“As digital media has evolved, there has been a transition of power to the audience. It’s this audience that we want to satisfy and get them to pay for our journalism,” said Jens Pettersson, Head of Editorial Development, at WAN-IFRA’s recent World News Media Congress in Copenhagen. 

And so, the company decided to pivot its digital strategy. After hitting a growth plateau in 2020, they set a timeline of three years. The initial target was to acquire 55,000 paying users in the first year and double it to 110,000 by 2023. 

Although they fell short with 102,113 subscriptions, by March 2024, the company had registered 260,000 subscribers, of which 113,000 were digital only.

The three-year digital revamp

Much of NTM’s subscription strategy was built around three core principles: value of journalism, relationship with the audience, and habit creation. 

“During these three years, we have had to do a lot. We had 10 major projects running. Our newsrooms – big and small – were trained and asked to focus on formulating reader promises to create a value proposition,” said Pettersson.

NTM did additional work on the B2C side around pricing strategy, and data and dashboards. In 2020, they replaced the “subpar” metadata with a new tech stack, to enable proper data analysis, an important driver of reader revenue.  

“But most importantly, we did a deep analysis of our audiences’ behaviour and consumption, content performance, and paid closer attention to producing journalism that resonated with them,” Pettersson added.

Making data approachable through simplification

With the 50-70+ age group making up the majority of its audience, NTM faced the additional challenge of reaching young users. 

The newsroom was asked to concentrate on fewer but better stories, stories of actual interest, and prioritise the 30-50 age group – their target audience. 

Journalists were also asked to prioritise seven beats that saw the most engagement – breaking news, crime and legal punishment, city, residence, jobs, healthcare, family. 

Trying to simplify data and numbers has been key.

“We spent a lot of time to build easy to navigate in-house dashboards within the CMS, to make data usage more approachable,” he said.

The green stars indicate an above 50% click-through rate for the age group 30-50, the company’s target audience.

Pettersson noted that for a local conglomerate like NTM, strategising with the local management is crucial.

“You need to make them understand your challenges, inform them of your growth, and that they are important to your company,” he added. 

Cultivating revenue understanding 

Next on the newsroom’s agenda is to reach 250,000 paid subscriptions.

Pettersson listed a few pointers they keep in mind, in pursuit of that target. 

Simply possessing data is not enough. It is immensely important to get your organisation to truly understand the logic in reader revenue. 
Reporters and editors need to understand their role in the business of journalism, by way of reader retention, and have structured, targeted conversations.

“Alongside the importance of journalism, the product and distribution of news is also crucial,” he said.

Consequently, NTM adapted a mobile-first approach. Today, 80 percent of the traffic comes from mobile devices and apps. 

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