Editor's views: Loyal subscribers essential for paper's ongoing success

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Saturday, September 14, 2013

In our recent efforts to develop a business model to sustain The Gazette for years to come, we've relearned an important lesson.

Our subscribers, our most loyal customers, are a special bunch of people who are critical to our success.

Yes, we want and need new customers. We'll continue to look for new content, new formats and new marketing to bring people into the fold. We must. Our readers, like those of all newspapers, tend to be older. We need to do what we can to replace the people we lose to old age.

We won't, however, make big changes to the paper or offer big bargains to new customers at the expense of our best customers.

No, those loyal, longtime readers have real value—to us and to our advertisers.

And loyal they are.

When we introduced our all-access package in late July—which includes daily delivery of the newspaper and access to our website from any device—we increased our price. It was what we had to do to raise the money we need to provide the quality local journalism that our readers have come to expect.

How did our thousands of regular readers react? With just a handful of exceptions, they stuck with us. They see the value in what we do—for them and for our community.

Speaking of value, newspaper subscribers are worth plenty.

In a recent idea-sharing blog for newspaper decision-makers, Anne Crassweller, a researcher for the Canadian newspaper industry, noted some of the more compelling reasons.

 “These habitual readers are the most likely to trust and value the content they consume every day,” she wrote. “And that value is transferred to the advertisers associated with that content.”

Not only are they loyal and valuable, Crassweller wrote, but subscribers spend considerably more time with the newspaper than new or occasional readers. That's good news for us and our advertisers.

Beyond that, newspaper subscribers aren't a cross-section of the general population. They represent the cream of consumers. That's what Canadian research has shown, Crassweller wrote, and I'm sure it's true in America, as well.

For example, their savings and investment levels are considerably higher than those of the average person, and they have more disposable income. Those statistics and the fact that subscribers can be reached in the same place at the same time every day—in the newspaper—make them great targets for advertisers in their efforts to attract customers.

So, yes, we'll continue to evolve as the media landscape changes, and we'll continue to develop new products and new approaches. We know that responding to the wants and needs of a public that is increasingly turning to digital sources for its information is essential if we are to succeed in the future.

Through it all, though, we'll keep our loyal customers in mind. Many of them enjoy the new stuff and look forward to what comes next, but they especially want what we've always provided: a vibrant local newspaper that keeps them informed about their community.

If we do that, we all win—The Gazette, our readers, our advertisers and the community.

Scott W. Angus is editor of The Gazette and vice president of news for Bliss Communications. His email him is sangus@gazettextra.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @sangus_.

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