In boom times, profits come easily, and dumb money flows into the latest media shiny thing. In lean times, profits come to those who work hard and smartly, and dumb money dries up. We’re entering a lean time, although one that doesn’t feel right now like a washout like the dot.com crash or the Great Recession. Publishers are focusing on retention now, and our first two featured articles focus on different techniques to keep subscribers paying. Gannett presents its onboarding process, and the folks at Media Voices speaks to the head of the newsletter team at the Financial Times about various roles that they play including retention.
But we also have a couple of features that look at how companies are grappling with the issue of the challenges of running a digital business in a downturn. One article looks at Canadian local news startup that is realising that the market is harder than they thought. It’s a great corrective for critics on the sideline who think that meeting the challenges of local news media is easy. And the New York Times says that the era of ‘dumb money’ is over for podcasters. Ouch.
Plus, LSE has an excellent overview of what AI means for new, and we find out how the Super Bowl drove app downloads. Vice gets a bailout, and US states are considering subsidising subscriptions for local news.
This overview from INMA is full of actionable insights. As we have seen from Piano data, onboarding needs to start immediately at checkout because you’ve got hours not days or weeks to engage new subscribers. Those morning newsletters are a major tool in onboarding, and subscribers want ‘actionable benefits’.
Newsletters operate at all stages of your conversion funnel and as Gannett has found are important in your retention efforts. I think it’s important to note that for a brand like the FT, they also see newsletters as an important two-way communication tool.
Of the many important thoughts here, I think the idea that small newsrooms can use AI and that there needs to be accountability rank highly on this excellent list.
The Super Bowl supercharged app downloads as people ordered food, placed bets and shopped.
Industry News: Local news is hard, Footballco leans into social video breaking news and ‘dumb money’ is done with podcasting
Ouch, the startup Overstory got millions in investment but has found it much harder going than anticipated. How much of this is timing and how much of it is arrogance?
Maybe we underestimated this business and how hard it actually is. I thought it would be easier, thought it was going to be a lot simpler than it actually turned out to be. We made some big bets, and a lot of them haven’t paid off.
Footballco is an interesting company, and it’s interesting to see how they are keeping a close eye on market and audience trends.
The opening line says a lot. This is what happens when a format gets overheated sadly. When it starts to cool, it not only takes out those who capitalised on the hype but also some solid performers. That being said, recent coverage suggests that money is still flowing into podcasts, but it might not be flowing into podcasting quickly enough to support all of the investment.
Local journalism continues to be under pressure in both the US and the UK, and both countries are now looking into policy responses. In the US, I see blue (Democrat-controlled) states considering these efforts while red (Republican-controlled) are resistant to taxpayer support of media.
This is unsurprising. Once a media darling, Vice has been struggling for several years now after being seen as a rising number of Millennial-focused outlets. Note, a lot of them have suffered similar challenges including Buzzfeed. They were supported by investments for a while, but those investments have not paid out. The question for me is whether they can find an exit or will just shutter.