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Making the most out of paid content: STAT, The Chicago Tribune and The Globe and Mail

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Making the most out of paid content: STAT, The Chicago Tribune and The Globe and Mail

Media companies work tirelessly to find and optimize new and existing revenue streams Paid content is increasingly becoming a sustainable path for media companies in North America and the key is to focus on journalistic quality while adopting the right strategy and implementing the right tactics. 

This category aims at recognising revenue growth from digital subscriptions or one-off purchases, membership models, donations, crowdfundings, among others. These 3 projects have demonstrated understanding of each of their brand’s strengths, offered value for its readers, and showed measurable results.

STAT, United States

Evolving consumer revenue: From subscriptions to summits

Refusing to put all eggs in one basket, STAT has turned to the event business as a way to diversify its revenue streams. STAT is a very well positioned health and medicine news website, which aims to produce compelling stories in a non-traditional approach. By the same token, STAT began hosting in-person events for its hyper-loyal community of digital subscribers (STAT Plus). 

In 2019, STAT hired an editorial director of events and began monetising half-day gatherings with major keynote speakers from the industry. STAT Plus members were able to attend these events as a part of their subscription plan, whereas non-subscribers had the option to buy tickets.

After the event’s success, STAT moved forward to longer summits with a full-day, single-track program, which not only served as a way to monetise big time, but also to engage more deeply with their attendees, who demographically resembled their subscriber base.

Up to this day, events have been STAT’s most successful revenue stream, resulting in gains of up to $100,000 in ticket sales and nearly three-quarters of a million dollars in sponsorship. So much so, that they have launched a new product called STAT Expert Advantage, in partnership with Slingshot Insights. This product gives investors access to monthly subscriber-only conference calls between STAT reporters and key opinion leaders, geared towards a more niche audience. 

The Globe and Mail, Canada


The Globe and Mail developed a natural language processing (NLP) algorithm called Sophi, that predicts both the subscription-revenue potential of an article before publishing and the advertising revenue expected from it.

This technology allows The Globe and Mail to decide which articles to put behind their paywall upon their publication, as well as after an analysis of its performance when it can both remove or erect a paywall from it.

NLP offers a content-propensity technology that analyses all the topics, keywords, themes, people, etc. mentioned in their articles and compares it with the recent performance of similar articles published in the past.

After this analysis, their journalists learned how valuable some underestimated articles could be as subscription drivers. The Globe and Mail also learned how to make unbiased, optimal decisions on what to put behind their hard paywall.

NLP also offers a user-propensity technology that dynamises their paywall depending on each person’s reading habits. According to The Globe and Mail, after implementing these two technologies they gained 36 percent in registrations and 51 percent increase in their subscriber conversion rate.

Tribune Publishing Company, United States

Tribune Publishing Achieves Digital Subscriber Growth with Collaboration

Tribune Publishing identified the need to connect their newsroom journalists with their marketing specialists to join efforts into a common goal: driving digital subscriptions. They guided their journalists to lead efforts to engage users by encouraging frequency of visits.

This collaboration broke pre existing legacy structures and workflows to carry out new responsibilities. It was crucial for the marketing department to be transparent and openly communicate their subscription growth strategy, tactics, road map and challenges, to the whole organisation, in order for everyone to align.

Another important component of the restructuring is to actively connect with their audience. The Chicago Tribune, for instance, held a Subscriber Appreciation Week after achieving a milestone of 100,000 digital-only subscribers in 2019.

During that week, The Chicago Tribune launched a campaign to thank their subscribers for their loyalty and featured digital opportunities they could use to connect with the Tribune’s journalism more often, such as newsletters, connected voice offerings and an eNewspaper. The Chicago Tribune’s staff handwrote 1,000 ‘Thank You’ notes including a personal message.

According to Tribune Publishing, increased communication and collaboration between the newsroom and the marketing team was instrumental in achieving 94% increase in digital-only subscriber growth, together with 180 percent increase in digital-only revenue growth from 2017 to 2019, ending last year with 330,000 digital-only subscribers.

The winner of this category is STAT and is now competing for WAN-IFRA’s 2020 World Digital Media Awards against the winners from Latin America, Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and India.


Daniela Pena


2020-04-24 16:34

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© 2020 WAN-IFRA - World Association of News Publishers

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