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5 Best Practices Media Companies Can Learn from European Publishers

5 Lessons To Learn From European Publishers

This article first appeared in Publishing Executive

With more people living in Europe than in the U.S. and Canada combined, there’s a massive knowledge pool among European media companies that many North American publishers have yet to access. 

But the digital world stretches far beyond Earth’s physical borders. In fact, publishers in North America face many of the same challenges that European media companies deal with and, in some cases, have already overcome. 

So if you’re interested in maintaining a successful media business, we simply need to look to our fellow neighbors across the world for answers and inspiration. 

We’ve rounded up the top takeaways from extremely successful European publishers below — because a handful of European publishers are clearly doing something right. 

Establish a Relationship with Readers

While consumers can drive up your company’s revenue, they can also come and go without hesitation. Friends, on the other hand, tend to be eternally loyal as long as they’re engaged continuously. 

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German news publisher Die Zeit has developed a program based on this sentiment that grows a base of loyal friends who actively support the brand. This program allows consumers to participate in live conversations with the company’s staff, and even suggest stories they’d like to see covered.

As a result, its audience is highly invested in the published content. 

“The loyalty of our subscribers is what makes our journalism here at Die Zeit possible,” Lennart Schneider, who runs their Friends of Die Zeit program, explains in an INMA webinar.

After all, building meaningful relationships with consumers is an effective way to make media companies stand out from competitors.

Understand What Kind of Content Converts

At the 2020 INMA Media Subscriptions Summit in New York, Norwegian news publisher Aftenposten reported that its subscription revenue has climbed by 80% since restructuring its business model. One of the major changes that contributed to this growth was the company’s approach to content. 

Aftenposten’s successful business strategy prioritizes the types of content that converts users, and locks it behind a paywall. To accomplish this, the publisher has minimized the barriers between its data experts and editorial team.

“The whole purpose is to democratise our data and give it to the journalists,” says Aftenposten’s brand manager. “For us, that’s been the key to driving change and to feel like everyone is working toward the same goals.”

Structure Your Paywall around Data

Aftenposten isn’t the only publisher whose paywall and data strategies are intertwined. Many European media companies use their first-party data to inform their paywall strategies so registration messages appear when audience members are most engaged. 

Take Sweden’s MittMedia, for instance. Based on its audience data, the publisher found that the majority of its page views occur 60 minutes after content has been published. 

As a result, the publisher has seen success by adjusting its paywall to only lock content after those first 60 minutes.

Automate Time-Consuming Newsroom Tasks

Newsrooms around Europe are rapidly adopting intelligent automation. For example, The Guardian created its own tool to create articles automatically and Schibsted has implemented an AI-based tool to improve content recommendations and personalize user experiences. 

In both cases, the publishers end up saving editorial resources.

Our time is limited, our resources are limited,” explains the editor-in-chief of the London Evening Standard in an INMA webinar. “I suggest you look at your audience and your core values and then look at some of the tools that are out there and try them.”

Explore New Ways to Engage Audiences

One French publisher, Le Monde, is growing at a steady pace of 14,000 new online subscribers each month. Most recently, the publisher has been testing investigative podcast series to expand breadth of reporting and boost their subscriptions.

“Podcasts are a way to connect with new audiences,” the deputy editor of Le Monde told Digiday. “For audiences who may not come by themselves to Le Monde, this can be a contribution to driving our long-term strategy of digital subscriptions.”

However, engaging new audiences doesn’t need to be limited to podcasting. The more opportunities you can give consumers to engage with your brand, the more likely they are to convert. In fact, there are a whole slew of engagement tools your media company can implement on its digital properties.

From community-building tactics to automated newsroom strategies, European publishers offer a whole range of insights that can be leveraged to improve your own company.

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