In 2020, in the middle of a pandemic, Newsday took the time, effort, and energy to listen to our audience: what they were saying, what topics they complained about, and what topics they loved learning more about or relating to. We evaluated these behaviours and created content specifically for them based on what we heard.
In 2021, we amplified those efforts and focused on three initiatives that helped us better connect with Long Islanders while also meeting our business goals of increasing subscribers, monetising video, and reaching younger and diverse audiences.
By the end of the year, we more than doubled our number of digital subscribers from social. We also increased our views on Facebook by 33% and on YouTube by 125%. And our new mascot, Scoop, got people talking about us on TikTok, a new platform for us.
Finding what works
In 2020, we experimented with the use of graphics. Font, size, colour, and photos were all part of the test to see what our audience reacted to best. The following year, after analysing those metrics, we started posting graphics to Instagram daily.
We noticed the graphics got the highest engagement were stories where we brought out percentages, used compelling art, and put headlines on the photo to enhance the storytelling — most of the time changing the headline to make it more appealing to younger and diverse audiences.
Hot-button local issues such as mask mandates, teacher pay, Republicans moving back into power in local offices, and racial or ethnic “firsts” got our audience to start sharing our graphics on their Instagram accounts. This not only expanded our reach to new audiences, but it increased our follower count, too.
Since we’re a small social team, we created templates in Adobe Spark and trained digital producers in different verticals. We established in-house style guides and then communicated success stories at our morning newsroom meeting, even introducing TikTok by explaining trends to editors and reporters on Fridays.
Adding video to the mix
Instagram wasn’t the only platform where we saw major growth. We had two objectives for video:
1. First, we wanted to monetise Facebook videos. We never got revenue from in-stream ads because we didn’t meet two of Facebook’s benchmarks — we needed to increase our view time from 100,000 to 200,000 minutes viewed in 60 days to more than 600,000. And we needed a library of content.
So, as a newsroom, we reevaluated what we spent our time, money, and effort on. And we started becoming selective on the videos we were producing, putting more time into less video, amping up the quality, and increasing our opportunities for more storytelling.
To do this, we started meeting weekly with our owner, publisher, and head of video to discuss video ideas for stories, and share metrics and social media best practices.
2. Another goal was to use our YouTube channel to introduce a younger demographic to our strong video journalism. YouTube had just been a dumping site for us, so we did our homework and researched what made a good YouTube headline, description, hashtags, and SEO.
Then we completely started from scratch creating videos optimised for YouTube that we could also cross-post to our other social platforms and site, including the history of grandma pizza on Long Island and challenging non-Long Islanders to pronounce difficult town names.
Getting the Scoop
Finally, we debuted our 6-foot dog, Scoop. We wanted to create a personality for Newsday in hopes of reaching young Millennials and Gen Z. He’s on Instagram and TikTok and is visiting different communities, restaurants, and hot spots on Long Island.
We are also using trending sounds, dances, and ideas and then put our own Long Island spin on them to make each one unique. Scoop is snarky, a daredevil, and nothing like our legacy newspaper, so it has brought certain challenges. But it also has given us the opportunity to explore new ideas and really think outside the box.
We established a follower count goal for Scoop, but in year one, we just focused on getting the word out and building his personality. We’re trying many things in 2022 to reach new and diverse audiences, so this is just the beginning.
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