In the region, it’s called being a “saute-frontière”: living in France but working in Geneva. “At the end of 2021, we estimated the cross-border audience at around 120,000 people, including more than 100,000 commuters who cross the 100 or so kilometres of border between Switzerland and France almost every day,” explains Karim Mahjoub, Commercial Manager. “Around 10,000 cross-border readers connect to every month. We, therefore, have a lot of room for improvement.”

A quarter of the jobs in the canton of Geneva, particularly in the fields of health, services, commerce and catering, are held by these cross-border workers. They mainly live in the departments of Haute-Savoie and Ain. They are Swiss or French, and during their leisure time or for shopping, navigate between the two countries.

Frédéric Julliard, Editor-in-Chief of TdG, and his deputies Sophie Davaris and Olivier Bot, as well as Karim Mahjoub had long had the intuition that this population had a need for information corresponding to this way of life, very different from other Geneva audiences. The team decided it should be one of the audiences to focus on during their Table Stakes Europe year, entrusting their digital manager, Aymeric Dejardin-Verkinder, with the responsibility of building a mini-publisher team on this subject.

Decisions: Specific content and partnerships

“Cross-border commuters give their views”: Tribune de Genève’s editorial projects often start with a survey, and their audience survey specialist, Caroline Meyer, is not afraid to get to the bottom of things and ask respondents dozens of questions. Launched in mid-March via their website and a panel of readers, the survey obtained very encouraging results: “In the space of 24 hours, we received nearly 1,200 completed questionnaires, half of which came from the core target group of cross-border commuters, which is huge! This showed us this audience exists and that it is very responsive and in demand of information specifically dedicated to it,” says Dejardin-Verkinder.

What emerged from the survey was this audience’s need for more information on subjects that concern them as daily commuters, but also information related to their particular status (legislation, taxation, tax issues, etc.) and more generally on future projects they should know about. The responses also showed they are interested in other topics (e.g. housing, employment, culture, shopping, etc.).

The project team began by monitoring the topics already covered by the editorial team and likely to be of interest to the audience and systematically tagging them. Dejardin-Verkinder built a data dashboard to monitor content and audience performance for the cross-border target and also set up a dedicated slack channel to coordinate efforts with the project team and other journalists in the newsroom who could support the work on this new audience.

In parallel, the project team started discussions with a powerful local association called Groupement transfrontalier européen (GTE) and approached other specialists who could help them provide regular and relevant content on specific aspects (legal issues, mobility, tax system, insurance…). This led to regular contributions in exchange for the visibility of these organisations on the Tribune de Genève platforms.

To strengthen the links with this community, the team launched a newsletter called “Saute-Frontière.” “On 1 June 2022, we launched the first issue,” remembers Desjardin-Verkinder. The newsletter was to be sent out twice a month, on Wednesdays at 11 am. “Following the first mailing, within 48 hours we had over 500 new subscribers. The numbers continued to climb even during the summer, as by the end of August we had already exceeded 1,800. The ‘cross-border’ articles were very popular with our readership and regularly appeared in the Top 10 most-read articles on the Tribune de Genève website,” adds Dejardin-Verkinder.

Outcome: Expectations exceeded in all areas!

In early September, the monthly newsletter began going out every week. The team had started cautiously, not quite sure if they could meet the expectations of their audience and keep up the pace. But this is one of those cases where the enthusiasm of the readers pushes the editorial team to take the plunge and go the extra mile.

By the end of their Table Stakes Europe challenge in mid-November, the newsletter had surpassed 3,000 subscribers, a target they had originally set for the end of the year, and the figure was steadily increasing week by week (in fact, the three audiences they had chosen to work on for their challenge were all ahead of target). Their open rate was excellent (76%) and the click-through rate (11.4%) was above the group’s average.

Another piece of good news was that two-thirds of the +3,000 subscribers to “Saute-Frontière” were not yet paid subscribers to Tribune de Genève, so the top of the funnel was well filled with potential new digital subscribers.

The team decided to start thinking about new formats (podcast and video) for next year and to test billing the digital subscription in euros rather than Swiss francs.

Achievements during Table Stakes Europe:

Tribune de Genève’s Table Stakes Europe challenge aimed to increase paid digital subscribers by better serving the high-potential audiences they had identified. At the start of November, they measured that 47 paid articles produced specifically for their cross-borders audience generated a cumulative total of 2,706 conversions on their sites. That is an average of 57.7 conversions per article. Registrations to the cross-border newsletter are still going strong and likely to pass the 3,500 mark in December.

Key learning:

One of the smart things Commercial Manager Karim Mahjoub and Chief Editor Frédéric Julliard did (using all the data collected by their audiences teams and their Digital Manager Aymeric Dejardin-Verkinder) was to keep their advertising team informed of the progress they were making with the three audiences they had chosen in the programme (families, food lovers and cross-borders). Here are some quotes from the sales team that they shared at the end of the programme:

“The work of building audiences pays off. It is not only about developing a significant critical mass but also about gathering all the useful qualitative information that this audience represents.”

“We started to monetise the newsletters with advertisers, by communicating not only the number of registrations, but above all qualitative data: click rate, time spent on the pages, conversions, and all the other information collected during the surveys. We are also working on setting up competitions to animate the community and partnerships allowing us to create paying events in affinity with our audiences.”

(Main image by Yves from Pixabay)

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