes to texting and driving, Austin said. He explained that drivers had to be pulled over for a separate offense before being ticketed for texting. After Austin’s recovery, he returned to the office and told his boss this was a problem in the state, and it was an issue he wanted to tackle.
It started with one televised piece where Austin shared with viewers what had happened to him and why he felt the law was wrong. The segment also ran on Facebook, where half a million people saw the video.
The television station primarily covers Central Florida, but by uploading the segment to the website and social media, Austin said it greatly expanded its audience, and as a result, they started to hear more stories from other affected people.
“Journalists usually don’t get involved with the story, but people were dying and getting hurt,” he said. “We had to step in.”
Soon after, the station created an initiative called Driving Change with a goal to make texting and driving a primary offense in the state of Florida.
But Austin found that not many Florida politicians wanted to change the law.
“I knew we had a real fight on our hands,” he said. “That’s why I went to Tallahassee (the state’s capital) with a TV crew to put their feet under the fire and ask them why.”
One lawmaker told him it wasn’t a law problem; it was a tech problem—but that didn’t teeter Austin.
Because his reporting was being shared on their website and through social media, politicians outside his market were feeling the pressure from their constituents.
“There was a very strong push,” Austin said. “A lot of affected families were contacting us…what we did was give them a voice and a platform.”
Despite the stories they were airing and Austin’s visits with politicians (he even testified before the Florida Legislature’s Judiciary Committee in Tallahassee), the bills to toughen texting and driving laws stalled in 2017 and 2018.
“I almost wanted to give up,” Austin said. “I told my boss I was tired of being a loser, but then she asked, ‘What about being a quitter?’”
Victory was soon around the corner. In 2019, both the House and Senate approved the bill, and it was signed into law in May 2019.
The station continues to cover the topic and monitor how many texting and driving tickets law enforcement officers give out. Austin said he would actually like to see the law become tougher and for Florida to turn into a hands-free state.
“Although this affected me personally, it lit a fire in me as a journalist,” he said.—NY
The E&P staff would like to thank everyone that sent in a submission this year for 10 News Publishers That Do It Right. The competition gets tougher every year, particularly this year since we opened nominations to media companies outside of newspapers. Although these organizations didn’t quite make the final cut this time, we still want to acknowledge their accomplishments.
Three years ago, the Buffalo News was frustrated by the lack of growth in digital subscriptions and the lack of paywall solutions that worked well. So, the publication took matters into their own hands and built their own paywall solution called [BN] Tech. The development and testing took more than a year with an initial goal of growing digital subscriptions by 2,000 subscribers. The paper achieved that number within five months and have since added more than 9,000 digital subscribers since its launch. [BN] Tech now offers its paywall services to other publishers with successful results.
George Town, Cayman Islands
In 2019, Compass Media, the parent company of the Cayman Compass, completely restructured, redesigned its flagship paper, identified new revenue streams and introduced a new work culture. It also opened an on-site café as part of the wider mission to re-establish the news organization at the heart of the community, enhanced its commercial print service, and established a content studio. The studio provides marketing and custom-publishing services for both internal clients and outward-facing business. The commercial print division, Compass Print, also allows for materials produced in the content studio to be printed and offered as a “one-stop-shop” package.
Last year, the Chicago Tribune reached an important digital-subscriber milestone—100,000 digital-only subscribers. The marketing and editorial teams saw this as an opportunity to not only celebrate a win, but to leverage the moment and unite the organization in achieving further growth. The Tribune’s 100K marketing campaign consisted of print and digital assets that announced the important milestone, thanked subscribers for their loyalty, highlighted key pieces of journalism which would not be possible to produce without the support of subscribers, and featured digital opportunities subscribers could utilize. The result was a 94 percent increase in digital-only subscriber growth and 180 percent increase in digital-only revenue growth from 2017 to 2019, and Tribune Publishing closed out 2019 with more than 330K digital-only subscribers.
The Denver Post’s Content Studio allows advertisers a voice to either work with the publication on developing a branded content series or sponsoring custom content series that aligns and engages with its audience. The studio was recently accepted into the Branded Content Project which is “designed to help facilitate additional growth, engagement and success for more publishers of all shapes and sizes.”
KPRC-TV focused throughout 2019 on creating a website that better represented the city it served. They did that by ensuring on a daily basis reporters were writing about areas important to their community: food, arts, real estate, families and giving. As a result, the TV station launched 16 new weekly digital-only features last year to help diversify content. The weekly fixtures have also created interesting advertising opportunities like a weekly real estate newsletter featuring the best of homes content, along with sponsored content.
Last summer, the News-Gazette invited more than 300 high school student-athletes to its office for its Faces of the Fall project. Students—nominated by their schools and dressed in full uniform—received a News-Gazette business card designed and produced in-house that each participant scanned with their cellphone to connect with the paper on social media. There was a “red carpet” complete with a selfie station. About 70 students were invited to record radio spots promoting programming on News-Gazette Media’s three stations. Another 150 students went in front of the newsroom’s green screen and created GIFs for social media channels. Professional portraits were also published online and ran in the print edition each day through the season. The entire experience was filmed, and the video made available at news-gazette.com.
P.C. Richard & Son, Long Island’s leading electronics retailer, partnered with Newsday’s custom content studio, Brand360, to create and execute a cross-platform, brand-building and sales-boosting campaign to launch their Smart Home initiative. The year-long campaign included a 12-part content series distributed via print, digital, and in-store promotion with new and innovative targeted advertising (via on-site and off-site display advertising, social posts, sponsorships and in-store tactics) that effectively drove traffic to the custom content.
New York Daily News
New York, N.Y.
To celebrate the 100th year of the New York Daily News, Tribune Publishing launched a campaign across multiple media platforms highlighting the publication’s legacy of producing award-winning journalism. The Centennial Campaign sought to remind subscribers why they should be proud to support the Daily News and encouraged non-subscribers to join the publication’s community of readers. To achieve these objectives, Tribune Publishing ran multiple print ads featuring noteworthy news stories published over the years, launched digital ads on the website and ran a television ad featuring examples of the newspaper’s sports coverage. To engage non-subscribers, the publication promoted an exclusive sale offer, tying in the centennial—100 free days of unlimited digital access. The campaign generated 60 percent more starts per day compared to a typical sale offer.
Pamplin Media Group
For the past five years, Pamplin Media Group (publisher of the Portland Tribune and several other Portland metropolitan area newspapers) have produced an Amazing Kids event and special section to honor the diverse young people living in the city’s 25 communities. Criteria is based on community service, and this past year, 28 Amazing Kids were honored included a middle school student who came up with a tool to help detect pancreatic cancer, and a young woman who teaches children to swim after she lost her own sister in a drowning incident. The annual section is popular with readers and with advertisers and sponsors who support both the section and the event to the tune of nearly $100,000 a year.
The Philadelphia Inquirer celebrated its 190th anniversary on June 1, 2019 with a significant, companywide rebranding effort. More than a simple face-lift or redesign, the rebranding also marked a milestone in the company’s digital transformation. There were several internal- and audience-facing rollouts: a 40-page broadsheet special section looked back at some historic Inquirer front pages from the past 190 years; a four-page broadsheet walked readers through the various aspects of the rebranding; a short video messages from the governor and celebrities and CEOs saying happy birthday to the Inquirer; the launch of a new singular identity as the Inquirer; and sending subscriber-only emails to help get the word out.
San Diego Union-Tribune
San Diego, Calif.
In 2018, the San Diego Union-Tribune formed a committee called the Creative Collective, which brought together visual professionals from news, advertising, circulation and public relations to make sure newspaper ads were consistent with the brand and image they wanted to portray in the community. The committee also works with third parties to make sure their ads abide by creative standards, and it serves as the company watchdog to make sure the paper’s messages in print, online, event programs and any outside advertising stay on point and protect the brand. Prior to the committee being formed, ads weren’t very standardized, and now visual experts from various departments at the Union-Tribune come together on a weekly basis to develop campaigns and protect the image and brand.
Over the past year, the Tennessean grew its digital-only subscribers by 23 percent to nearly 23,000—the same year in which a hybrid subscription model was introduced, placing more than 10 percent of their content behind a hard paywall. The strategy actually increased overall page views by 3 million to a total of more than 221 million. In addition, the Tennessean’s newsletter strategy targeted the intersection of audience growth and retention with 12 newsletters, covering topics such as education, sports and entertainment. The Daily Briefing subscriber count in 2019 grew 25 percent—an increase of more than 17,500, and average page views per visit increased, despite featuring an increasing amount of subscriber-only content.