The Value of Local Journalism
Overview of this campaign
At the Winnipeg Free Press, we rely on our readers more than we ever have in the past. In fact, for 2017 our subscription revenue is projected to surpass our in-paper advertising revenue for the first time. The support of our subscribers makes possible the valuable content we create. In response, we are transitioning to a model that recognizes that readers – not advertisers – are at the core of our business. Our goal with this print and digital campaign was to show subscribers just how important they are to our equation, that their support is crucial – without them, there would be no news. We wanted to demonstrate to them the grim reality of life without a newspaper – we couldn’t run a paper filled with blank pages, but our powerful use of white space in our ads got the point across. We also wanted to demonstrate how the stories we produce on a daily basis make a difference in our community. Further, in short order we wanted to respond to the uproar in the headlines over Donald Trump and ‘fake news’ – to demonstrate, clearly, that we are fighting the good fight. That the work we do has real value, now more than ever.
Results for this campaign
This was a year-long campaign, comprised of three separate and distinct elements: that no news is bad news, that our stories make a difference, and that we are a repudiation of fake news. Its content was broad but its message was succinct and crystal clear across all of these pillars: real journalism matters. Since this campaign began in January 2016, we have seen steady growth in digital subscriptions of nearly 200% for the year. Feedback from our community has been exceptional, with new subscribers coming in and stating clearly to us – by phone, email, and in person - that they empathize with our situation and want to be part of the solution. Another key success is that we have been completely transparent with our readers about the situation we’re in – the situation most newspapers are in – contributing to a clear sense of trust in and partnership with our community. Further, and most importantly for our bottom line, this campaign was running at the same time as we were forced to implement a significant price increase for print subscriptions. This necessity was not the inspiration for the campaign, but it did help us: we saw little fallout, losing <0.5% of our subscribers around the 6-week window of the price increase. In fact, overall last year we managed to keep our subscriptions stable across the board, which is not something many other newspapers can claim.