Le Télégramme: The power of empowerment – local mini-publisher teams with direct access to data colleagues

Context

Le Télégramme has always been recognised as one of the best regional daily newspapers in France. Its 150,000 print (home delivery) subscribers are loyal but ageing and Le Télégramme needs to speed up the acquisition of digital subscribers to fuel its growth again.

When Le Télégramme’s team joined the TSE programme, it was with the realisation that its newsroom was too focused on print production and on covering information by geographical areas (where readers lived) without really knowing the people they were serving and the new audiences they could reach.

Their TSE challenge was to accelerate the growth of digital subscriptions to reach 30,000 digital subscribers by 2022 and, in the longer term, to recruit the 110,000 digital subscribers needed to finance its 220-strong newsroom. Achieving these objectives meant mobilising all teams (journalists, marketing, IT, etc.) and adopting the TSE method to push back the boundaries faster and overcome internal resistance in order to give digital publishing the necessary focus.

Choices

They stopped considering their audience only from a geographic point of view and started to think audiences, identifying segments they want to pursue (following Table Stakes rule #1). They have defined 9 profiles (personae) they need to serve better. Each persona has a detailed description to help understand habits and information needs. Their understanding of segmentation evolved after the two first meetings in that they started with a very general segmentation and it became more precise and more actionable between the second and third meeting.

As a result, around February, they started to customize their newsletters to serve specific contents to those personae (versus sending news selected because they are in a local area). They adopted a design/do approach using their Lorient newsroom for experimentation. They created a targeted product (newsletter for a specific persona) for a targeted audience (30/40 years old, living in and around Lorient, employed, with children). They worked within a mini publisher principle (using TS#7): marketing and data worked closely with editorial to define the target and assess impact. They had clear quantifiable goals which they reviewed before expanding the experiment to other local editions.

The TSE team created the first mini-publisher structure (journalist, designer, marketing, IT, etc.) in Lorient. The team was enthusiastic about this way of working (breaking traditional organisation silos) and this, of course, helped spread the practice. During our June meeting, we learned that mini-publishers’ teams were launched in three new local newsrooms and that the news verticals (e.g. on sailing) were also adopting the concept of cross-functional teams. They have also created expert groups in the newsroom to explore strong topics like health, economy, education.

Outcome

The Lorient newsletter showed a greater opening rate (50% versus 36% for the traditional newsletters) and higher registration than their other newsletters (#TSE4 funnel occasional users into loyal & paid subscribers), and they are confident it could help them get 1,000 new paid subscribers in this local area by the end of the year.

They started building awareness and skills across the newsroom on the digital content priorities (increasing the use of analytical dashboards across the newsroom) and rede- signed their digital products. Those efforts had already increased their audience by January (+25% page views), and there was naturally a big surge in March and April as they deployed a very impressive mix of live Covid19 coverage and services to their readers (2 million page views a day, approximately doubling their average performance).

Their pilot local newsroom team in Lorient summarised the essential knowledge to work on the digital platforms in a digital Playbook with recaps on how to improve stories with high digital potential, how to create specific digital content, monitor the dashboards and the story clusters, create specific digital content (daily/weekly news roundup and evergreen stories, etc.), use data visualisation tools and so on. This digital playbook (and a video explainer) will be shared by the six local newsrooms and is better received as it concerns peer-to-peer recommendations.

Targeted local newsletters and mini-publishing structures are now “fine-tuned” according to the needs of all local bureaus and the specific personae they want to work on.

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