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Research / Insights on current and emerging industry topics

How two publications are attracting new, younger audiences

February 20, 2023 | By Rande Price, Research VP – DCN

Successful digital publishers produce content that connects with audience expectations. These publishers are committed to engaging audiences more deeply with an audience-first approach. To assist digital publishers in attracting new audiences, the World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), in partnership with Google News Initiative, created Table Stakes Europe (TSE). Their latest report, Building and engaging specific audiences, outlines case studies in which publishers tackle core challenges to connect to new and distinct audience segments based on targeted demographics or psychographics.

The TSE identifies seven core strategies for news publishers to employ in developing new audiences. Notably, the process is relatively the same, regardless of the target audience — whether they be younger, sports-minded or niche, religious, and cultural segments.

  1. Serve targeted audiences with content and experiences they want.
  2. Publish on the platforms your targeted audience uses.
  3. Produce and publish constantly to match your audiences’ lives.
  4. Funnel occasional users into regular and paying loyalists.
  5. Diversify and grow the ways you earn revenue from the audiences you build.
  6. Partner to expand your capacity and capabilities at lower and more flexible costs.
  7. Drive audience growth and profitability from a “mini publisher” perspective.

Finding younger paying readers

Using the TSE framework, FWT, a regional and local news publisher in the region of Värmland, Sweden, sought to appeal to a younger audience. Their case study deals with the publications’ concerns around their aging audience and the need to attract readers under 45.

NWT’s business model is subscription based, with a hard paywall. They offer articles free only for the first hour after their publication. Their current reader revenue contributes 70% of their total revenue, with advertising the remaining 30%. NWT’s first step is to learn about the interests of a younger audience. Focus groups and research studies immediately provided needed intelligence. They found that adults 18-29 like to read about entertainment, relationships, careers of other young people or celebrities, and breaking news. While adults 30-45 are interested in society and investigative journalism, real estate, new stores and restaurants, and topics about kids and family life.

NWT identified five goals to measure their effectiveness in attracting a younger audience:

  • 20% of subscribers will be under 45
  • 65% of all new digital subscribers will be under 45
  • 30% increase in subscriptions on e-paper
  • 20% of page views from logged-in users under 45
  • 37% percent increase in digital subscriptions

Notably, NWT increased its digital reach among the 18-39 segment from 24.4% to 35.1%, and digital reader revenue increased too. NWT identified six steps attributing to these achievements.

  1. Learn about the younger audience’s needs, interests, passions, and problems.
  2. Produce relevant content for the right people on the right channels at the right time.
  3. Educate and recruit both current and new staff.
  4. Make changes to the current digital product to serve a younger audience.
  5. Constantly test and evaluate product(s) against set goals.
  6. Develop and implement a social media strategy.

Identify tactics to target new audiences

Another case study using the TSE framework to help attract a younger audience focused on Le Parisien in Paris.  

The French publisher used vertical videos on TikTok to appeal to new and younger subscribers.

The plan for TikTok was to focus on “explainer” videos, offering essential details and insight during the French presidential elections. They hired a dedicated TikTok journalist, introduced an experiment-to-learn attitude, and included segments of hard news in addition to their explainer series.

Le Parisien’s TikTok following grew from zero to more than 400,000. While Le Parisien is not monetizing on TikTok, the vertical videos are essential to building brand awareness among a younger audience – their future paying subscribers.

TSE offers an important framework for digital news businesses to identify and attract new audiences. While the two case studies offered here focus on attracting younger audiences specifically, the report includes additional target audiences. Importantly, the transformational process includes a similar process regardless of the target audience. Connecting newsrooms to audiences and personally resonating with each is essential for publishers’ success.

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