Submitted by: Print Power 26/07/2014
The relationship readers have with their newpapers is often longer than with their partner. Abba Newbery (News UK Commercial) told the audience at WAN-IFRA's World Advertising Forum that readers of The Times in the UK, on average, have an ongoing relationship with the newspaper for 20 years, which is longer than the average marriage in the UK (about12 years).
The relationships with newspapers are getting stronger, not weaker he said, which is good for the advertisers. Newbery: "The strategy is to actively look for readers that are interested in a long-term relationship or actual marriage with the title". The recall and relationship building with readers strenghtens with exposure to both newspapers and tablet news. The convenience of the tablet contributes to this increased recall. And this combination also broadens the reach of content to the benfit of publishers and advertisers.
She also mentioned that the newspaper industry needs to "stop talking ourselves down" and "not to talk about digital all the time".
Newbery further elaborates on this topic in News UK's Future Laboratory news trends. Below is the third of his series of articles in which he takes a look at a trend that's already seeing heavy investment from newsbrands: Convivial News - where connections between like-minded readers has created huge new commercial and engagement opportunities.
Whilst Authoritative News saw the news brand as the powerful voice of truth, giving readers an accurate and trusted view of what's happening in the world, Convivial News identifies the opportunities for these brands to become owners of a community. Rather than simply being a source of information, the trust inherent in a news brand means that it can become a place where readers cannot just consume news, but can also interact with, discuss and become a part of that brand.
The most obvious iteration of this trend has been the rise in recent years of newspaper clubs, such as Times+, Guardian Extra and Telegraph Subscriber. These clubs give their members access to additional services around a newspaper brand, including money-off deals, member events, exclusive content and even access to the editorial team. They enable subscribers who have a real loyalty to the brand to engage with it more closely and to develop a sense of 'ownership'. This can encourage subscriber loyalty in the long term and also create new revenue opportunities.
Newspapers and readers
This approach represents a real shift in the concept of what a newspaper is and what its relationship with readers should be. The traditional view of a newspaper as a vehicle for the transmission of news certainly doesn't encompass a lifestyle membership club. However, on closer inspection, it's perhaps not too much of a leap to see how newspapers can adopt this role.
One of the unique aspects of a news brand choice is in how much it says about the reader. One's choice of news brand has always given one membership of an informal social grouping or class - people who read the same newspaper are, at some level, 'one of us'. It's therefore perhaps not surprising that this informal social network can be formalised and commercialised into a more structured community organisation. The main features of a newspaper club are also perhaps not too different to the interactions that one might traditionally have had with a newspaper. Instead of writing a letter to the editor, one can now attend an event where senior editorial staff will discuss the newspaper with you.
Rather than getting one-off discount offer via advertising, why not give me access to a series of exclusive deals based on my subscription profile? Instead of sponsoring mass events for a broad audience of non-readers, why shouldn't a newspaper instead invest in targeted events aimed at generating loyalty amongst their dedicated readers.
However, as with any such initiative, for a convivial strategy to be effective, it must be deployed appropriately. As the trail of failed social networks that litter the web shows, creating a community is not as simple as building a website and waiting for the members to arrive. Firstly, a Convivial News strategy must be based on a real understanding of readers' lifestyles. If you're going to provide events and offers, they must be ones that resonate with the readers you're targeting. To use one of our own examples, to help mark its recent relaunch, Style magazine organised a series of events featuring landmark fashion designers. Readers were invited to come and hear the designer speak and answer their questions. Given the demographic and interests of the audience this combination was a guaranteed success, but it's this level of synergy between audience and content that will make a convivial approach effective.
Secondly, a Convivial News strategy must give its members a real sense of engagement with and ownership of 'their' newsbrand. It's no use just sending a newsletter telling them about what's happening with the paper; you need to give members real access to the people behind it, whether through online interactions or events featuring key writers. Only in this way will members truly feel that they have passed 'through the page' and are somehow a part of the team involved in creating their preferred newsbrand.
Finally, it's not just about interaction between brand and reader - the best convivial approach must help create a reader-to-reader connection. If traditional newspaper brands are already an informal, distributed social network, then a convivial approach must help to build connections between like-minded readers, helping them find others with shared interests based around their news choices. This doesn't mean creating the next Facebook - Facebook does that already. However, it does mean that readers want to meet or communicate with others like them, and the club is the place for this to be facilitated.
A partial future
Of course, like the other trends, Convivial News isn't the whole answer. A newspaper is never going to be solely a community organisation - the club is based around its role as a news provider and brand and so this must always come first. However, as news organisations look for ways of leveraging their brands to create more and deeper connections with their readers then a Convivial approach is surely a key part of the equation.