Furthermore, their digital growth has more than compensated for the declines they’ve suffered in print, Eivor Jerpåsen, Amedia’s Editorial Product Director, told participants at our Newsroom Summit conference in Oslo.

“Our north star is how many of our subscribers have read something of our local content. We don’t look at page views or unique users. Our subscribers are the most important. And we know the more you read the less you churn,” Jerpåsen said.

Amedia has a group-level Editorial Development team of 10 people with journalistic backgrounds who are working with data for the group.

This team uses data for several reasons, but a key one is how to make content more relevant to readers by using the insights they have to further develop Amedia’s newsrooms day by day, Jerpåsen said.

The team also helps the individual papers set up dashboards to track the metrics that those papers believe are most important for them.

The individual papers are encouraged to experiment to find the things that work best for them. These tests and results then get reported back to the group for potentially wider roll-out. As a result, there are many tests going on all the time.

How to reach younger readers?

Like many news publishers, one of Amedia’s biggest challenges is that the majority of their subscribers are older adults. 

In their quest for younger readers, Amedia is taking a number of approaches to figure out how they can be relevant to younger readers and audiences, such as focus groups.

“We talked with the readers. We had focus groups in the below 40 segment, trying to understand what they care about,” Jerpåsen said.

They did a data analysis of 1,000 articles, looking at how far people read and how long they’d been subscribing among other factors, she said.

From these results, Jerpåsen said, they drew basic conclusions that they shared with their newsrooms about what to prioritise. They then set up dashboards and made some hypotheses.

Early lessons: Young people do care about news, and you need to talk to them – regularly

From testing, Amedia’s team determined three key learnings, which Jerpåsen acknowledged were fairly basic, but did help confirm their hypotheses. 

First, young people are just as interested as everyone else in the big news stories.

Second, if you want a younger audience, you need to start talking to younger people.

“Again, very basic, but it’s really useful to see because when we did our analysis, we thought, ‘We don’t really do this.’ We also see that when we do it, it works,” she said.

Equally important, she said, is the third lesson, including young people within stories had to become routine.

“You can’t just do this with one or two stories in certain categories,” she said.

The team passed on the information to their newsrooms, which began applying it to their coverage.

Very quickly, it became apparent to the newsrooms that they were engaging more and more younger readers, Jerpåsen said.

However, seeing the numbers alone isn’t enough to drive the journalists to make sustained change, she added: “They need to have an ownership and find their own solutions.”

In October 2021, Amedia launched a new plan to create their own editorial strategies.

“It was important to us that it was not just the editors, but every journalist – and we have over 1,000 journalists – so it’s the power of those journalists that is creating change for our readers,” Jerpåsen said.

The Editorial Development team made sure the newsrooms had the data to help answer key questions in determining a strategy.

“For us, this is where the magic happens: when the newsrooms can take these insights and make some actions based on that data,” she said.

The results have been great, she added.

“We’ve seen that different newspapers have taken different actions and then we get more examples to learn from,” Jerpåsen said.

For example, one paper produced a series of articles about young people moving into their area and telling their stories. Another created podcasts and a third is making products for social media, she said.

Podcasts are also helping to bring in a larger audience with better demographics than standard articles: 83 percent of podcast listeners are female, and 70 percent are younger than 44, she said.

‘When it works, get it out there’

Jerpåsen also offered a couple of examples of tests they’ve tried in recent weeks.

The first was aimed at bringing in more paying subscribers.

“Our biggest sales channels are the articles, so we thought ‘How can we improve our most important channel? How can we make that optimal?’ ” she said.

They decided to try radically reducing the incentive text they were using when a reader hit the paywall down to a bare minimum and offering them a price.

“What we saw was a very high level of conversion, and for us, we have such a huge volume of these actions every day, and with just a small amount of increase in conversion base, meant an increase of almost 250 sales every day,” Jerpåsen said.

“When we could see after a couple of weeks that this works, we put it out there for all of our newspapers,” she added.

Using AI to improve homepage engagement

Another development has come from their efforts to create a more engaging homepage.

One challenge here was how to best promote their sports content.

“We stream over 5,000 local football matches every year, and it’s a really important part of our local content. But we have a dilemma: One third of our subscribers love sports, and can’t get enough of it, and one-third couldn’t care less,” Jerpåsen said.

Today, they are using AI to learn which readers regularly consume sports content, and for them, promotional stories about match streams appear high on the homepage. For those who have not shown an interest in sports, the content appears far lower on the page.

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