When Die Presse, the newspaper of record for Austria, introduced its paywall in 2017, it found rapid success.
“Basically from one day to another we said, ‘Hey, everybody, now you need to pay for our content.’ And people started paying, which was impressive,” said Stefan Körner, chief operating officer at Die Presse.
That became the foundation of the company’s digital strategy, which was bolstered in 2019 by the creation of a specific digital product that was designed specifically to generate revenue. That product successfully attracted 33,000 paying digital subscribers, which Körner called “a considerable number” for their market.
Now, as 2021 unfolds, Die Presse is continuing its digital transformation, and Körner shared how the company identified what path it needed to take and how it developed its strategy.
“We have one of the best possible strategies to align the business part with the journalistic part and that is … to monetise our quality journalism,” he said. “Growth comes from a number of steps. We have been working on digital transformation for quite some time now, and I can tell you it’s a steep staircase and there are a lot of steps to be taken.”
Die Presse focused on four areas: data, technology, people, and product as part of its growth. All four of these areas were brought together by strategy. But as the company analysed every aspect of its digital products, it realised it had made many mistakes in its early digital strategies.
“At a certain point, we needed to realise that what we were doing was CRAP,” he said. In essence, that CRAP analytics was:
- Collecting the wrong data.
- Reported data that was not a beneficial analysis.
- Avoiding analysis.
- Postponing action.
The solution, he said, was to move to a model of CARE analytics:
- Collect the correct data.
- Analyse it.
- Recommend action.
- Execute and experiment.
“This got us to build a data centre that got us from a place of using CRAP analytics to come to a state of seeing, thinking, and feeling data, which is a much better state.”
A new ecosystem
This new CARE approach to data revolves around an ecosystem with five key elements:
Actionable dashboards that track segmentation, engagement, and conversion.
Reporting for the entire newsroom that shows “peaks of the week” and allows journalists to understand what stories are converting best, which are most popular, etc.
Performance prediction analytics that rank stories according to their engagement. A graphic called “the ski jumper’s graphic” helps plan the takeoff, timing, and technique of each story.
Fitness monitoring to indicate the “health” of each piece of content and determine whether it is meeting performance goals.
Data talks between different stakeholders to provide deep-dive analysis and experiments.
Developing the right kind of dashboards and making them easy for all stakeholders to interpret has been beneficial for all departments and helps guide the strategy from a more informed vantage point.
“The focus on these dashboards is to allow quick decision-making for story position,” Körner said.
The success of its digital journey is due in part to Die Presse’s willingness to examine what was working and step out of its comfort zone to address what wasn’t working. Ultimately, what Körner said they learned was:
- Data will fail if it isn’t simple and if it isn’t lived throughout the entire company.
- Data must be communicated permanently.
- The data ecosystem needs to be an inclusive system that is designed for a non-technical audience: “It’s not for the data people; it’s data for the people.”
This case study originally appeared in the July INMA report The Guide to Smart Data Strategy in Media, free to INMA members.